FOUR former circus lions take an 8,000-mile flight from the Ukraine to be freed in South Africa.
Campaigner Lionel De Lange, 53, raised £32,000 to take them to the Kragga Kamma Game Reserve.
Along the way people from around the world came together to try and help by buying T-shirts, prints and pledging donations.
After a massive 76-hour journey from crate to enclosure, and by road and air, the mighty predators are now finally safe in South Africa.
Lioness twins Charlie and Kai, four, and their younger sister Luca, aged three, have only ever known bars and cages since being born into the circus.
And just a year ago the girls were joined by Nathan, then a tiny lion cub, who also faced a sad life being kept for entertainment.
Lionel said: “Six weeks ago, I didn’t think we’d get this far, and six months ago I didn’t think we’d make it, but we have.
He continued: “For now the future for these four lions is to be what they were born to be, just lions, lie around in the sun, get fed and just relax… and not have to live in their own urine and faeces.
“It was a hard trip but the vet checked them over and once the anaesthetic wore off they were ready.”
At the South African game reserve the lions now have an amazing 14,000 square metres of lush African bush, compared to before being rescued when the girls shared a cage of just 40 square metres.
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Lionel, who travelled down with his wife Anya and Ukrainian vet Mikhail, said of the lion’s first steps on African soil: “It was at 8.45am this morning, under an African sky and after a breakfast of impala. It was unbelievable, I almost can’t put it into words.”
Lionel said the rescue of the lions was only possible thanks to the amazing generosity and donations from individuals, sponsors and companies around the world.
He added: “All over the world people have banded together to give big donations, small donations, everyone has worked together.”
The effort has been a roaring success.
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