29 October 2015
Thirty-three lions rescued by Animal Defenders International (ADI) from 10 circuses in Peru and Colombia are to be relocated to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in the Limpopo province in South Africa.
“We are delighted that these lions who have suffered so much will be going home to Africa where they belong,” said ADI president Jan Creamer. “The climate and environment are perfect for them. When we visited Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary we knew this was a dream come true for ADI and, more importantly, the lions.”
The lions were found in a dismal state. “Almost all of the rescued lions have been mutilated to remove their claws, one has lost an eye, another is almost blind, and many have smashed and broken teeth because of their circus life,” the organisation said.
Creamer said it had been a long and complicated process to move the large number of animals across three international borders but “we are grateful for the collaboration of officials in Peru, Colombia and South Africa to make this happen for these lions”.
The organisation had originally planned to move the lions to sanctuaries in the US, but the opportunity arose to home them in South Africa. “Moving the lions to Africa increases the flight costs but it is the ideal home for the lions and we know it is the right thing to do,” the organisation said.
“Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world,'” said Savannah Heuser, the founder of Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary. “The change that is being offered to these 33 lions will change their entire world.
“Their lives were forcibly wasted away in horrific tiny cages, the doing of mindless circus acts. I cannot start to comprehend the endless days (of) suffering that these animals had to endure.”
The big cats had a lot of lost time to make up for, she said. “They will live out the rest of their lives in a natural habitat, the closest they can ever come to freedom.”
The ADI is funding the construction of a series of habitats for the rescued lions at Emoya, which will be completed for their arrival this month.
“Set in 5 000 hectares of pristine African bush on a private estate in Limpopo Province, the sanctuary has a no breeding policy and is not open to the public, providing our rescued lions with the peaceful retirement they deserve.”