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5 LIONS LEFT WHEN DELAPIDATED ZOO CLOSED:

BOSTON, Oct. 23, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Last week a new life started for five distressed lions from Romania. The animals that come from a substandard zoo were brought to LIONSROCK, the big cat sanctuary of FOUR PAWS in South Africa. The zoo had to close after not meeting the criteria set forth by the EU Zoo Directive. Since then, international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has tried to find a solution for the lions left behind.

Petrica, Lavinia and Lidia are from Romania have a troubled past. All are 15 years old and were born in captivity in Bucharest, destined to be trained as the stars of the Romanian state circus Globus. Stressed by the harsh training, Petrica attacked his trainer. As a consequence Petrica, Lavinia and Lidia were transferred to the Baia Mare zoo in 2002in Romania, exchanging the circus penitence for a concrete prison. In 2003, Petrica's and Lavinia's cubs were born: Tarhon Big and Marin.

"In Romania quite a lot of zoos had to close but the other side of the coin is that there is no appropriate place for the lions on site. Today is a happy day, as we can finally take the group to LIONSROCK," explains Ioana Dungler, Director of Wild Animals at FOUR PAWS. After the zoo was closed down the authorities had to find an interim solution: the lions were moved to a former farm that was rebuilt to shelter them. During this period FOUR PAWS, with the support of a dedicated local vet, cared for the lion family.

According to the latest figures, 175 big cats (most of them lions) are still living in Romanian zoos. 24 of these animals are living in zoos that lost authorization, as in Craiova, Ramnicu Valcea, Turda or Galati. Dungler. "Most of these zoos have very bad keeping conditions, with small enclosures, lacking specialized medical care and proper food. For next year, we are thus planning to put in place a reproduction control program for big cats in Romanian zoos, together with local authorities."

Together with the Romanian lions, a lion from FELIDA, the FOUR PAWS big cat centre in the Netherlands, was transferred to South Africa. Born in Italy in 2003, Giovanni had to face grim periods in his life. As a cub, he was abused as a "photo lion" on the beach. Later he was forced to perform in shows, where he lost his tail. He finally ended up in a rescue station in the Netherlands which was taken over by FOUR PAWS two years ago. Hildegard Pirker, who is in charge of the 109 big cats at LIONSROCK: "Giovanni was kept alone all his life. Once he is well adapted in his new home, we might try to socialize him with an appropriate female partner". Lions are social animals and the company may improve his rehabilitation.

The transport to South Africa took place by road and air, overcoming a distance of about 8,000 miles. Friday evening all big cats could successfully be released in their interim enclosures at LIONSROCK. "We are so fortunate to have LIONSROCK as a sustainable solution. It is a shame that so many big cats languish in appalling conditions not just in Europe, but many substandard zoos reside right here in North America," explained Claire LaFrance, Head of Communications for FOUR PAWS' Boston office.

The transfer of the lions from Romania and the Netherlands involved an international team of vets from Germany, Romania, the Netherlands as well as South Africa. At LIONSROCK, the six big cats will live in large enclosures in a natural habitat. The unique big cat sanctuary offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers from poor keeping conditions.

More about LIONSROCK: http://www.lionsrock.org/

Photos and Footage: https://ftp.vier-pfoten.org/?u=WNODhNFp &p=xznd7vK9

Copyrights:
Fotos © FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin
Footage: © FOUR PAWS | 2015

Contains:
- Two Rough Cuts (1x Pick-Up in RO, 1x Release at LR)
- Photos from Pick-Up in Baia Mare
- Release Photos at LIONSROCK
- Two photos of FELIDA lion Giovanni at release at LR

https://youtu.be/scC7nMrObw0

https://youtu.be/iITRQbgQp58 (update as of 10/23/2015)

CONTACT: Claire LaFrance claire.lafrance@four-paws.us (617) 942-1233Source: FourPaws International