‘Dumped pet lions’ rescued, start new life in Africa

Six young lions were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Kuwait. (Credit: Roger Allen)

Six young lions were recently rescued after being dumped by owners in the streets of Kuwait City – where it is illegal to have them as pets – and in the desert. 

Known as the "Kuwait 6," Muheeb, Saham, Shujaa, Saif, and females Dhubiya and Aziza were rescued and recaptured by staff and volunteers at Kuwait Zoo after they were advised by authorities, according to the Animal Defenders International (ADI).

A special cargo flight was donated for the mercy mission by Qatar Airways Cargo as part of their WeQare scheme, which took the lions from Kuwait to Qatar and then South Africa. 

ADI offered the lions a home in their 455-acre ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa.


Lion plays at ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. (Credit: Roger Allen)

Two of the young cubs, Dhubiya and Saif, were found abandoned in the desert to starve. They were nursed back to health at the zoo and then transfered to their new home at the sanctuary.

The lions have been released into quarantine enclosures at the sanctuary where they are playing with catnip punchbags and giant balls. After two weeks in quarantine, they will be released into individual large natural enclosures of up to 4 acres.

"The Kuwait 6 lions have their whole lives ahead of them and will have acres of space at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary," Jan Creamer, the president of ADI, said in a statement, adding, "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." 


The lions can live up to 20 years. (Credit: Roger Allen)

ADI noted that the animals can live for 20 years, but many owners realize, over time, that they can become powerful and expensive to feed. 

They said if action is not taken soon and big cat ownership continues to be promoted as trendy, in a few years, the problem of lions and tigers being discarded around the world could reach epidemic proportions.

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"Seeing these lions playing as they start their new lives at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary is magical and we are excited to see them start to explore their large habitats. It is also a reminder of how much work needs to be done to stop the suffering of others like them and to defeat the wildlife traffickers. I hope that people will join ADI as we work for that goal," Creamer continued.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, wildlife crime is a big business and is estimated to run into the billions of dollars.

Some examples of illegal wildlife trade are well known, such as the poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones. However, countless other species are similarly over-exploited, from marine turtles to timber trees. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.