Rescued South American Circus Lions Find Sanctuary in South Africa

Rescued Circus Lion

Photo courtesy of SF Chronicle

South American Circus Lions Find New Home

African lions rescued from circuses in Colombia and Peru found a new home at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary north of Johannesburg, South Africa.  The 33 lions were freed after the use of wild animals in circuses was outlawed in Peru and Colombia.

The American non-profit group Animal Defenders International (ADI) organized and paid for the transport of the largest-ever airlift of lions.  The lions arrived safely  on Sunday, May 1 after a  two-day journey from South America.

Rescued Circus lion in SA

Image courtesy VOA News

The  captive-bred rescued lions will live within the sanctuary as it would be impossible for the lions to survive in the wild.  The circus owners removed the lions’ claws and broke their teeth while the lions were under their control. These lions cannot hunt or fend for themselves so they will be fed game meat and have fresh water within their enclosures.

Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary

The Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is situated on a 5000-hecare private estate. The sanctuary was opened by Savannah Heuser in 2012 when she was just 16 years old when she rescued her first lion from Cairo in June of 2013. The sanctuary was home to 8 big cats and with the arrival of the 33 lions, the sanctuary will house 39 lions and 2 tigers.

Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary has a no-breeding policy and female lions receive contraceptive medication so they can remain with their mates.  Males may also undergo vasectomies to make sure no lions are bred in captivity.

Lions in South Africa

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

Animal Defenders International to the Rescue

Upon their arrival and release into their new habitats, the lions scratched their manes on trees and began to explore their new home. Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International who led the rescue operation of the lions, states; “We are delighted that these lions that have suffered so much will be going home to Africa where they belong. The climate and environment are perfect for them. When we visited Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary we knew this is a dream come true for ADI and, more importantly, the lions.”

To learn more about and see images of the rescued lions visit:

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  1. Have been sharing on social media for these kings for a long time. So grateful that they are finally safe and loved, as they should be.

  2. Ann Richter Hickox says

    I purchased a few items on the Greater Good website, and one of them was a donation to help these guys – I’m soooooo happy they made it 🙂

  3. I’m so glad there is sanctuary for these guys – it’s worse than awful, what they’ve had to go through.

  4. sandy weinstein says

    this was wonderful, i saw it on the news. i hope they live out their lives in a glorious fashion. unfortunately, they can never be let go in the wild because they dont know how to hunt for food and many are injured or have health issues.

  5. databbiesotrouttowne says

    Joanne; this is so cool !!! and thanx for the link to 33 lions….bookmarked 🙂 ???