Animal Defenders International (ADI) organized the “largest lion airlift” that took place on Friday, April 29th. 33 lions, many of them in poor health, were rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia and were taken to their homeland to live in an animal sanctuary in South Africa.
ADI worked with the Peruvian and Colombian governments to pass bans using wild animals in circuses.
“These lions have endured hell on earth and now they are heading home to paradise. This is the world for which nature intended these animals for,” said ADI President Jan Creamer.
The rescued lions were found in poor conditions. Many of them had their claws removed and had broken teeth, according to ADI. One lion, Ricardo, is missing an eye and another is nearly blind.
Twenty-four of the lions were rescued in surprise raids on a circus in Peru, where they were living in cages on the backs of trucks. Nine lions were voluntarily handed over from a circus in Colombia. The pride of lions will now call the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo, South Africa home.
ADI’s rescue and relocate mission continued with tracking down the owners of one tiger—the sole survivor of 12 Peruvian circus tigers. When ADI caught up with the owners, the tiger named Hoover was alive but in very bad shape. “He was very thin and very sick, he was full of parasites, he had some severe parasite infections,” Creamer explained. Hoover slowly recovered, putting on nearly 50 pounds in the last year while his rescuers worked to find him a permanent home.
This week, Hoover boarded a plane bound for Miami, Florida and his new home at Big Cat Rescue.