Africa

Rescued circus lions from Colombia and Peru flown to South Africa

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Media captionBeaten, declawed circus lions finally at South Africa sanctuary

More than 30 lions rescued from circuses in Colombia and Peru have been flown to South Africa to start a new life in a sanctuary.

Reporters said they appeared a little distressed but healthy after their long journey.

A circus surrendered some of the lions, while others were seized in raids.

The US-based group Animal Defenders International (ADI), which was behind the action, says almost all the lions have had teeth or claws removed.

They would not survive in the wild.

The lions are being transferred by land to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, a 5,000-hectare reserve in northern South Africa. There, the lions will have drinking pools, platforms, toys and veterinary care.

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Image caption The lions were flown for more than 15 hours from Peru to Johannesburg airport.

"This is a hugely important rescue mission because it does make a statement around the world about the way people treat animals," ADI spokeswoman Jan Creamer said.

"These lions have suffered tremendously."

The first group of nine lions was collected in Colombia's capital Bogota on a cargo plane, which then flew to Peru's capital Lima to pick up 24 more animals.

"It will be hugely satisfying to see these lions walking into the African Bush," ADI Vice-President Tom Phillips was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

The lions were freed after the use of wild animals was banned in Peru in 2011 and Colombia in 2013.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The animals were carried in crates from the airport to a lorry taking them to the sanctuary

The 5,000-hectare (12,355 acres) Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is on private land and already houses six other rescued lions and two tigers.

The lion habitats there would be steadily expanded over the coming months as the lions became familiar with their new life and were introduced to each other, said ADI.

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