Thirty-three former circus lions are finally able to feel grass and dirt under their paws, and the warm African sun on their backs after a lifetime of pain and misery bestowed upon them by travelling circuses in Peru and Colombia.
The lions have been able to make the longest journey back all thanks to the heroic rescue efforts of Animal Defenders International (ADI).
Tim Phillips, Animal Defenders International co-founder told ‘eyewitness news’ that they had faced incredible challenges in tracking down and rescuing the lions from illegal circuses in Peru and Colombia.
ADI have worked with governments to impose bans on Circus animals, but sadly once they are banned they begin to only operate in remote areas and are pushed underground. ADI have worked tirelessly to track down the circuses still in operation and seize the animals.
“Many times we were accompanied by SWAT teams and riot police in order to secure and rescue the animals. we had to transport the lions back from remote areas in the Andes and back to our rescue centres.” Said Tim Phillips.
This was not a quick job, it took the efforts of hundreds and over 18 months but it was well worth it.
Of the 100 or so total animals rescued, 33 were lions. These beautiful regal big cats have suffered almost a lifetime of abuse and unnatural conditions, confined to tiny cages.
Since these lions have been kept for so long, they would no longer be able to survive in the wild. Many have had their claws removed and their teeth filed down.
“They can’t go back to the wild but they can go back 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.
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You can watch the video below, just wait till you hear the lions roaring behind him at 2:56. It’s as if they know they have finally arrived back home!