Over the past several weeks, I have been reporting about Operation Lion Ark and the rescue of 25 lions by Animal Defenders International from deplorable living conditions in Bolivian circuses. The organization tracked down each lion after the country began the first-ever nationwide ban on the use of live animals in circuses.
On Wednesday Operation Lion Ark came to a happy conclusion as all of the lions landed at Denver International Airport to start their new lives at a wildlife sanctuary.
The jet with 14 male lions and 11 females pulled into a United Airlines hangar at 4:30p.m.
The arrival of the lions in Colorado was met with fanfare and celebration. Television personality and animal advocate Bob Barker was on hand to greet each lion as its crate was removed from the plane.
Barker helped finance the $200,000 airlift operation.
Actress Jorja Fox from CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” was also on hand.
In an interview with The Associated Press Bob Barker said this about the lions, “They will be the happiest little babies you ever met.”
And as the first cage was moved off the plane, Barker yelled, “Lion No. 1, come on down,” mimicking the way contestants were introduced on his game show, “The Price is Right.”
Each lion was housed in a separate cage, except a mother lion who shared a crate with her three rescued cubs.
Veterinarian, Mel Richardson traveled with the lions from Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Colorado in an 11-hour flight. Each lion was given sleep medication before the trip. Richardson said all of the lions were in “relatively good health.”
Jan Creamer, president of ADI has personally overseen the entire rescue mission of Operation Lion Ark. She said,”This has been a dream for so long, to empty a whole country of its circus animals.”
The lions will now be trucked to their new permanent home at the Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesburg, CO. A 15,000 square-foot “biosphere” was built to help them adjust to the chillier climate. The long-term care of the lions will be paid for by ADI.
The sanctuary is home to about 270 wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears and wolves.
(The photo above is Kimba, the final lion rescued by ADI.)
Animal Defenders International