Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI seizes all Bolivian circus lions as animal circus industry shuts down for good

Posted: 14 January 2011. Updated: 9 April 2015

Seven-week old lion cubs born into misery, will grow up free in the U.S.

In a series of dramatic seizures all over Bolivia, Animal Defenders International (ADI), a leading animal protection group headquartered in Los Angeles, worked with the Bolivian authorities including the DGB and Santa Cruz Governor’s Office, to remove the animals from eight different circuses spread across Bolivia.

The moves were to enforce Bolivia’s Law 4040, which bans the use of animals in circuses and has effectively shut down the country’s animal circus industry – the first time a full ban and evacuation has happened anywhere in the world.


With 24 lions now in their care, including three cubs and some that were extremely malnourished, ADI are nursing the animals back to full health before they can be airlifted and permanently rehomed in the U.S. later this month. Following what the ADI team calls ‘Operation Lion Ark,’ the group will carry out its pledge to continue supporting the lions’ care for the duration of their lives. In addition to the lion seizures, the team rescued six monkeys, a coati mundi, a deer and horse. After being seized, these animals were relocated in Bolivia or returned to the wild by the authorities.

The lions are currently being held in a temporary ADI compound near Santa Cruz on land generously donated to the project by Santa Cruz Mayor Percy Fernández, and are being cared for by an ADI team including a full time vet.

ADI President Jan Creamer, who is overseeing the rescue operation in Bolivia said, “We must commend the Bolivian authorities for the decisive way that they enforced the ban on animal circuses. Too often, worthy animal protection and conservation measures are passed but simply not enforced. That is not the case here. Bolivia has set a shining example to the world.

“ADI fought long and hard to secure the ban on animal circuses and we said we would be there to help enforce it. We are grateful for the work of the DGB, police, Mayor’s office, Governor’s office, and of course Congress, which passed this unique and ground-breaking law,” she added.

The ADI and DGB team travelled thousands of miles across Bolivia to the different circuses and despite being met by a hostile reception and attempts to conceal animals at some circuses, all of the animals were safely removed.

In the final operation in December, seven lions including three tiny seven-week-old cubs were removed from a circus in Monteagudo. A week prior to the rescue, ADI filmed the cubs being used in the circus show and taken to local parks to be on display for crowds of photograph seekers.

Creamer said, “They were born into misery, but they will grow up free. They will be the last animals to appear in a Bolivian circus show.”

In the summer of 2010, ADI relocated the first Bolivian circus animals which were voluntarily handed over, including four lions and a baboon. The operation was a resounding success, but now the group faces the unprecedented and enormous task of caring for the 24 lions and relocating them from the Santa Cruz, Bolivia compound to a U.S. sanctuary. In the coming weeks, it is expected that one more lion will be collected, bringing the total for the ‘Operation Lion Ark’ airlift to 25.

‘Operation Lion Ark’ will be the biggest rescue and airlift of lions ever seen in the world. ADI has launched an appeal to raise funds for the rescue mission. Make a donation

© Animal Defenders International 2019