An airplane loaded with 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia is due to land today at Johannesburg’s international airport, where the animals will be moved to live in a private big cat sanctuary in northern South Africa.
Twenty-four of the lions were rescued in raids on circuses operating in Peru by Animal Defenders International, an animal rights group with offices in London and Los Angeles.
Nine other cats were voluntarily surrendered by a circus in Colombia.
Their rescue and imminent move to Africa comes after a two-year investigation by ADI into South America’s circuses, which ultimately helped lead to the ban of wild animals in circuses in both Peru and Colombia, said Angie Greenaway, the group’s executive manager in London.
Most of the lions, whose names include Barbie, Zeus and Rolex, had been declawed in their circuses and many had broken or smashed teeth, making it unsafe for them to return to the wild.
The lions' flight from South America to South Africa will cost roughly $10,000 per cat, raised through donations and online fundraising.