Lion Masoud and his brother Terez were only 5 months old when they arrived at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary, our Dutch sanctuary for traumatized big cats. Abandoned by their mother, weakened and above all: the result of multiple generations of inbreeding. They were born in a Bulgarian zoo that also served as an illegal breeding station. The cubs could be saved in time, but because of their background both animals suffer(ed) from neurological problems. Although Terez became stronger over the years, Masoud did not. In July 2020 we had to say our final goodbyes to Masoud.
In the timeline below you can follow his story right from the beginning until the end, to give you a clear understanding that the rescue of an animal is not always enough: inbreeding deprived Masoud from having a long, healthy life.
Farewall, way too soon
The results of the MRI and CT scans confirmed our fears: Masoud suffered from a very complex, malformed spine which was a congenital defect due to inbreeding. After thorough consultations with the neurological specialists and wildlife veterinarians it became clear that that this condition could not be surgically treated or improved in any other way and that pain medication was not effective any longer. When there is no hope for improvement, preventing suffering is the last part of the care we can provide to the animals we rescued and therefore we had to say our final goodbyes to our precious Masoud.He was born in conditions that deprived him from a chance on a healthy and long life. It is a disgrace that this still happens to other animals and we will continue to fight for those animals in Masoud’s honor.
Analysing the results
All images of the MRI and CT scans are currently being examined by various specialists from the University of Utrecht. Surgeons and neurologists, among others, analyse the images and will then consult and coordinate with our own wildlife veterinarians. Masoud has a very complex congenital condition (due to inbreeding), so it takes time to thoroughly analyse all results. This has to be done well; nothing is rushed. Meanwhile, we keep a close eye on Masoud. We have adjusted his pain medication and are monitoring him intensively. Unfortunately, we see that Masoud is walking less and less and continuously prefers to lie down. We are therefore pleased that we had Masoud investigated recently so we will soon have more clarity. We have full confidence in our wildlife veterinarians and the renowned specialists of Utrecht for this.
The examination in Utrecht
Recently we brought Masoud to the University of Utrecht, where neurological specialists and the best equipment are available to examine Masoud. In preparation for this day, we trained him to walk into the transport crate all by himself. And when it was time, the brave Masoud did not disappoint us: without hesitation and with confidence, he walked into the crate. The examination in Utrecht also went smoothly. We are extremely grateful to the University of Utrecht for this tremendously nice collaboration.
Unfortunately, the initial results from the MRI and CT scans were not positive. The first vertebra after his neck, before the spine starts, is malformed - a congenital defect because Masoud is the result of inbreeding. This is the reason for his serious neurological problems and also explains why in the last few months, while he grew into an adult lion, his motor skills deteriorated. Our wildlife veterinarians and neurological specialists are now awaiting further results and will then sit down to analyse these results and discuss the possible next steps.
To prepare Masoud for the trip to the University of Utrecht, we are doing ‘crate trainings’ on a daily basis. With positive reinforcement trainings we learn Masoud to walk into a transport crate all by himself. In this way, he learns that the crate is not scary – which will save him from a lot of stress during the transport – and if everything goes according plan, we don’t have to sedate him for the transport. But of course, Masoud and Terez would not be Masoud and Terez if they were not inseparable. So how do we train Masoud with nosey Terez nearby? The answer: one animal caretaker trains Terez a few meters away from the crate, which is attached to their enclosure, so he is distracted with nice pieces of meat. In this way, we can train Masoud undisturbed too, and both animals are satisfied!
An appointment with the University of Utrecht
While Terez has grown stronger while growing up, Masoud is literally ‘walking behind’. His neurological problems have worsened and his motor skills deteriorated. Now that the lions are fully grown, it is therefore urgent to have Masoud examined.
We have the plan to bring Masoud to the University of Utrecht, where neurological specialists can examine him. Only in this way we can find out exactly how Masoud is doing and what we can do to improve his condition.
Two years at FELIDA
In the night from 5 to 6 February 2018, after a long journey from Bulgaria to the Netherlands, two little cubs of 20 kilos arrived at FELIDA. In their short lives they already had been through a lot: they were abandoned by their mother, lost a third sibling and were - with a lot of love - raised by hand to give them a chance in life. In the meantime, there was an international movement going on for these little brothers, as well as for their uncle Ivan-Asen. After weeks of negotiations, an international petition and national protests, finally there was the green light: they could come to FELIDA! In the past 2 years, Masoud and Terez have gone through a lot of developments. Thanks to intensive and specialized care, the expertise of our wildlife veterinarians and the support of our donors, the cubs have grown into young adult lions! Although we still call them ‘our cubs’, their mane are growing, they already have an impressive roar and they are over 120 kilos!
A long recovery process
Two months ago, Masoud had hurt himself while scratching his nails or playing with his brother Terez. A surgery was needed to remove the damaged joint. The healing process was taking quite a long time, since the wound was on his paw and so Masoud was walking on it every day. Luckily it stayed clean and Masoud was not licking it. And of course he received mental support from Terez! Luckily he now has fully recovered!
A few weeks ago, Masoud had an operation to remove a damaged joint of his left front leg. As the wound is on his paw and he walks on it, the healing process is taking a long time. Fortunately everything is going well so far! Although Masoud clearly still has a wound, it is healing slowly. It looks good and clean and Masoud does not lick it, which is also a good sign. On the moment he is still on pain medication and he needs to take it easy. Luckily Terez is there for mental support.
The twins are 2 years old
Today we celebrate the birthday of Masoud and Terez: they have become two years old! Unfortunately they cannot play with any birthday enrichment today, like we normally do when our animals are celebrating their birthday. Because Masoud recently had a surgery, he needs to take it slowely. Luckily the twins have each other and so they are never bored!
Due to his neurological problems, Masoud has impaired motor skills and is somewhat clumsy in his movements. So when we recently saw that the nail on his left front leg was crooked, we were not very surprised and suspected that Masoud had hurt himself while scratching his nails or playing with his brother Terez. Since the nail did not fall out by itself, we asked wildlife vet Marc Gölkel to pay FELIDA a visit. He found that the first joint, to which the nail is attached, was damaged in a way preventing Masoud to retract his nail. Unfortunately, veterinarian Gölkel had to remove the damaged joint.
Luckily the surgery went well! The wound will need some time to heal, but then it will not bother Masoud anymore. He now receives pain medication to support his recovery and, above all, an overdose of attention from Terez!
One year with trial and error
Masoud and Terez are celebrating their first anniversary of FELIDA today! It was a year full trial and error: while the cubs are having a lot of fun together and are growing into beautiful lions, we see that there neurological problems are growing too. Therefore we keep monitoring the brothers closely.
MRI and CT scan in Drachten
A few weeks ago we noticed that Masoud started to show movement problems similar to those of his uncle Ivan-Asen. In agreement with our vets we immediately started with medication and decided to plan an MRI and CT scan. For this we recently visited the Animal Hospital Drachten and we are very grateful for the good cooperation with them! The scans clearly revealed that the cervical spine and nervous system shows deformities that are genetical. Unfortunately this condition is complex and cannot be cured. To help Masoud with his movement problems we will continue the (pain) medication, further adapt his enclosure and keep a very close eye on him. Since he still needs to grow a lot, we will have to wait and see how his development will turn out. Our specialists investigate what we can do to help Masoud with his development.
It's their birthday: the twins became one years old today. Despite the difficult start in their life (born in an illegal breeding station, the result of inbreeding, abandoned by their mother and hand raised), they are a cheerful duo. We do see however, that especially Masoud is developing more problems with his motor skills. We therefore monitor the animals closely.
The first vet check at FELIDA
A month and a halve after their arrivel at FELIDA, wildlife verterinarians Dr. Frank Göritz and Marc Gölkel examine Masoud and Terez. Despite several health issues - because they are the result of inbreeding - Dr. Frank Göritz thinks that with the right husbandry at FELIDA, a special diet and medical treatments, they can have a good life.
Arrival at FELIDA
After many protests, an international petition and endless negotiations, there finally was the green light: Masoud and Terez could come to FELIDA! After a long journey from Bulgaria to the Netherlands the 5-month-old cubs finally arrived at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary. Here they get the chance to grow up savely.
The first vet check in Bulgaria
Our wildlife vet Marc Gölkel has examined lion cubs Masoud and Terez in Bulgaria and the situation is getting more critical every minute. The young animals need urgent medical attention: it turns out that Terez's front legs are deformed, and Masoud is also not healthy. Both animals are the result of inbreeding and need our help more than ever.
Where the story begins...
Masoud and Terez were born on September 8, 2017 in Razgrad Zoo, a Bulgarian zoo that also served as an illegal breeding station. They are the result of several generations of inbreeding, and their mother rejected them immediately after birth. There was a third cub, which unfortunately did not survive. Masoud and Terez were raised by hand by a Bulgarian volunteer who took care of them. But of course this was not a long-term solution. In addition, the brothers need specialized and intensive care to help them grow up. FOUR PAWS volunteered in 2017 to help the cubs. And this is where the story begins.