Animal Defenders International took action to galvanize rescue efforts in saving 24 lions from Lima, Peru and 9 additional lions from Colombia.
The roars of lions filled the cargo section of Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport as 33 lions rescued from South American circuses landed in South Africa where they will be released into a bush sanctuary for big cats.
It was the largest airlift of lions in history, said Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, which carried out the operation.
“These lions have suffered tremendously,” Creamer said as the lions were loaded in crates on to trucks on Saturday.
“They lived in small cages on the backs of trucks for their entire lives. Some of them had their teeth bashed in with steel pipes in circuses in Colombia and Peru. Some of them had their claws removed.”
Nine of the lions were surrendered by a circus in Colombia. The remaining 24 were rescued in raids on circuses in Peru by the animal defense group and officials enforcing a crackdown on wildlife trafficking.
The lions will be placed in quarantine in enclosures at the 5000-hectare Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Vaalwater in northern South Africa.
The 33 lions will be monitored by a vet for their first weeks in Africa. They will then be introduced to each other in a one hectare bonding enclosure.
Many of the lions were never allowed to have direct physical contact with other lions and have never been together without a fence or a cage separating them.
Due to their poor physical state, the lions will never be able to hunt again and will have to be cared for with food and water for the rest of their lives.
The lions are part of 100 animals that were rescued in Peru.
Bears, monkeys, birds and other native wildlife have been relocated to sanctuaries in Peru and a tiger has been sent to a new home in Florida.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald)