Six lions rescued from war-torn Ukraine arrive at new homes in Spain and Belgium

The lions, six tigers, two wildcats and a wild dog were driven around front lines to safety

A lion at the nature centre in eastern Belgium after a group of animals was rescued from Ukraine. Reuters

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Six lions plucked from war-torn Ukraine, including one rescued from a nightclub, have arrived at two animal shelters in Spain and Belgium.

The lions, along with six tigers, two wildcats and a wild dog, travelled by lorry from a refuge near Kyiv after a two-day journey skirting battle front lines and arrived last week at a zoo in Poland, the shelters said on Thursday.

Four of the lions and the wild dog were taken in on Wednesday by a rescue centre in Alicante in eastern Spain run by Dutch animal welfare charity AAP, the group said.

The lions had been living at a shelter near Kyiv after being rescued from “dire” circumstances, with one called Gyz kept in a “small cage in a shopping centre”.

Another lion called Flori was kept as a pet in a small flat where it was fed cat food, while another named Nila was rescued from a nightclub where it was kept to “entertain customers”.

“It will be a challenge to improve their fragile health, step by step, through an adequate diet, exercise and rest,” the charity said.

Meanwhile, two lions called Tsar and Jamil were taken in on Wednesday by the Natuurhulpcentrum shelter in Oudsbergen, eastern Belgium, AAP said on Facebook, where they will be looked after for at least three months.

Tsar and Jamil were driven from Kyiv to Oudsbergen, Belgium after planned transfer procedures were accelerated following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Reuters

The six tigers and two wildcats are still at the zoo in Poznan, western Poland.

The lorry had driven the animals about 1,000 kilometres to the Polish border and at one point came face-to-face with Russian tanks. It had to avoid the Zhytomyr region, which the invading Russian forces were bombarding, a zoo spokesman said.

At the frontier, the animals were transferred to a Polish lorry while the Ukrainian driver returned home to his children.

Updated: March 11, 2022, 8:36 AM