Three lions have made an extraordinary 5 600 mile (9,000 kilometre) air journey to South Africa after being rescued from concrete cages in the Ukraine. The lions – Luca, Charlie and Kai – were set free in the 203-hectare (500 acre) Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth, which is already home to a wide variety of big game. They were flown by Turkish Airlines and were accompanied by special veterinarians and personnel, who are certified in transporting live animals. They were rescued by Lionel de Lange, the Director of the Lawrence Anthony World Organization (LAEO) in the Ukraine.

“I knew that I couldn’t leave these lions behind. They were living in a tiny cage made of concrete and steel. The cage was welded shut so you couldn’t open or close it, or get in to clean them. They were living in their own faeces and urine, and leftover food and bones,” he was quoted as saying.

David Barritt, chief campaigner for Network for Animals, applauded the efforts by De Lange and said the world needed more people like him.

“It feels good to know that despite all the atrocities against animals worldwide, good Samaritans and animal activists are doing a great job out there saving those that they can. Not all can be saved, but these efforts go a long way.

“However, we cannot turn a blind eye to this despicable case of animal cruelty. We need to know whether arrests have been made and if authorities in the Ukraine are investigating. If not, why not and how did the owners of these lions come to have them? Were they being kept in a house and do the owners have a permit? These are the questions the Ukraine authorities should answer.”