The plight of these majestic creatures came to the worlds attention back in February, when bosses at Romanias Ordea Zoo asked the Yorkshire park for urgent help - weak, and covered in sores, the pride was facing almost certain death kept in miniscule concrete cells, with a poor diet and at the mercy of the harsh Romanian winter. Bosses at the YWP were overwhelmed with support for the cause and Jet2.com mounted a huge cargo operation, donating one of its aircraft to fly to Romania and bring the precious big cats back to their new home.
Philip Meeson, Boss of friendly low-fare airline Jet2.com, said: It is fantastic to see these beautiful lions now free to roam in the wonderful surroundings of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
As soon as we heard about the rescue operation, we donated one of our Jet2.com aircraft and the expertise of our pilots and ground crew in order to help this very worthy cause. Were also delighted to have been able to fly Daiana, the Oradea zoo director, over to Yorkshire today to see the results of this momentous cat rescue which she has been such a huge part of.
The lions are certainly one of the most unusual cargoes that we have carried over the years and we will be encouraging all of our passengers and staff to visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Park to see the big cats enjoying their new home in Lion Country. This has been a hugely worthwhile project to be involved in and we will continue to support our feline friends well into the future.
"Cheryl Williams, Director of the Park added: This is a historic day for Yorkshire Wildlife Park. So many people, including Jet2.com worked tirelessly to make this happen and many thousands of people made donations to help save the lions this has really been the peoples rescue. We cant wait to see the lions out and enjoying their new home, it is the culmination of everything we have been working towards.
Following months of hard work, with staff battling harsh weather conditions, work is finally complete on the 13 big cats' new home, where they are showing off their shiny coats after taking up residence in the custom-built enclosure in Branton, near Doncaster. Far from the memories of their cramped quarters in Romania, the gang will enjoy the central lake, waterfall, and unique walkways which will take visitors into the land of the lions for a special safari.
Animal Director John Minion added, "We dont know really how the different lions will react to the space and the new environment, whether they will be curious or worried to come out. Just like people, they are all different characters. They have lived in cages all of their lives, for the youngsters it might not be such a challenge, but Johnny Senior is said to be 27 years old which is very old for a lion and it will be a massive change for him. This is really the moment that we have all been working for, and we are delighted that Daiana Ghender, the director of Oradea Zoo is also coming to join us. She has not seen the lions since they left the zoo and will see a huge improvement in their condition.
Lion Country is believed to be the largest non-drive through lion reserve in the country and possibly the world and Jet2.com will be following the prides progress closely in the near future...watch this space lion lovers!