Operation Lion Ark – Largest Airlift of Circus Lions

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.”


Congratulations ADI.





Animal Defenders International


Lorraine Andersen

What great work. It is so nice to see that these poor animals are getting decent quality of life finally.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

Wood Sprite G.
Eat Vegan D6 years ago

Lets all donate so they can keep doing what they do. The poor baboon was in solitary confinement for 20 years for committing no crime!

Animals are not to exploit in any way, for money, period!

Watching animals do "tricks" isn't a form of entertainment anymore. Let circuses be people doing tricks (walking high wire, etc) for money. People appreciate those things more because the performers CHOOSE to do them through dedicated training. Even $5.00 from thousand of people will hep assure that these rescued animal will be well fed and cared for the rest of their lives and never have to "perform" again!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

WONDERFUL. Next, come to the U.S. and do the same, and then go to the research facilities, and then to the factory farms!

nat a.
nat Anne7 years ago

yes, go rescuers go, thank you, bless you, God speed

Gloria W.
Gloria W.7 years ago

Great Victory!

Kelly Stephens
Kelly Stephens7 years ago

thanks for sharing

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

noted and thanx :)

Cherry M.
Cherry M7 years ago

It is so good to hear this kind of news......way too often the news is horribly depressing and saddening.

Lions, six monkeys, a coati mundi, a deer and a horse, oh my! I'll bet they are some mighty happy animals about now. Thank you SO MUCH to those who managed to accomplish this.