By the end of this month 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia are expected in Limpopo and will be relocated to Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary near Vaalwater, to live in huge natural bush enclosures.
Devon Presser, a spokesperson for the British-based animal charity organisation Animal Defenders International said the lions were rescued by Animal Defenders International during the last few months.
“Following a ban on wild animals in circuses in Peru, Animal Defenders International has undertaken a year-long enforcement operation with Peruvian government wildlife departments. Every circus with wild animals was been tracked down and the animals removed, during often-difficult confrontations. The organisation has also assisted officials with confiscations and re-homing of other illegally trafficked wildlife.”
Some 24 lions were rescued from circuses in Peru and nine from a Colombian circus. They will arrive on board the biggest airlift of its kind and officials from Peru’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species wildlife department have already fitted the lions with microchips and arranged export papers for their journey to South Africa. The microchips will ease tracking the lions when they are released on the
12 000 acre big Emoya.
The sanctuary follows a no-breeding policy. The lions Leo, at 12 years the oldest, Klara, Rey and their cubs Sarc, Mahla and Smith will all be relocated to Emoya. Other lions in the group are Raka, Barbie and Kala.
The lions were anaesthetised by Animal Defenders International’s veterinary team for the micro-chipping procedure and given health checks. Two lions received dental surgery. The animals suffered from wasted muscles, broken teeth and some were declawed.
One lion, Joseph, had cataracts and was nearly blind due to lack of veterinary treatment.
The lions are being introduced to each other to form prides before moving them to Emoya.
Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer said in a media release: “It is a long and complicated process to move large numbers of wild animals across international borders, especially in an operation involving three countries. We are grateful for the collaboration of officials in Peru, Colombia and South Africa to make this happen for these lions. It can only lead to more strong animal protection law enforcement in future.”
The hub of the huge operation has been Animal Defenders International’s Operation Spirit of Freedom Rescue Centre near Lima in Peru, which holds kitchens, a veterinary field hospital and animal care facilities including grassy play areas for the lions. At the peak of the operation it was home to 60 wild animals.
Presser said ADI is looking forward to see lions moved back to their true home. Meanwhile at Emoya roads are being widened to accommodate the super-links to be used to transport the lions from OR Tambo International Airport.
Go to http://www.ad-international.org/animal_rescues/go.php?id=4012&ssi=24 for more information on the progress of the relocation process.
Story: NELIE ERASMUS
Featured photo: This lion, Joseph, was nearly blind due to cataracts and lack of medical attention and had to have the cataracts removed.
Photos: Supplied by Animal Rescue International