“This Is What We Do.” 3 Brits Go On Epic Road Trip To Rescue Ukrainian Lion And Wolf.

As countries continue to open their borders to help Ukrainian refugees, it’s easy to forget that humans aren’t the only ones being harmed in this war.

Countless animals, including those in zoos, are finding themselves alone as their caregivers either evacuate or join the military. Thankfully, though, several people have stepped up to protect these precious creatures, including Tim Locks.

a man carefully reaching for a sedated wolf named akela who is being transported from a zoo in ukraine to a zoo in romania

This British war veteran was delivering aide to Ukrainians when a conservationist he met at a hotel let him know that a lion and wolf were stuck with no help in a zoo 600 miles away.

Transporting these wild animals to a zoo in Romania wouldn’t be easy, but with the help of two companions, Tim was determined to make it happen.

“Everyone needs evacuating and there are plenty of teams looking after people,” he said. “Strangely, no one else wanted to do this…. so this is what we do.”

a giant crane lifting a cage with a lion, named simba, who is being transported from a zoo in ukraine to a zoo in romania

Their rescue mission started with a 600-mile journey to the Ukrainian zoo. This would be a long trip under normal circumstances, but during a war it felt even longer. Plus, they ended up passing though several checkpoints along the way which slowed them down. To make up for it, the three of them took turns driving so that they’d always be on the road.

By the time they arrived, both the lion and the wolf, named Simba and Akela respectively, were in their cages and ready to be transported onto the back of their transit van – they had already gotten the dimensions of the cages to ensure they’d fit.

three men guiding a cage with a lion named simba inside that's being moved by a large crane


Still, getting them onto the van wasn’t easy.

“It took three hours as the crane driver and digger driver didn’t speak a word of English, and we don’t speak Ukrainian, so there was an interpreter who translated everything,” Tim said

a lion named simba looking out of his cage as he sits in the back of a van so he can be transported from a zoo in ukraine to a zoo in romania

With the animals taking up all of the room they had left in the van, the three of them promptly headed toward their next destination: A zoo in Romania.

“As we left the city we were given a police escort, the air raid sirens were going, and we only had 35 minutes before the curfew started,” Tim said. “We kept reminding each other that we’d got a lion and a wolf in the back of the van as we were driving and looking back to see there they were, just over our shoulders.”

a man named tim locks taking a selfie from the front seat of his van with a focus on the cages containing a wolf named akela and a lion named simba

The checkpoints were pretty uneventful the first time, but with a lion and wolf in tow, things got a little more interesting.

“One guard told us there was a war on and it was no time to joke around,” he said. “I took him to the side of the van, opened the door, and showed him this proper big lion, like Aslan out of Narnia.”

Once they arrived in Romania, they had to complete two hours’ worth of paperwork before they could complete their journey to the zoo in Radauti. Thankfully, the police were happy to give them a blue-light escort to make traveling the hundreds of miles they had left much easier.

a smiling wolf named akela happily sitting in her cage at a zoo in romania after being rescued from ukraine

Finally, with the help of 20 Romanians, the animals were lifted out of the van and into their new home!

“No one thought we would pull it off. But we managed to get the lion in and he was happy,” Tim said. “We carried the wolf out in one go and got the cage away and got the door shut and it was tea and biscuits all round, with everybody asking how we managed to do it. It was quite a nice little zoo with tigers and bears and we stayed for a couple of hours.”

Tim is hoping to help more animals in the future, but until then, he’s happy to report that Simba and Akela are doing great!

a lion named simba resting in his new home at a zoo in romania after being rescued from ukraine

“We’ve just heard back from the zoo in Romania and it’s amazing to hear that both Simba and Akela are settling in well,” Tim wrote on Facebook. “Both are eating and drinking plenty and enjoying some chill time after the long journey. As for us, we’re well rested and spending the time reorganising vehicles and kit while we wait for the next task.”

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