Thousands donate enough to transport rescued circus lions to new home in South Africa

A pair of lions rescued as part of the operation. Source: Facebook
A pair of lions rescued as part of the operation. Source: Facebook

A group of lions rescued from circus acts across South America has been given new hope after a crowdfunding campaign which received ‘thousands of donations’ provided the funds for them to travel to a new home at a big cat sanctuary in South Africa.

The lions, all 30 of them, are generally in poor health after they were liberated from a variety of circus shows in Peru and Colombia. “These animals were mistreated and not given enough food or health care,” said one of the vets who inspected them after their rescue. “They have had a truly miserable life to this point.”

Their misery will be soon be over, with the lion airlift reportedly the largest ever in history. “They’ll be able to go back to their real home, and I’m sure once they adapt to being back in Africa they will truly flourish.”

The lions were rescued after a number of surprise raids on circuses, after staff gave the authorities a tip off about the decrepit conditions that they were forced to endure. “I just couldn’t bear to see them living like this,” said a former circus performer who shared information with investigators.

According to him, some of the lions had been gruesomely mutilated to make them less dangerous in the show. “They removed claws and teeth,” he told journalists. Some of the other lions were missing eyes or limbs. “I knew that something had to be done.”

Once the lions were rescued, the authorities had a challenge on their hands in terms of what to do with the big cats. “They’ll never truly feel at home here in Colombia,” said one of the animal cruelty inspectors involved in their rescue.

“The most humane thing to do was to find a way to send them back to their real home in Africa, where the climate and temperature are most suitable.”

However, sending 30 lions halfway across the world is not an easy thing to do, and finding a home for them once they returned was not simple, either. “You can’t just release them back into the wild unsupervised.

“These lions have spent their whole lives in captivity and most are seriously wounded. They need constant care and a gradual reintroduction to living in the wild if they are to have any chance of survival.”

Thankfully, the generous team at a big cat sanctuary in Limpopo, South Africa, are ready to welcome these neglected lions with open arms. “We already have a number of other big cats that have been rescued from circuses around the world, so we’re sure we can make them feel right at home,” said one employee.

The other challenge – how to get the lions from South America to South Africa – was solved through a crowdfunding campaign that received donations from animal lovers around the world. “The cost involved in this project ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said one volunteer. “Without the generosity of those who gave so much, it would never have been possible.”

While these lions have a bright future ahead, the team who helped make their rescue possible wants the public to know that hundreds – possibly thousands – of other neglected animals remain in circuses around the world. “There’s very few circuses that treat animals with all the love, care and respect that they deserve,” said one of the rescue group’s directors. “We will remain constantly vigilant and demand authorities inspect circus animals frequently to ensure that they are looked after well.

“If you’re a circus owner and you neglect animals, we have just one thing to say to you: watch out.”