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KUWAIT 6: Dumped ‘pet’ lions land in Kempton Park to start new life

The six lions from Kuwait were all purchased as status symbols and abandoned when they were no longer wanted.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has done it again.

Six young lions rescued from the illegal pet trade in Kuwait landed at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday last week.

The rescue and return to South African soil were made possible through international donations and sponsorship of flights through the Qatar Airlines’ WeQare campaign.

One of the lions playing with his catnip punchbag. Photo: Roger Allen

In September last year, ADI and Qatar brought Ruben home after he had spent his entire life in a small concrete cage.

When Ruden arrived in South Africa, it was the first time he touched African soil and felt the sun on his back.

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In contrast to Ruben’s years of neglect, the Kuwait six were all purchased as status symbols and abandoned when they were no longer wanted.

The six lions, males, Muheeb, Saham, Shujaa, Saif, and females Dhubiya and Aziza were all recaptured after being dumped by owners in the streets of Kuwait City or the surrounding desert, where it is illegal to have them as pets.

The young lions were recaptured by staff and volunteers at Kuwait Zoo, after they were advised by authorities and Animal Defenders International (ADI) offered a home for the six on its 455-acre ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa.

One of the Kuwait 6 basks in the South African sun. Photo: Roger Allen

Two young cubs, Dhubiya and Saif, were found abandoned in the desert to starve.

They were nursed back to health at the Zoo and last week were playing and basking in the sunshine, home in Africa.

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

“We are proud to once again be supporting ADI, this time in bringing these six beautiful lions home to Africa,” said Mark Drusch from Qatar Airways Cargo.

“Our WeQare Rewild the Planet initiative is our commitment to returning wildlife and endangered species back to their natural habitat, free of charge.

“It takes a lot of effort and logistics for our team to organise moving such large animals, but it is something we are all collectively very proud and passionate to be a part of.”

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Throughout the relocation operation, renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr Peter Caldwell monitored the lions, including during their sedation for loading into travel crates.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Peter Caldwell with one of the Kuwait 6. Photo: Roger Allen

During the flight, the lions were fed and watered by ADI’s Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips.

The lions were initially let into their night houses at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in Free State and have now been released into quarantine enclosures where they have been enjoying catnip punchbags and giant balls.

After two weeks in quarantine, they will be released into individual large natural enclosures of up to four acres.

Known as the Kuwait 6, the young lions symbolise an illicit, global trade which is now being boosted through irresponsible social media posts featuring people petting and ‘playing’ with big cats.

In this cruel business, babies are taken from their mothers when young and cute, leaving them lonely and dependent on their captors for food and attention for life.

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The animals are often kept in isolation and in inappropriate conditions including being chained or caged in basements.

The lions were given enrichment toys including large balls. Photograph by Roger Allen.

Used as status symbols, these magnificent, intelligent, emotional animals can live for 20 years but are dumped like a fashion accessory once the owner has tired of them.

Many owners realise that as lions grow, they become powerful, and expensive to feed and simply expressing themselves naturally can be dangerous and destructive for a human.

“The Kuwait lions have their whole lives ahead of them and will have acres of space at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary,” said ADI president, Jan Creamer.

“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.

Animal Defenders International’s Tim Phillips and the organisation’s president, Jan Creamer. Photo: Roger Allen

“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 haven for the lions, to Qatar Airways Cargo for helping bring them home, and to the ADI supporters funding the care of these animals.”

The Kuwait 6 before they were loaded onto a cargo flight donated by Qatar Airways Cargo. Photograph by Roger Allen.

Jan said that seeing the lions playing as they start their new lives at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary was magical.
“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.”

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Alzahra Aljanabi, the senior translator for the Animal Welfare Department for the Public Authority of Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources in Kuwait thanked ADI for the support and efforts in providing a better habitat for the six lions from Kuwait.

“We are also thankful to Qatar Airways Cargo for funding the flight, Royal Animal Hospital, Bahman International Cargo and Kuwait Zoo staff.

“People underestimate the risks of having wild animals as pets. They may be magnificent creatures but they are also predators. We need more awareness to combat wildlife trafficking.”

To find out more and help care for the Kuwait 6 lions visit: https://adiwildlifesanctuary.org.za

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