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Yorkshire Wildlife Park's race to save four war traumatised Ukrainian Lions

23rd October 2023

A race against time is on to save four war-traumatised Ukrainian lions and give them a new home in the UK. 

The award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park has offered a new home for mum Aysa, 3,  and her three ten-month-old cubs  Emi, Santa and  Teddi at the park’s Lion Country. 

The pregnant lioness and other animals were abandoned in a private zoo in the Donetsk region as Russian invaders poured into Ukraine and they suffered alone, malnourished, and surrounded by fighting and explosions.   

They were rescued and taken to a sanctuary near Kyiv where Aysa gave birth to the 3 cubs before being moved to a temporary holding facility at Poznan Zoo in Poland.  


“The lions were so distressed when I first encountered them,” said YWP’s Deputy Section Head of Carnivores, Colin Northcott, who has just returned from a trip to Poland to plan the lions’ transfer.

“The cubs – Teddi, Emi and Santa - cowered on top of each other in the corner and often hissed and spat loudly at me. Seeing them so terrified made me feel desperately sorry for them. 

“They were extremely nervous and tried to get as far away as possible from me. This was completely understandable considering what they have been through. By the end of the week that I was there, they were starting to trust me more so I felt terrible leaving them behind.” 

“They have experienced so much trauma and deserve a wonderful new life in Yorkshire. 

“We need to get them here as fast as possible.” 



The park, at Auckley, near Doncaster, is renowned for its animal conservation and rescued 13 lions from horrific conditions in a Romanian zoo in 2010 and brought them to Yorkshire  with the help of the charity the Wildlife Foundation, which is based at YWP. They all enjoyed happy and healthy lives in their sprawling reserve. 

Colin Northcott has played recordings of sounds from the park to familiarise the Ukrainian lions to their potential new home. 

He added: “After spending some time with the lions, they have become more comfortable with me, and I hope to continue this progress in Yorkshire. 

“We can’t wait to rescue them and offer them a fresh beginning within the park.” 


John Minion CEO of Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster added “When Lion Country was built for the rescue of the 13 lions from Romania in 2010, it was built with the help of donations from people who loved animals and wanted to help rescue the animals. 

“It was always meant to be a welfare facility and now we are in a position where we can offer a home to these poor lions and hope that we can make a difference to their lives, just as we did for the Romanian lions in 2010.”

There is no arrival date for the lions yet as the Park is urgently working with the Polish authorities to arrange the paperwork required to move them.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park, which is home to more than 400 animals from more than 70 rare and endangered species including Giraffes, Black Rhinos, and the world’s largest group of Polar Bears, is committed to its purpose of animal welfare and the conservation of endangered species. 



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