Police hunt Sao Paolo thieves who stole 47st lion Rawell from an animal sanctuary

Gang tranquilised the animal before carrying it into a van and speeding away

Police are hunting for a gang in Sao Paulo who have stolen a 47st lion from its enclosure as the animal slept.

Officer Claudio Roberto Marques said the 9-year-old lion, named Rawell, was taken on Thursday morning from the Sao Francisco de Assis shelter in the city of Monte Azul Paulista.

Rawell eats five kilos of meat every day and has lived in the sanctuary, which cares for about 250 abandoned or mistreated animals, since 2009.

The gang are understood to have entered the shelter in a small truck carrying a cage before the lion disappeared.

The officer says the neighbours did not think anything of it because people frequently bring injured and sick animals there.

The thieves then broke into the lion’s enclosure and used dart guns to sedate him, before carrying him into the truck and driving away from the animal sanctuary.

Oswaldo Garcia, who had been caring for Rawell told Globo TV: “Whoever took Rawell knew what they were doing. Stealing a lion, especially one his size, is not easy.

"All I want is his safe return so he can lead the dignified life he enjoyed here. He was like a son to me, he was very docile."

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