Abandoned ‘Pet’ Lions Start a New Life in 455-Acre Sanctuary in South Africa


Six young lions, once purchased as status symbols and later abandoned in Kuwait, have begun a new chapter at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. Rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, the lions – males Muheeb, Saham, Shujaa, Saif, and females Dhubiya and Aziza – were found in Kuwait City and its surrounding deserts.

It is illegal to keep lions as pets in Kuwait, leading to their abandonment. Authorities, with the help of Kuwait Zoo staff and volunteers, recaptured the lions and sought help from Animal Defenders International (ADI).

The rescue mission, funded by Qatar Airways Cargo through their WeQare scheme, transported the lions from Kuwait to South Africa. Renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr. Peter Caldwell oversaw their care during the journey, ensuring their safety and well-being.

Upon arrival at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary, the lions were initially placed in nighthouses before moving to quarantine enclosures where they enjoy catnip punchbags and giant balls. After a two-week quarantine, they will be released into expansive natural enclosures of up to 4 acres each.

The “Kuwait 6” symbolizes the global issue of wildlife trafficking, exacerbated by social media posts featuring people with big cats. Often taken from their mothers at a young age, these animals face a life of loneliness and dependency. Used as status symbols, they are discarded once they become unmanageable or dangerous.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI, emphasized the significance of this rescue: “The Kuwait 6 lions have their whole lives ahead of them and will have acres of space at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary. The ADI supporters who are helping to fund their care and this rescue are giving these lions their lives back, living as close as possible to the life they lost.

This is great news for these lions but also a warning about a cruel and irresponsible trade. Lions should never be kept as pets; they are wild animals. ADI is grateful to the authorities in Kuwait for their action to try and halt this illegal trade, to Kuwait Zoo for providing a safe haven for the lions, to Qatar Airways Cargo for helping bring them home, and to the ADI supporters funding the care of these animals.”

As these lions begin their new lives in Africa, ADI continues to work towards ending the suffering of wild animals in captivity and stopping wildlife trafficking.

This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by One Green Planet on 28 May 2024. Lead Image: Little penguin (Eudyptula minor) is a species of penguin from New Zealand. They are commonly known as little blue penguins or blue penguins owing to their slate-blue plumage. Image Credit :Source: Roger Allen/ADI

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