World / Latin America

33 lions rescued from circuses to be sent home

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-04-28 02:33

33 lions rescued from circuses to be sent home

A lion saved from a circus stares out from his cage in Lima, Peru, on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Thirty-three lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia are heading back to their homeland to live out their lives in a private sanctuary in South Africa.

The largest-ever airlift of lions will take place on Friday and is being organized and paid for by Animal Defenders International. The Los Angeles-based group has for years worked with lawmakers in the two South American countries to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, where they are often held in appalling conditions.

The lions suffered in captivity. Some were declawed. One lost an eye and many were found with broken or rotting teeth.

In a statement, the group said the first nine lions will be collected in the Colombian capital Bogota by a McDonnell Douglas cargo plane that will pick up the remaining 24 in Lima before heading to Johannesburg.

From there, they will be transported by land to their new home at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo province, where they will enjoy large natural enclosures.

"It will be hugely satisfying to see these lions walking into the African bush," Tom Phillips, ADI's vice-president, said on Tuesday as he inspected the cages that will be used to transport the animals.

"It might be one of the finest rescues I've ever seen; it's never happened before — taking lions from circuses in South America all the way to Africa," he added. "It's like a fairy tale."

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