Lions once kept in a private zoo by a son of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will be moved out of Baghdad to start a new life in the South African bush, animal welfare groups said Friday.
The animals, a lioness, her six cubs and two year-old lions, will be relocated to two South African game reserves in the hope that they will form new prides.
“Lions never lose their instinct to hunt. But they have to get fit first,” said Louise Joubert, founder of the SanWild Wildlife Trust. “Any animal would be traumatized by what happened in Baghdad. But what better way for them to recuperate from trauma than in the wild bush.”
U.S. troops in April rescued the lions, along with two cheetahs and a blind bear, from a zoo that Uday Hussein had established in one of Baghdad’s presidential palaces.
Like his father, Uday disappeared during the U.S.-led invasion. But the plight of his menagerie has raised concern among animal welfare groups. The groups have also sought to restore Baghdad’s main zoo, which was looted after Hussein’s regime collapsed.
The lions are expected to arrive in South Africa as early as next month.