Posted: 3 February 2011. Updated: 9 April 2015
It is called ‘Operation Lion Ark.’ It’s the biggest-ever animal rescue of its kind, and now a host of celebrities are urging people to get behind the cause and send a donation to help “Save The Lions.”
This month, Animal Defenders International (ADI) will airlift 25 rescued lions from Bolivia to the USA and are urgently calling for support for the massive operation.
Hollywood has stepped in with the generous support of Jorja Fox, CSI’s Sarah Sidle, and celebrity TV presenter Bob Barker, whose substantial support has made the project possible so far.
Twiggy, Brian Blessed, Joanna Lumley, Julia McKenzie, and Benjamin Zephaniah, along with Meg Mathews, Wendy Turner Webster and Prunella Scales, are among the first celebrities to get behind the Appeal from international organization ADI to help get these magnificent animals to safety.
The incredible effort that has seen ADI rescue every circus animal in Bolivia began several years ago with an ADI undercover investigation that exposed horrific abuse in circuses across South America. This led to a nationwide ban in Bolivia and similar measures are under consideration in Brazil and Peru.
Last November and December, a year after the ban was passed, ADI and the Bolivian authorities swooped on circuses all over the country removing animals – lions, monkeys, horses and other animals. ADI now has 24 lions in its care in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and will collect a final lion later this week, with plans to move all lions in one massive airlift to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.
Jan Creamer, ADI President, who is in Bolivia this week co-ordinating Operation Lion Ark said: “This is a huge undertaking, we have travelled thousands of miles all over Bolivia seizing animals and we now have 25 lions in our care in facilities we have had to build there and then as animals were removed from circuses. We are funding a massive construction project with 80 acres for the animals to roam, at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. We have a wonderful home ready for these animals; we just need to get them there – that’s where we need people’s help, to get the Lion Ark in the air.
“This is the first time in history that an animal protection group and a government have worked so closely and systematically to eradicate animal suffering – when the Lion Ark takes off, a chapter of animal suffering will close. As well as being wonderful for the animals saved, this sets an incredibly important precedent.”
Former host of the Price is Right Bob Barker said: “I am pleased and proud to say that a couple of contributions of mine helped ADI in their history making accomplishments in Bolivia. I am so impressed with ADI that I am going to make another investment in their mind-boggling work, and I invite you, in fact, I urge you to ‘man-up’ and join me, too. Believe me, you’ll get your money’s worth.”
CSI actress and ADI Ambassador, Jorja Fox said: "I hope you’ll join me in supporting Operation Lion Ark. These majestic animals have been through so much and now through the compelling and daring acts of ADI, they are finally going to have a life of ease, dignity, and grace. We’d love for you to be a part of this amazing and unprecedented epic event.”
Brian Blessed, the revered actor, author, and ADI supporter said: “I have closely followed ADI’s rescue effort in South America, having personally met Tilin, a wonderful baboon that they rescued last year who is now safe and extremely well in the UK. Operation Lion Ark is absolutely sensational, a staggering achievement, which will reverberate around the world. ADI is a wonderful, miraculous, organization, so please lend your support to their campaign and visit their website to find out how.”
Legendary actress Joanna Lumley said: “I send ADI my very best wishes and hope the campaign is a great success.”
Twiggy Lawson, model, actress, singer, author and ADI supporter said: “I am very happy to lend my support to ADI’s lion rescue and campaign, and applaud them for rolling their sleeves up, getting out to Bolivia and bringing these magnificent creatures to safety.”
Julia Mckenzie, star of Miss Marple said: "I am very happy to lend my support to Operation Lion Ark and am looking forward to mid-February when they find final sanctuary in the US."
Renowned writer and poet Benjamin Zephaniah said: “I am fully behind this Operation Lion Ark. As a real animal lover I don’t think animals are for our entertainment and it is our duty to respect and protect them.”
Meg Mathews, celebrity designer said: “ADI’s record breaking Operation Lion Ark needs help to give these lions the future that they so richly deserve after the life they have led. Please go to the website and make a donation to help secure their future and assist ADI with their ongoing rescue work.”
Wendy Turner Webster, author and television presenter said: ‘When ADI informed me of the lions plight, and the suffering they had endured, I simply had to become involved in this amazing campaign and do all I could to help get these lions to their new life.’
Other celebrity supporters include actresses Prunella Scales, Liz Fraser, Sheila Steafel and Carol Royle and actor John Challis.
Jan Creamer, ADI’s President said: “These animals have had a shocking life. A few weeks ago, when we were removing them from the circuses they were in the most deplorable conditions I have ever seen. Our task has been to provide food, water, veterinary care and kindness, now these animals are transforming before our eyes – we can see the joy on their faces.
“But their new lives will not really begin until we get them to safety and that is the real challenge. These animals, who for years knew only a small, cramped cage, will have acres of freedom to roam, run and play. They can be lions, as they were intended to be.”
Learn more about this amazing story of triumph over adversity