The lion cub who was dubbed Abu Malek and was kept in a hiding place in the south of Israel illegally, was transferred to a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa, the Warriors of Wildlife nonprofit organization updated in a Facebook post last week.
After his rescue, his caretakers changed his name, and now they refer to him as "Zion-Neev."
Dr. Nicole Benjamin-Fink, who was responsible for his transfer, spoke about the deliberations and his new life.
"He is adapting well to his new habitat. After he explored the area, he rested in the shade under the trees and he also eats well," she said. "He started his new and better life."
"He is adapting well to his new habitat. After he explored the area, resting in the shade under the trees and he also eats well, he started his new and better life."Dr. Nicole Benjamin-Fink
According to Fink, who is also the director of the organization Conservation Beyond Borders, Zion-Neev's transfer was necessary and required the cooperation of Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Warriors of Wildlife and Cem Air - an airline operating in South Africa.
"I was looking for what would be the most appropriate institution for him to live in. At first, I looked in Europe, but they didn't need the genetic diversity," said Dr. Fink.
Fink also discussed how she chose the shelter in South Africa.
"I was torn between South Africa and Namibia. I chose the former because all the females are sterilized and they do not promote mating of lions in captivity, and there is also another lion cub there, about the same age as him, who was also rescued from illegal trade," she said.
What happened to Zion-Neev?
Zion-Neev was taken from his mother at a young age and was sold multiple times on social media, the Warriors of Wildlife nonprofit said.
Border Police detectives from the Nature and Parks Authority found the cub in an apartment in the center of Israel in February.
They found the cub by investigating videos posted on social media of the cub. One Border Police commander said the conditions under which the lion was being held were extremely poor.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.