Lyka the Blind Lioness

(March 27, 2019 - Alpine, CA)
Our Rescue Team is preparing to depart on a mission to the Philippines to visit Lyka the lioness and establish a firsthand account on her condition and how we may best help her - but first we need your help.

You may have been following the story of the young blind lioness named Lyka, being held at Maasin City Zoo in the southern Philippines. Animal welfare advocates have raised concerns for months over this young lioness living in a small, barren enclosure whose condition appears to be deteriorating. Zoo officials believe Lyka has gone blind as a result of a congenital eye condition resulting from a "breeding mistake."

Lions Tigers & Bears has been actively coordinating a more hopeful situation for Lyka over the past several months, working directly with Filipino veterinarians, Maasin City Zoo officials and others to help Lyka get the care she needs.

During this initial trip we will provide Lyka with a thorough medical assessment, work on building a strong relationship with Zoo management in the interest of helping Lyka and the other animals at Maasin City Zoo, and visit several facilities that could provide the lioness with more suitable care. Due to her poor health, relocation to the United States is not an option at this time.
(April 6, 2019 - Manila, Philippines)
We wanted you to be the first to know that our Rescue Team is on the ground in the Philippines on a mission to help Lyka the lioness and other animals being kept at the Massin City Zoo. Your support has helped make this mission possible! The team has already had several meetings with various stakeholders including zoo officials, local veterinarians and government officials - and more meetings are to come. Together, we are working with Lyka's best interest in mind.

ABOUT THE MISSION:
Lyka is a young lioness being kept in a small barren enclosure and is suffering from an eye condition that has gone un-diagnosed. Animal welfare advocates have raised concerns for months over Lyka's condition, the young lioness who is being kept in a small, barren enclosure, and whose condition has been deteriorating. Zoo officials believe Lyka has gone blind as a result of a congenital eye condition resulting from a "breeding mistake."

Lions Tigers & Bears has been actively coordinating a more hopeful situation for Lyka over the past several months, working directly with Filipino veterinarians, Maasin City Zoo officials and others to help Lyka get the care she needs. During this mission we will provide Lyka with a thorough medical assessment, work on building a strong relationship with Zoo management in the interest of helping Lyka and the other animals at Maasin City Zoo, and visit several facilities that could provide the lioness with more suitable care. Due to her poor health, relocation to the United States is not an option at this time.
(April 7, 2019 - Maasin City, Southern Leyte, Philippines)
The LTB Rescue Team has been in the Philippines working on a mission to help Lyka, a six year old lioness living with an undiagnosed eye condition at the Massin City Zoo. Lyka's story has drawn international attention as visitors of the zoo have brought light to her cause.

Today, the LTB Team was able to meet Lyka and learn the truth behind her story and that of all of the animals at the Maasin City Zoo. Lyka was born at the zoo, six years ago, and after just six months, her litter mates passed away, leaving Lyka as the sole survivor.

Lead veterinarian, Dr. Nielsen Donato, and his team visually assessed Lyka over the course of the day. Lyka suffers from metabolic bone disease (which caused her to break her foot after birth), rickets, and malformations - all of which were perpetuated by poor breeding practices, and improper nutrition by previous zoo management. The team will be able to better diagnose Lyka's eye condition during her physical examination. Click here for a video update from the ground.

The next steps will be to provide Lyka with a thorough physical examination under anesthetic. This procedure will be the first veterinary examination ever for the lioness. Our skilled veterinary team will be taking every precaution necessary. As with any procedure that involves sedation - it always comes with risks. With no formal medical history to refer to, and with Lyka's apparent health issues, our team will utilize the safest means possible to provide Lyka with this very necessary medical exam so we can properly diagnose and treat her conditions.
(April 8, 2019 - Maasin City, Southern Leyte, Philippines)
An update for you from the Philippines! We're happy to report that Lyka the lioness underwent a complete physical exam under sedation yesterday and is under recovery. The procedure was led by wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Nielsen Donato, and a team of veterinarians from the Philippines Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (PAWVI). Despite the very rainy conditions throughout the day everything ran according to plan.

Lyka was sedated and overall the procedure ran very smooth. Lyka remained stable as the team monitored her heart rate and respiration throughout the procedure. Blood was drawn, a fecal sample was taken and Lyka underwent a complete physical examination. The approach used to sedate Lyka was unique, as the drugs typically used to sedate big cats in the U.S., are not readily available here in the Philippines. As such, lead veterinarian, Dr. Donato, utilized a sedative with reversal paired with anesthetic gas to limit the adverse side affects of other sedative options available.

Upon examination, Dr. Donato diagnosed Lyka with a fracture to her right fore shoulder, that is now healed, although not correctly. The fracture is part of the reason for Lyka's abnormal gate. In addition, Lyka also suffers from metabolic bone disease as a result of improper nutrition as a cub. This condition is irreversible.

Lyka's eyes were thoroughly assessed and the diagnostic is that Lyka suffers from chronic dry eye syndrome, glaucoma in both eyes and neovascularization in her left eye. Her intraocular pressure was measured and was nearly double what a normal reading should be. It is safe to say that Lyka does not have sight in either eye. Our team will be formulating next steps for Lyka and treatment of her painful glaucoma. Click here for a video of Lyka's examination.

EDMUND THE TIGER
Lyka was not the only patient during our medical mission. Maasin City Zoo is also home to a 10-12 male (Lyka's father) and two tigers. One of the tigers, named Edmund is approximately 5-7 years old and is living in a small enclosure. After Lyka's treatment, our team was able to assess Edmund. He is underweight, has an ulcer on his lip, and pressure sores on his foot pads from being kept on concrete. Edmund is in a critical state, and we will be working to provide a better conditions for him in the interim, until our team figures out next steps for the animals at Maasin City Zoo.
(April 9, 2019 - Maasin City, Southern Leyte, Philippines)
The team returned to the zoo today to check in on Lyka and Edmund following their medical exams. A meeting also took place with the zoo's Trustee to discuss the future of the zoo, and opportunities for raising the standards of care at the facility. Lions Tigers & Bears extended the offer for all four big cats to be transferred to the U.S. However, the offer was not accepted at that time. All parties agreed that our next focus would be to get Lyka the escalated medical attention she requires. Lions Tigers & Bears also discussed how Maasin City Zoo's situation would be an ideal opportunity to become an accredited sanctuary, rather than continue operations as a zoo - which has clearly evolved to be an unsustainable operation at the expense of the animals well-being. Lions Tigers & Bears has offered to work with the Maasin City Zoo and/or other interested parties to create the first truly accredited sanctuary for captive animals in the Philippines - which would be a major victory for animal welfare within southeast Asia.
(April 19, 2019 - Alpine, CA)
The Lions Tigers & Bears Rescue Team is back in California after traveling to the Philippines to help Lyka, a six year old blind lioness being kept at Maasin City Zoo in Southern Leyte. Our team was able to provide Lyka with her first ever veterinary examination. The procedure was much needed, to properly diagnose the lioness' eye condition - which is in fact glaucoma. The assessment also confirmed Lyka has been living with an old fracture to her right fore shoulder, that is now healed, although not correctly. The fracture is part of the
reason for Lyka's abnormal gait. In addition, Lyka also suffers from metabolic bone disease as a result of improper nutrition as a cub. This condition is irreversible.

Lyka will need advanced veterinary care to treat her abnormally high eye pressure, which is extremely painful as a result of the glaucoma. Our next steps will be to arrange for Lyka and the other big cats to receive supplements and a more well rounded diet to improve their health. Then we will arrange for Lyka, and her father Pael, a 10-12 year old male lion also living at the zoo, to travel to Manila to be treated at a veterinary hospital. As you can imagine, transporting two lions is no small feat - it will take careful coordination and logistics on many fronts to safely transport Lyka and Pael the nearly 1,500 kilometers (650+ miles) from Maasin City to Manila. The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands - so no direct road exists from the zoo to Manila. Transport will need to occur via truck, and then either land or sea voyage.

What's Next? - A HUGE thank you to all of you who donated to support this mission to help Lyka the lioness. We could not have provided this initial health assessment to this beautiful lioness without the kindness and generosity of supporters like you.

In the coming weeks we will be formulating a plan to return to the Philippines to uphold our commitment to provide Lyka with escalated medical attention. We will coordinate for Lyka and Pael to be transferred to Manila for treatment, while continuing to work on providing safe refuge for both tigers - Rey and Edmund - who are also living at Maasin City Zoo. We will continue to uphold our offer for all four cats to be transferred to the U.S. - which would relieve Maasin City Zoo of the substantial expense and responsibility of caring for four large carnivores and allow limited funds to be spent to improve the conditions for other animals at the zoo - which, in cases, is more dire than Lyka's.

While Lyka and Pael undergo medical treatment in Manila, PhilZoos representatives, led by Noel Rafael, have committed to help Maasin City Zoo build new habitats for all four big cats and other animal enclosures, while working to improve the zoo's operations. We will work together to ensure that any habitats rebuilt will meet the global standards of care for big cats.
(September 2019 - Alpine, CA)
The LTB rescue team traveled to the Philippines earlier this year to help the blind lioness, Lyka, at the Maasin City Zoo. Animal welfare advocates have raised concerns over this young lioness living in a small, barren enclosure, and suffering from an undiagnosed eye condition. Zoo officials stated that they believed Lyka was blinded as a result of a congenital eye condition resulting from a "breeding mistake."

LTB worked with wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Nielsen Donato, and a team of veterinarians from the Philippines Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (PAWVI) to conduct Lyka's first ever medical evaluation. Lyka was diagnosed with a fracture to her right fore shoulder, that is now healed, although not correctly. The fracture is part of the reason for Lyka's abnormal gait. In addition, Lyka also suffers from metabolic bone disease as a result of improper nutrition as a cub. This condition is irreversible.

Lyka's eyes were thoroughly assessed and she was diagnosed with chronic dry eye syndrome, glaucoma in both eyes and neovascularization in her left eye. Her intraocular pressure was measured at nearly double what a normal reading should be. It is safe to say that Lyka does not have sight in either eye, and her abnormal eye pressure is cause for discomfort. Our team also conducted a medical evaluation on an approximately five to seven year old tiger named Edmund who is also living at the Maasin City Zoo.

Since returning from the Philippines, our team has been doing everything in our power to facilitate the next steps for Lyka to receive escalated medical attention. In addition we have also sent a large shipment of vitamins and supplements for Lyka and the other cats to help with their nutrition. Due to the bi-national nature of this case, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders, the process for helping Lyka is taking time. and has become extremely complicated. Additionally, the team collectively has taken into consideration the extreme heat that comes with the summer season, and the feasibility of transporting Lyka to a medical facility or conducting a procedure under anesthetic is extremely high-risk and not advisable at this time.

As such, LTB is continuing to strategize a plan in conjunction with the veterinary team that minimizes the risks of what is already an extremely complicated and high-risk case. Our hope is to provide Lyka with the escalated medical attention she requires in the coming months.
(March 2021 - Alpine, Calif)
A petition of Lyka the blind lioness has been recirculating the internet and we've been getting many calls and inquiries. This petition is NOT from Lions Tigers & Bears - it is a third party company that is using an old petition as click bait - a way to collect your information.

Since Lions Tigers & Bears first traveled to the Philippines for a coordinated veterinary mission in April 2019, we have offered support to Lyka and the other big cats at the Maasin City Zoo - whether through relocation to the U.S., another sanctuary in country, or helping Maasin City Zoo become the Philippines first GFAS accredited sanctuary. To this day, no offer has been accepted. What we were able to accomplish was Lyka's first ever veterinarian exam to diagnose her conditions: severe glaucoma, neovascularization, metabolic bone disease, and poorly healed bone fractures. Photos from the mission are here: http://bit.ly/lykaalbum

Since returning from the Philippines, our team has worked to facilitate next steps for Lyka's escalated medical attention and/or rescue. Due to the bi-national nature of the case, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders the process has been extremely complicated. A collective decision was made for Lyka's medical procedure to be delayed until later in 2019 after summer and the extreme heat of the season because the feasibility of transporting Lyka to a medical facility or conducting a procedure under anesthetic would have been extremely high-risk for an already abnormal case, and thus not advisable. An agreement was also made for PhilZoos to assist the zoo with making improvements to enclosures and including LTB to help as requested. However, Lyka's procedure was never able to be scheduled and to our knowledge no improvements to any of the enclosures at Maasin City Zoo have been made, nor has LTB been contacted.

Zoo management was not responsive to LTB's many attempts to check-in between late 2019 and throughout 2020. And at this time, we are uncertain of Lyka's status. Because these animals are considered property there is very little that we as an organization nor officials can do beyond continuing to reach out and let it be known our offer still stands to help and encouraging the facility to do what's best for the animals.

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