Four neglected lions that performed in the Bolivian circus will be spending Memorial Weekend as VIP’s in their new retirement home at the ARK2000 Sanctuary. They are the first of the animals to be freed and transported out of the country since Bolivia enacted a ban on circuses from using animals in their acts.
The New York Times reported, the journey for these kings of the jungle was organized by, Animal Defenders International (ADI). The lions will all retire in a specially built habitat at the northern California sanctuary, which is run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
“Hopefully, these lions are going to have a really nice Memorial weekend – home in time for the holiday,” said Tim Phillips, the co-founder of ADI.
The lions left by jet from Cochabamba, Bolivia, at 6 a.m. on May 27, will refuel in Panama and land in San Francisco in the afternoon. A reception is planned in their honor at San Francisco International Airport when they arrive.
The lions are flying in specially built crates and are accompanied by ADI President, Jan Creamer and the organization’s veterinarian, Dr. Mel Richardson.
Everyone will stay in San Francisco for the night and make their way to the the ARK2000 Sanctuary on May 28. The lions should be settled in their new habitat by Friday afternoon.
CSI actress Jorja Fox will be attending the VIP reception. She said, “It will be truly wonderful seeing them walk free in their new enclosure, to feel the grass beneath their feet for the first time ever. What a way to start Memorial weekend.”
The lions were rescued after living many years in a small rusty cage on the back of a truck while they performed for a circus.
Animal Defenders International organized the move for the big cats, which included mounds of paperwork, approval from the Bolivian government and even ash from the volcano in Iceland. ADI also arranged for the lion’s new home in the U.S.
ADI fought for the ban in Bolivia and is now campaigning in Peru and Brazil. But stopping animals from performing in circuses poses a new problem: “Where will all these out-of-work circus animals go?” Some animals will be sent to zoos in Bolivia, but many others need new habitats. And most of these will be in other countries.
Animal Defenders International is standing behind every former circus animal until they are all re-homed.
“We campaigned for this ban, so we will do what it takes to find homes to care for the animals,” Phillips said. “The government has already spoken to us about eight more lions.”
The cost to relocate the first four lions is about $350,000 and will include a $100,000 enclosure for them at the sanctuary. Animal advocate, Bob Barker has graciously covered the cost.
“Circuses with animals are cruel and archaic,” said Mr. Barker. “I commend the Bolivian government for taking this progressive step and hope that other South American countries, and indeed the U.S.A., will follow suit.”
photo credit: thanks to on vacation mode via flickr for the great lion pic