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5-year-old lion brothers Vigo and Kumba are settling into their new forever home at the Isle of Wight Zoo after travelling 1,300 miles by road, Eurotunnel and ferry from Spain.

The mighty lions have spent their lives so far in small compartments on a lorry, let out only when forced to perform as a circus act. Now, following their rescue and subsequent rehabilitation at a special centre in Spain, the 2 brothers have been transported across Europe to reach their final place of sanctuary in Sandown.

Both Vigo and Kumba are extremely tall having been castrated at a young age, which tends to result in larger growth. Unfortunately, both boys have had their claws cut and lack a lion’s trademark mane.

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Last month, The Wildheart Trust, which operates the Isle of Wight Zoo, launched a fundraising campaign to enable it to make urgent arrangements to import the lions ahead of post Brexit customs changes.  These would not only have meant the lions spending longer at the temporary rescue centre, blocking space for more rescue animals, but port of entry changes would add further time and travel distance to what is already a tricky journey for big cats.

While the fundraising target has not yet been reached the Trust has been compelled to act in the interests of the lions, using the public’s donations to date to make enclosure changes which will provide good accommodation until enough is raised to build a dedicated solution.

Local media were invited to see the lions for the first time today (Friday). The gentle giants – which are of course not to be underestimated – played with their toys, posed for the cameras and caught the odd sun ray here and there. Staff at the Isle of Wight Zoo also wrapped up cardboard ‘presents’ as safe enrichment toys.

The lions arrived on the Island early on Thursday morning via Red Funnel.

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Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said:

“We are delighted to have been part of this heart-warming story, and to help Vigo and Kumba reach their new home at Isle of Wight Zoo.”

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