Inbred lion cubs ‘victims of neglect rife in Bulgaria’s decaying zoos’

Country’s government accused of issuing permits to places that fail EU standards

Jane Dalton
Monday 28 September 2020 21:05
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Simba and Kossara were “in a critical state” days after they were born
Simba and Kossara were “in a critical state” days after they were born

Two inbred lion cubs in a Bulgarian zoo are victims of “systemic neglect of animal welfare in the country’s zoos”, according to an animal-rescue charity. 

Simba and Kossara, who are less than three months old, were the result of breeding between a brother and sister and were abandoned by their mother when she was unable to care for them. 

They were discovered very weak, curled up in a small box, just days after being born. After being moved to another “inappropriate” zoo, the pair are now still suffering in a small enclosure with a concrete floor, according to the charity Four Paws

Inbreeding and poor conditions are rife at zoos in Bulgaria, which operate in breach of minimum standards set by the EU, it’s claimed.

The country is believed to have 24 lions and 15 tigers in captivity, of which only a handful are being looked after properly, the animal-welfare organisation says.

Bulgaria’s state zoos, built during the Soviet era, are “underfunded and decaying”, and the government is accused of granting zoo permits without checking whether EU standards of care for animals and conservation are met - illegal under EU rules. 

Simba and Kossara were born in cramped conditions at a zoo in early July, but after being discovered “in a critical state”, they were moved to a clinic in Sofia, and from there to a second zoo. 

Four Paws said its offer to rehome the animals at a sanctuary in the Netherlands had been repeatedly ignored. 

Barbara van Genne, of the organisation, said: “They are among the most recent victims of the authorities’ negligence. The cubs have been taken from one inappropriate enclosure to another, and neither is equipped for their species-appropriate long-time care. 

“The Bulgarian authorities continue to grant permits without ensuring that appropriate standards are met and adhered to, meaning that these cubs and countless other animals are bound to endure endless cycles of cruelty. 

“The responsible ministry must close all facilities that do not fulfil the requirements of the animals in their care. And Bulgaria must once and for all stop legalising inappropriate facilities.” 

In recent years, Bulgarian zoos have been accused repeatedly of breeding and keeping lion cubs in cruel conditions. Last year, two cubs died shortly after they were born in the city of Haskovo. 

Two others are kept in a small cage in the same zoo, which, it’s feared, may not have room for them when they grow up. 

In February 2018, the charity rescued two other inbred cubs from a zoo accused of previously maltreating and inbreeding lions. 

The Independent has asked the Bulgarian government for its response.

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