Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI’s record breaking pride of lions one step closer to flight to freedom

Posted: 15 February 2011. Updated: 9 April 2015


The Lion Ark of Animal Defenders International (ADI), the leading animal protection organization that works globally for the protection of animals, moved a step closer to take off today when ADI’s vet cleared all 25 lions as being fit to travel.

Operation Lion Ark is scheduled to take off from Bolivian soil on Wednesday 16th February, taking the lions on a journey of a lifetime to a huge, state of the art, 80-acre facility being constructed in Colorado. This will be the biggest rescue and airlift of lions ever seen.

When rescued by ADI, some of the lions were extremely malnourished, stressed and traumatized by their experiences. But with attention by vet Mel Richardson, and affection, patience and understanding provided by the ADI team, the lions transformation has been remarkable. And their condition will continue to improve as their rehabilitation continues.

Jan Creamer, ADI President said: “We rescued these animals from the most deplorable conditions from circuses throughout Bolivia and now we are counting down to their final flight to freedom.

“We found many in very poor condition and as soon as we got them back to the safety of our compound work began in earnest on their rehabilitation.

“They have already come a long way but their new lives will really begin in their state of the art facilities in the US. We are counting down the days now until we get them there.”

Mel Richardson said: “We have been with the lions for every step of their dramatic rescue and I have been amazed by the amazing recovery of these animals, and their strength and will to live.

“When we reached some of them, they really were in a bad way and in one or two cases I thought we may be too late. However, with the correct veterinary care, love and attention, they have turned the corner and I have been delighted with their progress.

“Our main priority has been to secure the animals and then build up their strength ready to travel, nursing them back to health ready for their flight to freedom. This has been achieved and the Lion Ark is now ready to go.”

The ADI compound on the outskirts of Santa Cruz is a hive of activity, where the lions are undergoing their final series of veterinary checks, their specially constructed travel crates are being constructed and final paperwork is being completed. The lions range from cubs of just three month old to an elderly lion aged 15.

The space for the ADI Holding Compound has been kindly provided by the Mayor of Santa Cruz and has running water, electricity, a secure perimeter, 24-hour security and a veterinary and experienced animal care team. The animals are being given good food and vitamin and mineral supplements, and fresh water.

This improvised field station has served as a veterinary clinic and HQ for ADI’s rescue team, enabling them to direct the rescue effort while providing sanctuary for the sick and starving animals, bringing them back to health under 24 hour veterinary supervision.

The dramatic rescue began with a series of seizures the length and breadth of Bolivia by ADI who worked with the Bolivian authorities to enforce Bolivia’s Law 4040 which bans the use of animals in circuses, after uncovering the systematic abuse and neglect of circus animals across the country.

ADI rescued 25 lions, 6 monkeys, a coati mundi, a deer and horse. The lions were whisked to the safety of the compound and the other animals were rehomed to sanctuaries in the country, or released back into the wild. The operation removed every circus animal, ending the animal circus industry at a stroke – the first time such a thing has happened in the world.

Creamer said: “Operation Lion Ark has brought to a roaring crescendo a perfect storm of campaigning activity over the last few years that has led to this important victory for circus animals.

“We are now counting down to the Operation Lion Ark airlift later this week when we will be taking these lucky lions to their wonderful new life in Colorado.”

© Animal Defenders International 2019