- Simba was being used at a rural Russian town to woo tourists, but was rescued after animal rights activists raised alarm over its mistreatment
Dar es Salaam. A lion cub tortured by his captors in Russia is to be flown to its natural habitat in Tanzania where it will find sanctuary following seven months of rehabilitation.
The lion cub named ‘Simba” will travel later in November from Russia under the support of Russian Copper Company, said the firm that was more than happy to have the big cat flown to Tanzania after it was taken away from its captors.
Simba was being used at a rural Russian town to woo tourists, but was rescued after animal rights activists raised alarm over its mistreatment, according to news reports.
It was not clear where the lion cub had been captured, but it was used as a prop for photo shoots.
A statement by the Russian Copper Company said that the cub will be returned to its natural habitat at a wildlife refuge in Kilimanjaro Region where it will be left to roam the wilderness. The activists pleaded with the firm to help fund the trip to Tanzania.
The lion was near death when he was rescued from a barn in Dagestan in March this year. According to the firm, it was tortured, emaciated, and unable to walk. Local residents told authorities his captors used the cub to make money, charging tourists to take selfies with Simba, and that his legs were broken to prevent his escape.
It was also malnourished and his body was covered with wounds. Reports of the abuse reached animal rights activists in the Urals. Veterinarian Dr Karen Dallakyan and others were able to rescue the cub and bring him to Dallakyan’s nonprofit animal rescue centre SAVE ME Foundation in Chelyabinsk, also in Russia.
For seven months, Dallakyan and his team provided medical treatment and cared for Simba. Says Dallakyan; “Many devoted people worked to save Simba. Witnessing the transformation of this magnificent animal makes it all worthwhile. I am relieved and thankful that businesses, organisations, and individuals have banded together to allow this animal to thrive in his natural habitat in Africa.”
The lion cub’s difficult rehabilitation will end with a unique repatriation to the Kilimanjaro Animal Crew Rehabilitation Centre in Moshi where he will live in a separate enclosure at a dedicated centre for rehabilitated lions under round-the-clock supervision. “The lion will have a large, beautiful space in which to roam,” the statement said.
“When we heard of Simba’s plight and the need for funds to repatriate the animal to Africa, we were happy to cover the costs. The abuse suffered by Simba is unconscionable. The world has watched as Simba has regained his health thanks to dedicated professionals and volunteers. We are looking forward to seeing Simba in his natural habitat and are glad to be playing a role in getting him there,” said Russian Copper Company Spokesman Kirill Irkha.
The company said this would be the first official repatriation of wild animals in the history of Russia.