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Lion cubs abandoned in Ukraine find new home in Minnesota

Holly-marie Cato/IFAW

(SANDSTONE, Minn.) -- Four furry refugees have added pride to a Minnesota animal sanctuary after being abandoned in Ukraine.

The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota, welcomed four lion cubs, Taras, Stefania, Lesya and Prada, on Wednesday just months after they were found in a Kyiv breeding center in the war-torn country, the International Fund for Animal Welfare said.

The cubs, roughly five months old, survived drone attacks and bombings and were transported to Poland in October to escape the dangers, according to the IFAW.

They were flown to the U.S. in wooden crates explicitly designed for them, driven eight hours to the sanctuary and immediately unloaded into a warm indoor enclosure with plenty of food, water and toys, according to the non-profit.

"These cubs have endured more in their short lives than any animal should," Meredith Whitney, the wildlife rescue program manager at the IFAW, said in a statement.

At the time of their rescue, zoos and sanctuaries in Europe didn't have the capacity to take the cubs in, the IFAW said.

Dr. Andrew Kushnir, a veterinarian working with IFAW, has been taking care of the cubs since they arrived in Poland and accompanied them on their flight to the United States.

"During several drone attacks and airstrikes, he prepared their specialized milk formula every three hours, cleaned up their enclosure and made sure they had a warm place to sleep. On nights when the power went out, he even used his arms and legs to warm their milk bottles," the IFAW said in a statement.

Administrators at the Wildcat Sanctuary said their habitat is specially designed for the cubs and other big cats to live and thrive.

"They have a custom, open space to explore and soft grass or hay to rest their tired bodies on," Tammy Thies, the founder and executive director of the Wildcat Sanctuary, said in a statement.

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