There are many people who come to Denver to get a new start to life.
Now, 25 lions are getting that chance as well.
In what is being labeled an “historic and record-breaking animal rescue”, 25 circus lions will be airlifted to the Denver area as part of a rescue operation by Animal Defenders International (ADI).
The former circus lions have been seized by ADI from circuses throughout Bolivia where they lived in “shocking” conditions, the group said. They were removed from the country in December of 2010 and flown to a temporary holding area in Santa Cruz, California. Their final destination is the 80-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, about 41 miles northeast of Denver.
“Their new lives will really begin there, so we just need to get them there and that is the real challenge,” said Jan Creamer, ADI President. “These animals who for years knew only a small, cramped cage will have freedom to roam, run and play.”
The ADI website says the lions were malnourished, thin and dehydrated and living in small cages on wheels. In one instance, eight lions were housed in a cage slightly bigger than two double beds that was placed on the back of a truck.
With the help of Bolivian authorities, the organization collected 17 lions in November, five more in December and the final lion in January. Because of their efforts, the ADI states, Bolivia became the first country in the world to ban the use of animals in circuses.
All of the lions will be airlifted from Santa Cruz to the Sanctuary at the same time, the ADI explains, in an effort to minimize the time they are apart from each other.
“It means that our veterinary team can oversee the lions throughout the flight,” Creamer said. “We also believe that this will be the safest and most efficient way to move the lions, but it is a huge undertaking.”
While the lions receive vaccinations and crates are being built to transport them, The ADI is currently seeking assistance from airline freight companies and even the U.S. military in getting the lions to the Sanctuary.
At their new home, the lions will be released into a new “state-of-the-art habitat” complete with lakes and grasslands, which the ADI states is similar to their natural surroundings.