Thirty-three lions are headed home on “Lion Air” to Africa after being freed from circuses in South America.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) worked with police in Colombia and Peru — where animal acts are now illegal — to shut down ten circuses, freeing the big cats along with bears, monkeys, a puma, and other animals, a total of 90 animals in all.
Finding them a new home was quite a challenge, as many of the lions had never lived in the wild and therefore had not developed critical survival skills. Some have been de-clawed, have broken teeth, and others are old.
Fortunately, the 12,000-acre Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa’s Limpopo province is perfect for lions in this condition.
It’s not open to the public and specializes in taking care of big cats who can’t take care of themselves. The sanctuary is already home to eight rescued lions and tigers in large acreage habitats of pristine African bush.
“The climate and environment are perfect for them,” said ADI President Jan Creamer. “When we visited Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary we knew this is a dream come true for ADI and, more importantly, the lions.”
ADI is raising $600,000 to charter a 747 to transport the lions and a veterinary team to South Africa. It promises to be the largest animal airlift of its kind.
The flight isn’t planned to leave until October. In the meantime, the lions are getting medical treatment and other care to heal them from years in captivity and prepare them for the wide open spaces of their new home.
“Seeing these lions go home to where they truly belong will be a testament to the commitment of wildlife officials and the governments in Peru and Colombia,” said Creamer
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