Lion Brothers Go from Captivity to Warzone to Homeland Thanks to Rescuers

When Tsar and Jamil were just cubs they were taken from their mother and sold to an ostrich farm in Ukraine. There they were maltreated and used as a “tourist attraction.” There they stayed for years until under pressure from Ukraine animal welfare groups, the brothers were handed over to an animal welfare centre in Kyiv.

“Kept in utterly unsuitable conditions, fed a poor-quality diet and without specialist care, the young lions became malnourished and sickly,” Born Free Organization wrote of the lions.

Veterinarians examined them and they learned that both lions had calcium deficiencies and Tsar had bone fractures. Both lions began to recover and be on the mend but then war broke out.

The terrible noise from shelling caused the two lion brothers to panic and injure themselves while they were housed at a rescue centre. Their caregivers knew they had to do something so they coordinated with a Polish zoo to evacuate the two large cats. The two lions went to Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium where they were granted temporary refuge.

The two lions were able to unwind and relax and play.

Tsar and Jamil playing.

Tsar and Jamil playing.

The next step was to arrange the transport of Tsar and Jamil to Born Free’s Big Cat Sanctuary at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa where they would be cared for the rest of their lives.

Finally, after successful fundraising and an 8000 mile journey, the brothers were about to start their new lives in their ancestral homeland. Born Free shared a video of the brothers taking their first steps onto African soil.

“[T]he team were delighted to see both lions dash straight out of their crates into the natural bush of their 2.5 acre enclosure. Half an hour later, the Born Free Animal Care team located the lions reunited, lying together in the night house of their enclosure. This probably felt like the safest place, with shade from the South African sun,” the animal charity wrote on their website.

“Tsar and Jamil will take time to adjust to the sights, sounds and smells of the bush, and the space of their expansive new home,” they continued. “The Born Free team will be monitoring the lions closely, and are hopeful they will start exploring their new ‘forever home’ soon, perhaps after being fed lunch in the early afternoon. As can happen after a long transfer, both lions had small bruises and scrapes on their face, which were not of concern to the onsite vet, and should heal quickly in the African sun.”

From being kept in unhealthy conditions and exploited on a farm for money to being caught up in a warzone, Tsar and Jamil now have a future of freedom to look forward to.

Born Free’s Co-Founder and Patron, Dame Virginia McKenna said of Tsar and Jamil, “It was with a sense of joy that I learned of the safe arrival of these beautiful lion brothers at wonderful Shamwari in South Africa. After enduring such misery and hardship in their early years, they can now live the rest of their lives as free as possible, just as nature intended. Grass beneath their feet, sun on their backs, and the shade of trees where they can rest whenever they wish. No longer exploited, but respected and cherished.”

Born Free has been working steadfastly for 40 years to help lions like Tsar and Jamil. To support their rescue efforts visit their website at:

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