Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010
Yorkshire Wildlife Park



Lion in Oradea Zoo
In Romania the lions had been living in bare concrete cages

A pride of 13 lions which were being kept in cramped conditions in a dilapidated Romanian zoo have flown to a new home in South Yorkshire.

The lions, whose ages range from 15 months to 27 years old, had been living in concrete enclosures at Oradea Zoo.

An appeal by the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster to raise £150,000 to rescue the lions began last summer.

The pride landed at Robin Hood Airport, just a mile from their new home, on Thursday afternoon.

The lions were due to be put down if a new home could not be found for them as the zoo could no longer afford to keep them.

The animals travelled in a converted Boeing 737 which is usually used to transport holidaymakers.

The plane was donated for the trip by Yorkshire-based airline Jet2.

The operation also required careful planning at Robin Hood Airport.

Crates containing lions are unloaded at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster
The lions are unloaded after their flight from Bucharest Airport to Doncaster

As he awaited the lions' arrival, airport director Mike Morton said: "Obviously what we don't want is to have any of our normal, regular passengers being eaten by the lions so we've chosen a site well away from the passenger terminal."

Once on British soil the lions, carried in 13 individual crates, were lifted on to a specialist lorry designed to transport elephants which had been borrowed from Woburn Safari Park.

Last year Yorkshire Wildlife Park's animal director John Minion visited the zoo and was shocked by the conditions, which included four adult lions in a 15ft by 12ft (4m by 3m) cage.

However, he said the staff at Oradea Zoo wanted to save the animals they cared for.

Now the pride are to live in a purpose-built seven-acre compound at the wildlife park in Doncaster.

Mr Minion said: "When I went to Romania to see the lions I was truly shocked and knew we had to help.

"We are so grateful to everyone who has given to the appeal and made this rescue possible."

L-R: The lions at Oradea Zoo and the site of their new enclosure in Yorkshire
Before and after: the lions will have seven acres to roam in the new home

Park director Cheryl Williams said: "I can't tell you what it feels like to see them on British soil.

"It's been a real team effort. Everyone at the park's been working so hard to get the enclosure ready and then there's the 12,500 people who gave donations to make this happen."

She said a vet had travelled on the flight with the lions, which are thought to be in poor condition and in need of a specialist examination once they are at the park.

She said another £25,000 was still needed to equip the lions' enclosure.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Sheffield Star Armed guards at ready as lions arrive - VIDEO - 7 hrs ago
Northeast Journal Plane roars in to bring lions to UK - 8 hrs ago
Yorkshire Post Yorkshire pride as 13 lions are rescued from Romania and flown to new home - 8 hrs ago
Harehills Today Rescued lions arrive at new home - 14 hrs ago
Yorkshire Evening Post Rescued Lions arrive at new Yorkshire home - 23 hrs ago



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