Lion cub Vasylyna in Ukraine

Jun 2023


Rescue Lioness Vasylyna

A young big cat in the middle of war


In the war-torn streets of a village in the Kharkiv region in the north east of Ukraine, a young malnourished lioness was roaming the streets after she escaped private keeping. Terrified of her surroundings and alone, she had spent most of her short life surrounded by war and never experienced a safe environment.

Vasylyna was born in 2021 and had been kept by a private person in a house. Unfortunately, it is unknown what she had to go through, and how she got into private keeping. Luckily, she was quickly found and captured by animal welfare activists and legally handed over by the authorities in the care of Wild Animal Rescue in Kyiv region, where she received proper care and treatment. Unfortunately, this was only a temporary solution, and the rescue station could not provide a species-appropriate forever home for her.

After her difficult first years, she was in need of a long-term home, where she would get the care and enclosure she so desperately deserves. Due to unexpected challenges, and the difficulties involved in moving a wild animal in a war situation, we were forced to delay her transfer. Finally, after months of uncertainty, we were able to begin her relocation in June 2023. 

At FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands, she can start all over again in species-appropriate conditions. The team on-site will give her all the time and care she needs, to recover from her traumatic past. If all goes well, she will be introduced to Nikola, a young lion that was rescued in Montenegro, after also escaping from his private keeping. Hopefully, they can find a companion in one another and grow up together.

Follow Vasylyna's Journey

From the north east of Ukraine to the Netherlands

What a start to the new year

Last week we have successfully socialised lions Nikola and Vasylyna at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary. After months of preparations and hard work it was time to open the gate between the two young lions!   The first contact between Nikola and Vasylyna was a thrilling but exciting moment! Both lions have never been in contact with a conspecific before. They needed some time to get used to each other’s presence but after a couple of days, the young lions started to settle down and we see wonderful, positive interactions. We are extremely thankful for everyone that has been a part of their story and cannot wait to see what their future together holds. Stay tuned for more beautiful pictures of the lovely couple!

Lioness Vasylyna enjoying her new life at FELIDA

Getting to know lion Nikola

Exciting moments at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary as lions Nikola and Vasylyna have their first spark! All the results of the medical check last month showed that both lions are in perfect health. So, it was time for them to meet. Their first eye contact via the inside enclosure was a big hit. That is why we decided to move Vasylyna to a larger enclosure next to Nikola. The crate training that was needed for her internal relocation went very smooth. After her release, Vasylyna immediately started to explore all the new sounds and smells. She needed a bit of time to get used to her new surroundings, but the young lioness soon felt completely at home.
When they met for the first time, both lions were full of energy and needed some time to get used to each other’s enthusiasm. But after a couple of days, they started to settle down and it looks like they will get on great!
When the time is right, the next steps in their socialisation process will be discussed with our behavioural experts. In the meantime, we will keep a close eye on the lovely couple, 
monitor their progress and keep you updated! 

Lioness Vasylyna has arrived at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary

Arrival at FELIDA

This moment we have all been waiting for – Vasylyna has safely made it to FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary. The journey from Wild Animal Rescue in Ukraine was long and filled with hours of border checks. Our young lioness handled it all remarkably well, remaining calm for most of the time. However, she will now need some time to rest and recover from the journey and adjust to her new home. Thankfully, our incredible team in the Netherlands is fully prepared for her arrival and has extensive experience with animals that have been traumatised at such a young age. They will provide her with the care she truly deserves.

The team at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr is preparing Vasylyna for the next part of her journey

Arriving in Poland

Finally, she is safe! After one night in BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr our team prepared Vasylyna for the second day of the route. She seems to sense that this trip is for her own good as she remains quite calm. The border checks took several hours, but fortunately, we were well-prepared. The team will take a rest now, and tomorrow we will continue the journey to her new home, FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary.

Lioness Vasylyna is being loaded onto the transport vehicle

On her way

After a long wait, the young lioness is finally on her journey. Since we learned about her situation, we have worked tirelessly to bring her to FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary. Despite the challenges posed by the war and bureaucracy, we're thrilled to announce that the time has come. Her journey began this morning, with the team from Wild Animal Rescue taking her to our overnight stop at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr. From there, we'll take over the transportation.

Lion cub Nikola

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