Posted: 26 May 2010. Updated: 15 April 2015
BOLIVIAN LIONS ARRIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO AFTER DRAMATIC RESCUE
On Thursday May 27, 2010 at 3.30 p.m. PDT, four lions rescued from a Bolivian circus by Animal Defenders International (ADI) arrived at SFO before heading on to the ARK2000 sanctuary in Calaveras County where they will start a new life.
The animals are the first to be freed from circuses after Bolivia banned animal circuses – a ban due to come into effect next month. For ADI, who have rescued animals all over the world, it has been one of the most challenging rescue operations ever.
CSI actress Jorja Fox, who was with the ADI team in San Francisco waiting to greet the lions said before their arrival:
“We had planned for the lions to come on Monday but that fell through because of a problem with the lifting gear for the crates at Cochabamba airport. That is just one of the headaches.
"We’ve had to contend with the Icelandic volcano, strikes, riots, all manner of logistical difficulties, mountains of paperwork, and even a Presidential visit at our arrival airport. I will just be so relieved when we see these lions roll off the aircraft. Then, on Friday it will be truly wonderful seeing them walk free in their new enclosure, to feel the grass beneath their feet for the first time ever.”
The lions arrived in specially built travel crates and were accompanied on the journey by ADI President Jan Creamer and ADI veterinarian Dr. Mel Richardson who have been in Bolivia organizing the move.
Jorja Fox gave the lions a drink of water after their long journey while Dr. Richardson and the ADI team assessed the lions before they were loaded onto a truck to be taken to the ARK2000 sanctuary run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society.
On Friday at 11:00 a.m. the animals were released from their holding pens into the huge natural habitat that has been specially built for them there.
Fox added, “What a way to start memorial weekend. These lions that lived for years in a tiny, rusty cage on the back of a truck, really are home for the holidays.”
The rescue has already stirred huge media and public interest in South America where Brazil and Peru are on the brink of voting on measures to ban the use of animals in circuses.