17 rescued circus tigers and lions to be airlifted from Guatemala to FS

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Photo: The South African

A historic rescue mission by Animal Defenders International (ADI), enforcing Guatemala’s ban on animals in circuses, concludes on Sunday when a cargo aircraft will take off from Guatemala City carrying 12 tigers and five lions to a new life in South Africa.

The animals, who endured years of severe confinement, are destined for the 455 acre ADI Wildlife Sanctuary (ADIWS) in the Free State in South Africa, ADI said in a statement on Sunday.

The flight from South America would arrive at OR Tambo International Airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

For 18 months, an ADI team had been in Guatemala working with government officials from the departments of Unidad de Bienestar Animal (UBA) and Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (CONAP) to enforce a ban on animals in circuses that became law in 2018.

Twenty-one lions and tigers were removed from circuses and had been cared for in a specially built ADI temporary rescue center until they could be relocated to sanctuaries. The ADI team had undertaken similar operations in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, rescuing almost 200 animals.

This weekend’s airlift was being supported by non-profit organisation GreaterGood.org, whose fundraising efforts included a competition for supporters to name two tiny tiger cubs rescued by ADI from a junkyard. The cubs’ names, announced for the first time on Sunday, are Stripes and Max.

“These animals have suffered a lifetime of deprivation and abuse in circuses and, working together with the government of Guatemala, ADI has ended their suffering. At the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary we can give them something as close as possible to the freedom of the life stolen from them. We cannot wait to get them home,” ADI president Jan Creamer said in the statement.

GreaterGood.org CEO Liz Baker said: “We are proud to support ADI’s efforts to enforce Guatemala’s circus ban and to fly these former circus tigers and lions to a safe environment where they will live peacefully for the rest of their lives. Our community has rallied behind funding this flight so that these animals that have endured a life of neglect and abuse can roam free on a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa.”

Legislation banning animal circuses in Guatemala was passed in 2017 and came into force in April 2018. With several circuses defying the law, ADI were contacted to help enforce the ban.

The ADI Wildlife Sanctuary is already home to 26 lions – all but one rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia. Due to the abuse these animals had suffered and their years of confinement, it was not possible to return them to the wild, the statement said.

African News Agency (ANA) / OFM NEWS