Twenty-Five Big Cats to be Airlifted to the United States

With the rescue of Kimba the lion, Animal Defenders International is now ready for their record-breaking airlift of 25 lions from Bolivia to Colorado.

Last Friday, a specialist Animal Defenders International (ADI) team flew to southern Bolivia and returned with an elderly lion named Kimba – the twenty-fifth big cat to be rescued by ADI.

Kimba had been living in a small concrete zoo enclosure for the past 11 years after being dumped there by a travelling circus. He was taken from the zoo and driven to the airport, with members of the Tarija public applauding on the roadside. The ADI team, including a vet, joined Kimba on the one-hour flight back to the Operation Lion Ark compound in Santa Cruz. During the flight, the lion showed no signs of stress and was very relaxed. 

Upon arriving at the ADI compound, Kimba saw and heard the other rescued lions for the first time. He went straight into his new holding cage and had a meal – before calling to the other lions. 

“Kimba seems a lovely, gentle old lion. He is very thin, blind in one eye, and has not seen or heard anther lion for eleven years,” says ADI president Jan Creamer.  “He’s had a sad, lonely life and really deserved a break, so he is the perfect lion to be number 25 – the last lion to be saved during this huge seizure operation.”

Operation Lion Ark began last November, when ADI worked with Bolivian authorities to rescue animals from circuses after Bolivia banned the use of animals in circuses throughout the country. The law came into effect after ADI officers went undercover to expose the horrific abuse in circuses across South America.

All 25 lions will be airlifted next week to the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Denver, where ADI is funding the construction of new facilities on 80 acres of land supplied by the sanctuary.

“Kimba’s rescue concludes part one of this amazing rescue. Now, ADI must work at full speed to get them to paradise at The Wild Animal Sanctuary,” Creamer says. “These lions, who have suffered so much, will be able to run and play at last.” 

To learn more about Operation Lion Ark, visit the Animal Defenders International website.

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