Guatemala outlawed circus acts that use wild animals in 2017 but gave the 5 circuses, that have roughly 50 big cats, until April 2018 to place them in sanctuaries.
Please donate at this link to help rescue these big cats from the horrors they have endured at this long link: https://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51389/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=13459
Rescues Can Take a LOOONG Time
In July 2008 Alejandra Estrada and Ana Maldonado contacted us with photos of the abuse at Rey Gitano Circus and asked if there was anything Big Cat Rescue could do. The circus was sending cats they couldn’t use to the local zoo that was ill equipped to care for them.
All we could do was ask people to get involved politically to end abuse like circuses, zoos and private possession. We posted the photos https://bigcatrescue.org/circus-rey-gitano/ and raised awareness about the abuse. We said we would provide a permanent home to the big cats if they could get the circus and zoo to relinquish them to us and if the people in Guatemala could secure the export permits on their end.
7 years later, in 2015 Mr. Flores wrote us saying, “Hi, I am Edson Flores and work at National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) in Guatemala City. CONAP is the national lead agency responsible of CITES for Guatemala… We have a male lion about a year old and a male bobcat (age unknown). We wish to move both felines to BCR as final destination.” Again, we said we would take the cats if they could get the permitting started on their end. It has to start there before the USFWS will let us move forward.
The photos below show the difference in the way the circus cats of Guatemala really live vs the way the circus promoters want you to think they live.
Three years later, on Feb 14, 2018 Ronnie Espino, Unit Coordinator for the Animal Welfare Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food in Guatemala wrote us asking if we would help by taking the big cats who would be displaced by the new law banning circuses that use wild animals. We said we would, if they could start the export permitting on their end. We were later contacted by the animal rescue group we had originally corresponded with 10 years ago, who said it was our video that they showed to Guatemala’s congress that convinced them to ban wild animal circuses.
On Feb 21st fearing that there just might not be anyone there who could get the permitting started, I reached out to ADI, Tigers in America and HSI, saying “I just got a call from a man in Guatemala who said the government is going to euthanize 17 tigers there who were in a circus. We could take a couple, but it’s a year of red tape to get them here. Do you guys have anyone working on this?” This was right after the circus worker had his arms ripped off while feeding a cage full of starving big cats.
On Feb. 22nd ADI said they had someone in country looking into it. A LOT of emails flew back and forth as ADI came up with estimates for building a temporary camp (est $56,000) and caring for the cats during the export process (est $160,000). ADI and Big Cat Rescue began fundraising on March 16 and we let our supporters know they could donate at BigCatRescue.org/circusban or they could do Facebook Fundraisers for Big Cat Rescue in April and we would earmark all of those for the circus tiger rescue project.
It seemed like there was a lot of confusion about where the temporary camp for the circus cats would be but two months later, on April 24th, I located the sanctuary called Antigua Exotic in Guatemala, where the government approved the cats to be held, on Facebook and reached out to them. I spoke with Liam, a man who had been there and thought the world of them and he introduced me to the owner’s son Danny, who speaks English and has been our contact there.
On April 30th Big Cat Rescue saw plans for cages and photos of them being built and sent $6000 to Danny at Antigua Exotic so he could keep building temporary cages. On May 14th we sent another $4000 to insure the cats had access to water and to upgrade the electricity so that it could power more freezers. We have currently raised more than $20,000 thanks to all of you and will be sending money down as photos come to us of the progress.
ADI was able to secure a contract with the government (UBA & CONAP) and Antigua Exotic on May 12 to manage the daily feed, care, veterinary care and vet prep for export. CONAP says the camp we are funding will become a permanent rescue center for wild animals that are seized by the government, or who come there for rehab and release; such as jaguar and ocelots. ADI is asking the sanctuaries who have said they will take these cats to send the money for “their” cats during the transition.
The Navarro Circus agreed to allow ADI to take their 3 lions to the camp with the final destination being ADI’s new sanctuary they are building in S. Africa. ADI then began working with the Ponce Circus to have their cats come to the temporary holding facility next. Two of the worst circuses are mounting a fight against the new ban, that became law in April, so we are expecting a long, drawn out fight to free the 50-70 big cats that are still being held by circuses.
Some of the things that still need funding and are being built as funds and labor provide are:
Security Fence around the cat cages appx: $6,000 – 10,000
Cages big enough for families of cats w/ separate shift areas for each
10-13 temp shift cages about $1000 per cat
Road in and out across a ravine big enough for the transport trailers to use
Security motion detector lights
Transport cages that are 2x3m or 2.5x3m cages that fit on the back of a truck – 2 cages per truck with lifting arm for pick up from the circuses and transporting to the camp.
Smaller shipping transport crates $1200 each for the air cargo
If prices aren’t listed it’s because we don’t have estimates yet and the initial work of building cages to house the first cats has been all consuming. We expect that 3 or 4 cats, probably tigers, will be coming to Big Cat Rescue, but we are helping to make it possible for all of the circus cats to have a safe place to stay, where they will be fed, watered, given enrichment and get vet care during this long export process. Thank you for being part of what could turn out to be the biggest rescue mission of its kind.