A three-year-old lioness, named Aysa, was pregnant when she was abandoned at a private zoo in Donetsk during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Pregnant Ayna, along with the other zoo animals, were left alone, malnourished and surrounded by the sounds of war.
The lioness was eventually rescued and sent to a different Ukrainian facility near the capital Kyiv, where she gave birth to three cubs, Teddi, Emi and Santa.
The family were then moved again to Poznan Zoo in Poland, but this is a temporary home for them – and Yorkshire Wildlife Park are keen to relocate them as soon as possible.
The park, known for animal conservation, is trying to get permission to bring the big cats over to the UK in what it has described as a “race against time”.
Deputy section head of Carnivores, Colin Northcott, visited Poland to see the family recently.
He said the cubs “cowered on top of each other in the corner and often hissed and spat loudly at me”, adding: “They were extremely nervous and tried to get as far away as possible from me.
“This was completely understandable considering what they have been through.”
Northcott then played recordings of sounds from the park to familiarise the lions with what he hopes will be their new home.
He said once they started to trust him, he “felt terrible leaving them behind”, especially as they have experienced “so much trauma”.
He added: “We need to get them here as fast as possible.”
The park said: “Lion Country here at Yorkshire Wildlife Park was built as a welfare facility and now we’re in a position where we can offer a home to these poor lions and hope that we can make a difference to their lives”.
They want the family of four to arrive before Christmas.
According to spokesperson for the park, they’re hoping to offer the cats “a better life and a brighter future”.
It would likely uplift the park too, as long-term resident 14-year-old lion Simba died earlier this month following ongoing age-related health issues.
He had lived in the Yorkshire park since 2010, having been rescued – along with 12 others – from a Romanian zoo where they had been kept in small concrete-floored cages.
The park build Lion Country when it rescued this pride using donations from the public, and they’re hoping to put Aysa and her children in the same facility.
But there is no confirmed arrival date, as paperwork is yet to go through.