Massive lion airlift scheduled for April 29th; 33 lions rescued from cruel circuses in Peru and Colombia heading to a new life in South Africa

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Massive lion airlift scheduled for April 29th

33 lions rescued from cruel circuses in Peru and Colombia heading to a new life in South Africa


33 lions, 24 from circuses in Peru and nine from Colombia, rescued by Animal Defenders International are heading back to their homeland after both countries banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Their destination the natural African bush at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, South Africa.


An online campaign by ADI and has raised half the airfare and it is hoped to generate the remainder in the next week.


Over 100 animals have been rescued by Animal Defenders International and Peruvian officials enforcing the prohibition on wild animals and a crackdown on illegal wildlife trafficking.


Bears, monkeys, birds and other native wildlife have been relocated to sanctuaries in Peru, a tiger to Florida, and now, 33 lions are destined for Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.


An MD11F cargo aircraft chartered with Priority Worldwide Services – a global logistics provider since 1984 with strict ethical policies concerning animals and the environment – will collect the nine lions from Bogota airport, then fly to Lima to collect 24 more lions, before flying to Johannesburg. An ADI team will be monitoring the animals throughout the flight.



April 29th 3am: Nine rescued lions loaded at Bogota Airport
5am: ADI Spirit of Freedom Flight departs Bogota
7.30am: Flight arrives in Lima
8.30am: 24 more lions loaded at Lima Airport
10.30am: ADI Spirit of Freedom Flight departs Lima


April 30th 9.30am: Spirit of Freedom lands at OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg
Midday: Lion convoy leaves airport

4pm: Lions start being unloaded at Emoya Big Cat


24 of the lions were rescued in surprise raids by ADI on circuses in Peru. They were living in deplorable conditions in cages on the backs of trucks.  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.


At their new home at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, the lions will enjoy large natural enclosures situated in pristine African bush, complete with drinking pools, platforms and toys. The lion habitats will be steadily expanded over the coming months as the lions become familiar with their new life and are introduced to each other.


Jan Creamer ADI President: “”These lions have endured hell on earth and now they are heading home to paradise. This is the environment for which these animals were intended. It is the perfect ending to ADI¹s Spirit of Freedom mission, which has eliminated circus suffering in another country.”


Savannah Heuser, founder of Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, says: “The lions are returning to where they belong. 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.”


Minunette Heuser adds: “The sad reality is that many rescued animals are simply replaced by the next litter of cubs, for the next money-making scheme, we love being part of this rescue that ends the abuse. Knowing that ADI has changed laws means that these lions are the last to be exploited in this way in Peru.”


Noah Horton, Director of Operations, who have been running an online fundraising campaign for the flight: “ and The Animal Rescue Site are proud to support Animal Defenders International’s efforts to transport these lions home to Africa. After years of abuse and neglect in illegal circuses in South America, we are thrilled that they will be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary.”


Marc Tohir, Priority Worldwide Services: It is with great honor that PWS was chosen to play a pivotal role in supporting Animal Defenders International Spirit of Freedom flight. The flight will have 33 very special passengers. PWS mission and core values, include reducing the company’s impact on the environment and the wildlife inhabiting it, are unwavering and unique in our industry. ADI’s mission aligns with PWS’ corporate mandate against shipping dead trophy animals or live ones for human consumption or testing, animal products and hunting or laboratory equipment used to test or harm animals.”


TV legend Bob Barker’s DJ & T Foundation helped kickstart the operation in Peru with a major donation that enabled ADI to start raiding circuses and removing animals.


Others stepped up to fund the $10,000 airfare of individual animals including Oakland Zoo, Dr. Lo Sprague & Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Elise Zoli, and the Facebook group ‘Lion Lovers.’

ADI and Emoya would like to thank the Peruvian Government departments, SERFOR and ATFFS, and Police and in Colombia CDMB, a regional wildlife authority in Bucaramanga for enabling this incredible operation to happen.

Businesses have also donated services and goods or discounted services to help get the lions home including Priority Worldwide Services, Spherical Logistics and Swissport International at Johannesburg Airport, and fencing manufacturer Bonnox, Lood Swanevelder Fencing, Faan Venter, Ibubesi Transport, and Chill Box (who donated a freezer room at the lions new home).



About Animal Defenders International
Operating from Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing behind-the-scenes suffering in the industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals and educates the public.


About Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary

The Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is set in 5,000 hectares of pristine African bush on a private estate in Limpopo Province. Opened by Savannah Heuser in 2012 when she was just 16 years old, the sanctuary has a no breeding policy and is not open to the public.


Worldwide end to use of wild animals in traveling shows: The evidence that the suffering caused to wild animals by the constant travel, severe restrictions on movement and unnatural lifestyle has prompted authorities and governments around the world to end their use.


National restrictions on performing animals in travelling circuses, either wild or all animals, have been enacted in 32 countries – Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Malta, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, and Taiwan, The Netherlands. Similar laws are under discussion in the UK, USA, Brazil and Chile.

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