In what’s being called the “largest-ever lion airlift,” 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia are being flown to a sanctuary in South Africa.
The flight is scheduled to take off in the early hours of Friday, April 29. The nine Columbian lions will be collected from the capital, Bogota, on a cargo aircraft, which will then pick up the remaining 24 lions from Lima before flying to Johannesburg. The lions will then be taken by land to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.
Over the next few months, the sanctuary will expand the size of their environment and gradually introduce them to each other to ensure the shock of the new home isn’t too much.
The rescue and flight are part of an initiative by Animal Defenders International (ADI), who have lobbied to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in Peru and Colombia. Twenty-four of the lions were rescued through raids in Peru, while the remaining nine were voluntarily given up by circuses in Columbia. Nearly all of the lions, however, have suffered. Some have had their claws removed, many have broken teeth, one has lost an eye, and another is almost totally blind.
Jan Creamer, the president of ADI, said in a statement: “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. It is the perfect ending to ADI’s operation which has eliminated circus suffering in another country."