At the end of the 1800s, a woman in Barcelona took to kidnapping small children, sometimes as newborns, raising them as her own and forcing them into prostitution as soon as they were able. When they became too old, or if they fell sick, she would kill them and sell ointments and remedies made with their body parts to the wealthy of Barcelona.
When the police discovered what she had done, she was called a serial killer.
According to statements made by Bykovsky himself, the cubs are borrowed from zoos to be brought up until they are 6 months old. He tells the public that the lions are going to be released in sanctuaries – there are no big cat sanctuaries in Russia. We have asked questions regarding details of these sanctuaries, but have been continuously ignored. In one source Bykovsky claims to have received his first lion cub, Luma, from a national park in Nalchik, Russia. In another source he says she is from the Nalchik Zoo. There are no big cats in the Nalchik National Park, as it is a nature reserve for native species. There are lions in the Nalchik zoo, however the conditions in the zoo are so appalling that it should be shut down, let alone allowed to breed lions (see this video for some insights on the zoo).
In the meantime, these cubs are being used as photo props for magazines, TV shows and events. Bykovsky even brings them to spend long days at his shisha café in Moscow, where visitors can play with the exhausted cubs as long as they spend their money in the bar. Barely more than infants, they are subjected to intense human interaction, bright lights, changes of environment, unstable routine and, of course, tobacco smoke.
The cubs are ripped from their mothers too early, when they need her most.
These baby lions will never be given to any sanctuary nor will they be released in the wild – after such a deep imprinting and so much stress and human interaction, they are not suitable for any kind of life besides captivity.
Bykovsky justifies his photographic business with the need to cover the costs of feeding the cubs and giving them veterinary care. But why would one undertake such a task (the claimed one of raising cubs) without the means? If you don’t have resources to provide adequate care for these animals, resorting to unconcealed exploitation is not the answer. Clients are charged 230 USD (15,000 RUB) for 1.5 hours of photographic shoot with the cubs, when according toBykovsky it costs about 800 USD a month to look after a cub. Seems like a very lucrative business indeed.
Who are Eduard Bykovsky’s clients? Who pays so handsomely to take “fashionable” photos that give the oh-so-essential thrill of a like on Instagram, or make them appear more desirable in a magazine photo?
Russian celebrities and fashionistas.
What these naïve celebrities and fashionistas believe is that by paying and promoting cub-petting they contribute to rescuing these lion cubs. But it doesn’t take much time or effort to do a simple internet research and discover that they are being fooled.
Would these people think twice about taking a picture with these cubs, if Bykovsky told them the truth behind this business? Would they still post their photos if there were a warning sign, stating the following: “You can pet, play with and bottle feed this cub and we’ll take a picture of you so you can share it with your friends – HOWEVER it means one of the following will happen to this cub once it is too old to be handled:
this cub will suffer for the rest of its life in a cage without proper food or care, like Luma at the Nalchik Zoo
this cub will be shipped off to a canned hunting ranch and be shot by wealthy tourists for a very high price
this cub will be slaughtered for the exotic meat market and his bones will be used to make wine and oinments
this cub will be sold off at auction to the highest bidder, killed for its parts and bones
this cub will be lost in the illegal black market trade of exotic animals
Would they still want that selfie for 200 dollars if they knew that this is what the cub’s future life would be like?
There are countless stories of cubs suffering immensely after being used for photo props around the world. Back in 2014, two cubs named George and Yame were finally rescued from an amusement park in Spain. George was almost blind because of the lights and photography props when he arrived at the rescue facility.
Bykovsky and his partner Guryeva are planning to import a lion cub from Dubai without a drop of consideration for what will happen to the abused cub after his new owners have had enough fun with it.
So what happens to the Russian lion cubs when they start becoming too feisty to keep on set, or too playful to handle? When they start biting and growling? We don’t know. Supposedly Eduard Bykovsky returns them to the zoos from which they came. But the foreseeable future for these lions is grim, to say the least.
There is no proof of the fact that they are inhumanely killed, their body parts carefully separated and processed to be sold to southern Asia’s black market. There is no evidence to suggest that their bones are made into wine, their tails strung to rear view mirrors and their claws powdered, said to cure even cancer.
Just like the woman in Barcelona, Bykovsky and Guryeva should be labelled as serial killers. Granted, they’re not human babies. But are they so different? Do they deserve to be abused, and then very probably killed? We think not. Definitely not.