Over 30 Lions Saved From a Life of Circus Slavery, After Being Found Crammed Into Tiny Cages
Earlier this month, Shakira, Zeus and Joseph, along with 30 other big cats previously used in South American circuses, were relocated to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. The 33 lions were rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia, and have now arrived in their ancestral homeland to live out the rest of their days.
Over the past few months, the American-based charity Animal Defenders International (ADI) has been working together with Emoya to rescue the animals and fly them to their new home. All 33 lions flew on board the ADI Spirit Of Freedom Flight, an MD11F cargo aircraft chartered with Priority Worldwide Services, making this the largest-ever airlift of big cats.
The cost of the transfer was $13,150 per cat, and was made possible through the help of GreaterGood.com, as well as all the people who helped to raise the needed funds for the project.
“These lions have endured hell on earth and now they are heading home to paradise. This is the world for which nature intended these animals for. It is the perfect ending to ADI’s operation which has eliminated circus suffering in another country,” said ADI president Jan Creamer, in a statement on their website.
The horrible life of a circus animal
Nine lions were voluntarily surrendered by a circus in Colombia, while the other 24 were rescued in surprise raids on circuses in Peru with the help of the authorities. The use of wild animals in circuses has been outlawed in Peru since 2011, and in Colombia since 2013.
All the animals were in bad shape, as they had spent the majority of their lives crammed into small cages on the back of circus trucks.
“All of the lions when they arrive from the circuses have health problems, parasites, disease,” Ms. Creamer said. “All of their lives they haven’t had enough food, so they have long-term malnutrition problems,” she added.
The lions were bred in captivity and mutilated by their circus owners. Almost all of them have had their claws removed, and many have smashed and broken teeth, which makes hunting and survival in the wild impossible.
Better times ahead
Since all of these lions have lived in small cages their entire lives, they will have to be introduced to larger areas within the sanctuary slowly.
“The lions will enjoy large natural enclosures situated in pristine African bush, complete with drinking pools, platforms and toys. The lion habitats will be steadily expanded over the coming months as the lions become familiar with their new life and are introduced to each other,” the statement reads.
Some of the older lions, like Ricardo and Joseph who both have sight problems, will be provided a special enclosure with anything that could harm them removed.
Savannah Heuser, the founder of Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, said, “The lions are returning to where they belong. This is their birth right — African sun, African night skies, African bush and sounds, clouds, summer thunderstorms, large enclosures in a natural setting where they can remember who they are.”
After years of abuse and mistreatment, for many of these big cats, it’s the first time they can feel grass under their paws and can scratch their heads on a tree instead of the metal bars of their cages.
Watch them take their first steps into freedom here.
Sources for this article include: