After spending more than 10 months apart and a further two months in rehabilitation, a rescued family of lions have finally been released into their forever home at Yorkshire Wildlife Reserve. 

Mother Aysa, the lioness, was part of a private collection in Donetsk, one of the first areas to be invaded by the Russian forces.

Colin Northcott, deputy section head of carnivores at Yorkshire Wildlife Reserve, went to Poland to visit the family after the sanctuary failed to safely re-introduce the family.

Colin Northcott with Emi, Teddi and Santa. Credit: Yorkshire Wildlife Reserve.

Mr Northcott said: “Luckily at the reserve we already have a purpose built rescue centre that was originally built for another group of lions we rescued from Romania, two of which still live at the park, making us the perfect choice for their rehabilitation.”

Aysa was rescued and taken to Kyiv where she gave birth to three cubs, Emi, Teddi and Santa.

The family were transported separately to a sanctuary in Poland, the first time the cubs had been apart from their mother since birth. 

The cubs spent a further nine months separated from their mother before being transported to South Yorkshire.

“Upon their arrival in Doncaster we were able to get Aysa back with her babies in under an hour using a selective reintroduction process where they are slowly and gently introduced to their new environment.”

The family spent another two months in rehabilitation before being released into their new enclosure.

“They were initially tentative and all followed the concrete perimeter of the enclosure as this was a feeling they recognised underneath their feet. It took them a while to realise that the grass was safe but once they did the excitement floodgates opened.”

“People love them and the rehabilitation process has been fantastic. We expected it to take a lot longer but their confidence has grown immensely in such a short span of time.

“The prospects of survival for these lions were so slim so this is such a heart-warming story in the face of adversity.

“From seeing them in Poland last year when they were hiding from everything and everyone, hissing and spitting because they felt threatened to where they’re at now, I truly feel like a proud dad.”

The lions are now on public view at the park and have proven very popular with visitors.