The tragic death of Cecil the Lion in July 2015 triggered an international outcry over the “sport” of hunting endangered animals and highlighted the plight of these big, beautiful cats. But not all news on that front is sordid. In what is being called the largest airlift of its kind, 33 lions that have been rescued from inhumane circuses in South America will be flown back to their homeland of Africa.
The operation is thanks to the British nonprofit Animal Defenders International (ADI). Working alongside local authorities in Peru and Colombia, the group took several years to rescue the circus lions.
While in the circus, the lions were severely mistreated, underfed and forced to perform tricks for the amusement of circus-goers. Most of them were found with their teeth broken and claws removed, so they could not defend themselves.
Being that these felines have been kept — some born — in captivity and will likely be unable to survive in the wild, they will live in the 12,000-acre Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo Province in South Africa. A private reserve off limits to the public and has a no-breeding policy, Emoya provides the rescued lions with the peaceful retirement they deserve.
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