What was eating Luca, Charlie and Kai? For these sister lions, it should have been obvious.
Their lives were given to the circus.
With around 370 square feet of steel and concrete between them — as well as a cub named Nathan — these animals knew neither direct sunlight nor fresh air. Only the roar of a circus crowd — or whoever bothered to show up for this pitiable show in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
It's little wonder that when the day came to open those cages — thanks to the efforts of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation — the lions were depressed, endlessly pacing their concrete confines.
The organization found a vital ally in Turkish Airlines, which provided the much-needed lifeline for the animals through its sister carrier, Turkish Cargo.
"With the support of Turkish Cargo, we're able to take four lions to South Africa," Lionel De Lange, director of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation noted in a video uploaded to YouTube this week.
The airline shipped those forlorn felines some 5,500 miles, from Kiev to Istanbul to South Africa's fabled Kragga Kamma Game Park.
That's where these three sisters, along with a cub named Nathan, will have the rest of their lives to shake off the scars of the circus life — on the great wide open plains.
It may seem a little daunting at first, their new lives among the park's strange residents: the zebra, wildebeest, leopards and even ostriches. Not to mention all those coastal forests and meadows to roam.
And there will be plenty of food that won't result in any discomfort to the zebra.
"Unfortunately, they will be fed by park staff as they are far to habituated," De Lange explains to MNN.
But it's mercifully far from the madding crowd they knew all their lives. It's the kind of place every lion should call home.
"Their lives from here on will be safe," De Lange says. "No hunters will get to them. No poachers will get to them. They can just enjoy the rest of their lives here."
Watch the beautiful moment when these lions arrive at their new home below: