VIDEO: Qatar Cargo transports lions as part of its Rewild the Planet initiative

By Rachelle Harry

Kirsten de Bruijn

Earlier this month, Qatar Airways Cargo transported seven lions to nature reserves in South Africa as part of its Rewild the Planet initiative. Kirsten de Bruijn, senior vice president of cargo sales and network planning at Qatar Cargo, shares more details about the operation.

“Rewild the Planet initiative is part of our bigger sustainability initiative called WeQare,” says de Bruijn.

Chapter 1 of WeQare, which we launched last year, was about people and donating 1m free kgs of cargo capacity to humanitarian organisations.

Describing WeQare Chapter 2, de Bruijn says: “We’re also committed to preserving wildlife and endangered species, and we plan to transport them free of charge to natural environments that are safe for them.

“We care about the planet and we care about the future and our children, hence we launched this initiative to really invest in the future. WeQare Chapter 2 is a part of that.”

De Bruijn says that Qatar Cargo will continue its Rewild the Planet initiative for the foreseeable future.

“We’re in conversation with several non-government organisations at the moment, so stay tuned.”

Flying lions

Earlier this month, Qatar Cargo moved three lions, one lioness and three cubs from Kiev to Doha and then Johannesburg over the course of three days.

The lions were then transported to the Kouga and Swinburne nature reserves in South Africa where they were able to walk on grass for the first time.

Passenger Airbus A350 aircraft were used for the flights.

“We routed the passenger aircraft to Doha and made sure that the connection time was as short as possible. Then the lions went into another passenger A350 aircraft to Johannesburg,” de Bruijn says.

De Bruijn says: “A special thing that we did was upon landing, we moved the plane with the passengers to the cargo terminal to be next to the live animals centre. So the passengers had to take a bus ride all the way from the cargo terminal to the passenger terminal — so their journey took longer than the lions’.”

Commenting on the planning process, de Bruijn says: “There were a lot of logistics that were involved — such as checking the cages and the wellbeing of the animals, understanding the logistics of the airports, the process for loading the animals carefully into the bellyhold, rather than the maindeck.

She adds: “We worked with governments to get the relevant permits. We also had operational staff, animal experts – both ours and the ones who accompanied the lions from Kiev.”

“The entire operation involved 50 to 60 people from at least 10 different departments.”

All in all, the success of the transportation was made possible because of the cooperation demonstrated by all stakeholders.

De Bruijn says: “I think the people and the dedication of our staff really made this.”

Video of the lion transportation:

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