Lion cub had its legs broken 'so it could not escape while tourists posed for photos with it' and had to be taught to walk again after it was rescued in Russia
A lion cub's hind legs were deliberately broken by torturers 'so it could not run away while posing on Russian beaches for photos with holidaymakers'.
Vladimir Putin was so shocked that he personally ordered a criminal probe into the cruelty Simba experienced.
The cub was just a few weeks old when he was snatched from his mother and forced to pose for pictures with tourists.
After being exploited last summer, Simba's torturers broke his legs to prevent him running away as he grew older and bigger.
Simba's health rapidly deteriorated as he was 'tortured and beaten', suffering severe injuries to his spine that left him close to death, local reports said.
The animal was dumped, starving and hardly able to move, tethered in a dirty, cold barn in the Russian region of Dagestan.
'He was practically not fed, and for some reason in the frost water was constantly poured over him,' said Yulia Ageeva, who led a rescue mission to save the cub.
'This was a real hell.'
Simba also suffered pressure sores, intestinal obstructions, and a wasting of muscle to his hind limbs.
Rescuers flew the cub to specialist vet Karen Dallakyan, who said he had suffered 'an ocean of pain from humans'.
He said: 'Evil photographers break bones like this so that wild predators cannot escape and behave calmly for pictures (with tourists).'
Although Simba's life was saved, he has been left with permanent deformities.
Dallakyan told Putin about the scandal during a lockdown video-conference with ecologists, stressing: 'We do not see any criminal case opened.'
The Kremlin leader promised to get law enforcement to act against the animal torturer and any associates.
Dallakyan, from Chelyabinsk, said that a criminal investigation is now underway.