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Animal Defenders International

Lion Number 25 Saved

Posted: 9 February 2011. Updated: 9 April 2015


Operation Lion Ark is set to reach a roaring crescendo, following seizure of one final lion, Kimba

The number of lions being airlifted on the record-breaking ADI airlift, known as Operation Lion Ark, rose this weekend to 25. A specialist ADI team flew down to Tarija in southern Bolivia and returned with an elderly lion called Kimba.

Kimba had been living in a small concrete zoo enclosure for the past 11 years after being dumped there by a travelling circus. In recent weeks, ADI and the Bolivian authorities have swooped on circuses all over Bolivia and confiscated all of their animals. Indigenous or domestic animals have been homed in Bolivia, and ADI is taking care of all the lions – now numbering 25. Bolivia’s DGB had requested ADI take the old lion.

On Friday, ADI flew down to Tarija in a C130 Hercules that had seen service in the Vietnam War. They took one of the crates that had already been prepared for the Operation Lion Ark airlift later this month.

At the zoo, the ADI team had to break down a wall and cut through metal railings to get to Kimba, but he was soon lured into the travel crate by ADI President Jan Creamer. He was then driven to the airport, with members of the Tarija public applauding on the roadside, and loaded onto the TAB cargo aircraft. It was a smooth hour flight back to Santa Cruz, during which Kimba was very relaxed and showed no signs of stress, before a slow drive to the ADI Operation Lion Ark compound. The ADI team, including a veterinarian, joined Kimba on the flight and were able to monitor him throughout.

In the ADI compound Kimba saw and heard other lions for the first time, he went straight into his new holding cage and had a meal before calling to the other lions.

Jan Creamer: “Kimba seems a lovely, gentle old lion. He is very thin, blind in one eye, and has not seen or heard anther lion for eleven years. Once we lured him into the travel crate he settled quickly and remained relaxed throughout the flight and journey to the ADI Lion Ark compound in Santa Cruz. He’s had a sad lonely life and really deserved a break, so he is the perfect lion to be number 25 – the last lion to be saved during this huge seizure operation.”

“We are now counting down to the Operation Lion Ark airlift next week when we will be taking Kimba and the other 24 lions to their wonderful new life in Colorado.

ADI would like to thank TAB and the ON Group who helped us collect Kimba and who will be working with us on the main Lion Ark airlift when we will have 25 lions on one flight!”

The lions which have been rescued from circuses after Bolivia banned the use of animals in circuses will be heading for a new life at The Wild Animal Sanctuary near Denver Colorado where ADI is funding the construction of new facilities on 80 acres (over 32 hectares) land supplied by the sanctuary.
Jan Creamer: “Kimba’s rescue concludes part one of this amazing rescue operation. We now have all the lions. Now ADI must work at full speed to get them to paradise at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. These lions who have suffered so much will be able to run and play at last. Metal workers all over Santa Cruz are working flat out to prepare all the crates we need and our veterinary team are ensuring the animals are in an optimum condition to fly. We have our biggest challenge next week, flying 25 lions on one aircraft to the USA!”

This dramatic lion rescue began last November when, in a series of seizures all over Bolivia, ADI working with the Bolivian authorities including the DGB and Santa Cruz Governor’s Office, started to remove the animals from different circuses spread across the country.

The moves were to enforce Bolivia’s Law 4040 which bans the use of animals in circuses, which came into force after ADI officers went undercover to expose the horrific abuse in circuses across South America. The legislation effectively shut down the country’s animal circus industry at a stroke – the first time such a thing has happened in the world.

The huge rescue operation – the first time a country’s animal circus industry has been shut down in this way – last week attracted the backing of a number of celebrities including Bob Barker, Jorja Fox, Brian Blessed, Twiggy and a host of others who have called on the public to send donations to help the rescue.

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