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    Saved from war

    SANDSTONE, MINNESOTA (AP) – Four lion cubs that were orphaned during the war in Ukraine have arrived safely at a Minnesota animal sanctuary that has pledged to provide them a permanent home.

    A male cub named Taras and three females named Stefania, Lesya and Prada, who are all between four and five months old, spent the last three weeks at the Poznan Zoo in Poland.

    Their arrival on Tuesday marked the final step in an arduous journey after they lived through sporadic bombings and drone attacks in Ukraine, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, one of several groups working to rescue animals from the war.

    “These cubs have endured more in their short lives than any animal should,” wildlife rescue programme manager at the fund Meredith Whitney said in a statement. “They were born at breeding facilities in Ukraine during the war and then orphaned at a few weeks old.”

    Their new home is The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, about 145 kilometres north of Minneapolis. They were put on a plane that was returning to the United States from Poland.

    Lion cubs who were rescued from the war in Ukraine by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, adjust to their new home at The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota. PHOTOS: AP
    ABOVE & BELOW: The lion cubs explore their new home; and founder and executive director of The Wildcat Sanctuary Tammy Thies feeds bits of meat to the lion cubs

    It landed on Tuesday in Minneapolis, from where sanctuary staffers brought them to the facility where they were assessed by a veterinarian and given a warm place to rest. The flight was funded in part by the New York-based Andrew Sabin Family Foundation.

    Dr Andrew Kushnir, an American veterinarian with the fund who accompanied the cubs on their flight, cared for the cubs in Ukraine and Poland. Despite drone attacks and airstrikes, he prepared their specialised formula every three hours, the fund said.

    On nights when the power went out, he used his arms and legs to warm their milk bottles.

    The cubs came from two litters, Whitney said. Three were rescued from Odesa, she said, while Prada, the oldest, was born at a breeder in Kyiv. The rescuers don’t know what became of the mothers, she added.

    The nonprofit Wildcat Sanctuary shelters nearly 130 lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards and other wildcats, many of which were rescued from the trade in exotic pets, including the four cubs.

    To assure peace and tranquility for the cats, it does not put them on public display, but lets them roam fenced enclosures amid the woods of Minnesota. The sanctuary does offer virtual tours via its website and Facebook page.

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