A lion cub’s hind legs were deliberately broken so he couldn’t walk away posing on Russian beaches for photos with tourists.
Vladimir Putin was so shocked that he personally ordered a criminal investigation into the cruelty that Simba was confronted with.
A very disturbing video shows the helpless animal before surgery – and then as it learns to walk slowly and painfully.
The cub was only a few weeks old when he was taken from his mother and had to pose for photos with tourists.
After exploiting the lion last summer, its owners deliberately broke its legs as it got older so the animal couldn’t run away.
Simba fell ill and was “tortured and beaten” by his spectators, severely injuring his spine, and to the point of death, reports say.
The animal was dumped, barely able to move, tied up in a dirty, cold shed in the Russian region of Dagestan.
“It was practically not fed and for some reason it was constantly poured into the ice water,” said Yulia Ageeva, who led a rescue mission.
“This was really hell.”
Rescuers rescue Simba from this nightmare and the lion was flown to vet Karen Dallakyan, who said he had suffered “an ocean of human pain.”
“Angry photographers break bones like this so wild predators cannot escape and behave quietly for photos (with tourists),” he explained.
He has operated on Simba and the cub is now able to walk again, although he is permanently deformed.
The lion also suffered from pressure ulcers, intestinal obstructions and atrophy of the muscles of the hind legs.
Dallakyan told Putin about the scandal during a concluding video conference with ecologists and stressed, “We don’t see a criminal case open.”
The Russian President said, “Thank you, I wrote down what you said.”
The Kremlin leader promised that law enforcement would take action against the executioner of animals and any co-workers.
Dallakyan, from Chelyabinsk, said a criminal investigation is now underway.
The unnamed photographer who worked with Simba in Sochi last summer denied that he had tortured the animal and said he handed the cub over to new owners.
The vet said the cub’s gradual recovery was a “miracle.”
The video shows how the brave cub gets hiking lessons – and responds now that his legs are being restored.