Thirty-three former circus lions feel the African sun on their backs and the grass under their feet after a life of misery and abuse in traveling circuses in Peru and Colombia. The lions have made the incredible journey back to their birthplace after a herculean rescue effort by Animal Defenders International (ADI).
Tim Phillips, co-founder of Animal Defenders International, said rescuers face incredible challenges in tracking down and rescuing lions from illegal circuses in Peru and Colombia.
Circus animals are banned in countries, but many traveling circuses operate in remote areas and moved underground after the laws took effect. ADI teams worked with government authorities to find and seize the animals, writes natureknows.org.
Many times they were accompanied by SWAT teams and riot police in order to secure and rescue the animals. They then had to bring the lions back from remote parts of the Andes and bring them back to their rescue centers.
It was an effort that took 18 months to accomplish! Of the 100 animals rescued, 33 were lions. These majestic felines have endured a lifetime of suffering, confined in tiny cages, abused and mutilated.
Arrangements have been made to fly them back to their homeland: Africa! Unfortunately, lions will never be able to survive on their own due to their physical condition. Many have had their claws pulled out and their teeth broken. «They can’t go back to the wild, but they can go home,» Tim said in an interview.
The lions will live out the rest of their days in peace and freedom at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Vaalwater, South Africa.
“African sunshine, African night skies, African bush and sounds, clouds, summer thunderstorms, large enclosures in a natural setting a setting where they can remember who they are,” said Savannah Heuser, Founder of Emoya Big Cat. Sanctuary, in a statement.
Tim said bringing the battered old lions back to Africa was one of his proudest moments. Wait to hear the lions roar behind him at 2:56 in the video below. It’s as if they knew they were back home!
Here’s another news video from this amazing rescue operation with the lions taking their first steps outside their new home.
Please share this incredible rescue with your family and friends!