Turkish Cargo delivered the lions to their natural habitat in South Africa by transporting them on a flight from the Ukraine to Johannesburg. Picture: Screengrab

Cape Town - National flag carrier Turkish Airlines’ cargo company, Turkish Cargo, embarked on a rescue mission for three sister lions named Luca, Charlie and Kai and a male cub named Nathan. 

Turkish Cargo delivered the lions to their natural habitat in South Africa by transporting them on a flight from the Ukraine to Johannesburg with a stopover in Istanbul.

The lions were saved by Director of the Lawrence Anthony World Organisation (LAEO) Lionel de Lange, in the Ukraine. 

“I knew that I couldn’t leave these lions behind. They were living in 35 square metres of concrete and steel. Their cage was welded shut so you couldn’t open or close or get in to clean them. So they were living in their own faeces and urine and leftover food and bones,” he said.

On their journey, Luca, Charlie, Kai and Nathan were accompanied by Lionel, special veterinarians and Turkish Cargo personnel certified in transporting live animals.

After a marathon flight of almost 9,000 kilometres (5,592 miles), the lions were set free in the Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth. The lions' new home is a natural habitat offering 14,000 square meters (nearly 150,700 square feet) of green coastal forest and meadows.

Commenting on the rescue mission, Turkish Airlines Senior Vice President of Media Relations Yahya Üstün added: "We transported four lions rescued from a 35-square-meter room in Ukraine to their natural habitat in South Africa. Now it is their turn to enjoy and discover freedom. We will continue to be a protector of nature with the special operations of our Turkish Cargo brand."

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