Eight months after their journey began, 33 lions have arrived at their new home in Africa in the largest airlift of big cats ever.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) freed the big cats from circuses in Columbia and Peru – last year with the help of those countries’ governments. Many needed medical and dental attention for missing claws and broken teeth.

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ADI had spent months raising the $600,000 needed to charter a 747 cargo plane to fly them to South Africa.

The plane landed Sunday in Johannesburg, and the lions made the last leg of their trip to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary.

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“The lions are returning to where they belong,” the sanctuary’s founder, Savannah Heuser said in a statement. “This is their birthright. 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.”

(WATCH the video below from Animal Defenders International and READ more at TODAY) — Photos: ADI


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