Beasts from the East: Quvam the lion takes flight

As last month’s freezing Baltic blast reigned over northern Europe, IAG Cargo was preparing to move some of its most precious cargo to date… a rare and endangered Asiatic lion.

Plans for Quvam the lion to be transferred from Moscow Zoo to a new home at Madrid Zoo were set in motion when a mate was located there as part of the zoos’ breeding programmes.

But as March’s icy cold front – known as ‘the Beast from the East’ – descended on the continent, Quvam’s transit was waylaid by temperatures that breached -26 °C in the Russian capital, threatening the safety of any animal attempting to fly. When the weather improved a few weeks later, Quvam’s flight finally departed and arrived safely in Madrid.

This isn’t the first time that IAG Cargo has worked with Moscow Zoo – last year it facilitated the transit of a baby orangutan, who, too small to fly in the hold, travelled instead in British Airways’ Club World between Moscow and London. For Quvam’s transit, IAG Cargo worked with the zoo to ensure that the container he would travel in was compliant with IATA regulations, and obtained an agreement from the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre that allowed him to stay in IAG Cargo’s Premia warehouse to minimise stress and reduce disturbance.

With only a few hundred Asiatic lions left worldwide, we feel privileged to have been trusted with such an important transfer. Asiatic lions were once found anywhere from Turkey to eastern India, but from the 20th century, hunting had left them close to extinction. As a signatory to United for Wildlife, IAG Cargo is committed to raising awareness about the poaching crisis, and putting a stop to the illegal wildlife trade.

Through IAG Cargo’s Live Animals product, we transfer species ranging from Bengal tigers and rhinos to turtles and snakes.