The largest rescue and evacuation mission to free lions and other animals from the cruelty of travelling circuses has been taking place in Bolivia by Animal Defenders International over the past two months.
The mission was launched to help the Bolivian government enforce the first-ever nationwide ban on using live animals in circuses.
Bolivian authorities and a team from ADI spent November and December 2010 trekking over thousands of miles to track down and seize animals from circus owners who did not want to comply with the ban. Many of the owners hid their animals from the group, even though they’ve had a year to find new homes for them.
In the end ADI rescued a record-breaking 24 lions, including three cubs from eight different circuses.
In addition the team saved six monkeys, a coati mundi, a deer and a horse. Those animals were healthy enough to be released in the wild or relocated in Bolivia.
Most of the lions were severely malnourished and have spent the past two months being nursed back to health by ADI workers. All 24 of the lions were living in deplorable conditions.
One circus had eight lions living in a small cage that fit on the back of a truck. Their home measured about the size of two double beds.
The rescue mission is a direct result of ADI’s “Stop Circus Suffering” campaign which is gaining support in South America. In 2009 the group showed the Bolivian government how circus animals were being mistreated and officials agreed to impose the ban.
The evacuation fulfills a promise made by ADI that they will find a new home for each displaced circus animal and fund their care for the rest of their lives. The organization has set up a special program called “Save The Lions Appeal” to raise donations for this.
Last summer ADI relocated the first Bolivian circus animals that were voluntarily handed over, including four lions and a baboon. They were taken to a sanctuary in California.
Now ADI is ready to evacuate the lions, plus one more they are trying to free, in a mission called “Operation Lion Ark” airlift.
The relocation project is biggest rescue and airlift of lions ever seen in the world. The lions will be flown to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colorado.
Jan Creamer who is the co-founder and CEO of Animal Defenders International called the mission an, “Absolute success.” She added, “It is an amazing thing to see the ones (lions) we have moved to see how they rushed out and played like kittens.”
Animal Defenders International