In pics: Former circus lions flown to Africa to roar in the wild again

  • Reuters, Lima
  • Updated: Apr 30, 2016 15:15 IST

A blind lion, one that is missing an eye, and 31 others that had worked in circuses began the journey to a South African wildlife sanctuary from Lima, Peru, on Friday in what their rescuers called “the biggest transfer of animals in captivity” ever undertaken.

“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,” Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, said in a statement. “It is the perfect ending to ADI’s operation which has eliminated circus suffering in another country.”

A former circus lion looks out from inside its cage in Callao, Peru. (Reuters Photo)

The organisation said it rescued 24 of the lions in surprise raids on circuses in Peru. “They were living in deplorable conditions in cages on the backs of trucks.

A former circus lion rests in a cage on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. (AP Photo)

“Nine were voluntarily surrendered by a circus in Colombia. 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 so would not survive in the wild,” it said in the statement.

(Reuters Photo)

The lions are destined for the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in the African bush.

Eva Chomba, a veterinarian with Animal Defenders International, said the trip to Johannesburg would take about 16 hours with a stop in Brazil to refuel.

(Reuters Photo)

“We’re going to take care of the animals throughout the whole trip. Three of us are going on the plane ... to tend to the animals’ needs, to give them chicken meat and water because the trip is very long and they need attention,” Chomba said.

African lions born in captivity in Peru are embarked for Johannesburg, South Africa, in Lima. (AFP Photo)

“It’s the biggest transfer of animals in captivity ever in the world,” Creamer said before boarding the plane to accompany the lions.

A former circus lion is given a piece of meat to lick, held outside its cage to help sooth it before it's transported to South Africa. (AP Photo)

Savannah Heuser, founder of Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, said in the statement, “The lions are returning to where they belong.

A former circus lion looks out from inside its cage in Callao. (Reuters Photo)

This is their birth right. African sun, African night skies, African bush and sounds, clouds, summer thunderstorms, large enclosures in a natural setting where they can remember who they are.”

Donate to the cause and read more about the journey of the lions here .

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