After Years in Confinement, White Lions Get a Taste of Freedom | Be Korea-savvy

After Years in Confinement, White Lions Get a Taste of Freedom

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DAEGU, Jun. 18 (Korea Bizwire) – “Lion, I hope you can now gaze happily at the open blue sky,” said an onlooker as a pair of white lions took their first steps into a vast outdoor enclosure on June 17, after spending years trapped indoors. 

Upon visiting the interior of an abandoned zoo in Daegu’s Suseong District around 10 a.m. that morning, an overpowering stench from animal waste permeated the air.

The facility had ceased operations in May 2022 amid financial difficulties caused by Covid-19. However, authorities had discovered the abandonment of guinea pig carcasses and accumulated animal feces, resulting in a 3 million won fine before the zoo was left derelict.

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The two-story underground zoo was dimly lit and cloaked in darkness. Trash from disassembled enclosures littered the premises, while animals still awaiting relocation peered helplessly through soiled glass partitions. Monkeys left behind acted aggressively when approached. 

In one former hyena enclosure, the metal floors had corroded from years of neglect. A zookeeper who assisted in the rescue efforts recalled, “The hyenas were emaciated and collapsed when we found them – the situation was dire.” 

At the heart of the decaying facility, the white lion enclosure came into view. 

Though appearing relatively healthy, the male and female lions paced restlessly beyond smudged glass panes. Graffiti proclaimed them the “First White Lions in Yeongnam.”

They stared vacantly at a mural depicting an open sky painted on the underground ceiling.

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A former caretaker, known only as Mr. A, had tended to the animals for two months. “I don’t know if they were given names,” he said.

“But I believe they’re around 8 years old and were brought here when they were 1.” 

Under a veterinarian’s supervision, the lifelong captives began their journey to a new home.

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Upon arriving at Spa Valley Nature Park, the male lion eyed his novel outdoor surroundings warily from within a transport cage.

However, as handlers maneuvered the lions, the male let out a resounding roar – a first for the formerly confined beast.

Finally placed in the open-air enclosure, the lion cautiously ventured out, seeming unsettled yet unburdened.

The male soon joined the female, who had arrived earlier, staking out a corner as they began acclimating. 

At close to 500 square meters, their new habitat dwarfs the 50-square-meter underground cell they endured for seven years.

“We’ll introduce these two newcomers gradually to the resident lion through alternating access,” said Son In-jae, head of Spa Valley Nature Park’s animal team.

“Our keepers will do everything possible to help the white lions adapt.”

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Park director Park Jin-seok shared plans to give the nameless felines new monikers “befitting healthy lives.”

He added, “Rather than feeding experiences, we’ll focus on medical care, showing the same keen interest in their wellbeing that brought them here.” 

Spa Valley Nature Park has rescued around 280 animals from the defunct zoo, with 17 remaining monkeys still awaiting suitable accommodations.

Image credit: Yonhap /

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