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Animal Defenders International

Unchained: Mufasa is returned to the forest after a life in the circus

Posted: 19 November 2015. Updated: 4 January 2016

Sadly, Mufasa passed away after a few months of freedom in December 2015. His life in the circus, chained to the back of a pick-up truck, had damaged his health and he was suffering with kidney failure and other age-related problems. We are so sad he did not enjoy more time in his forest habitat, but the real tragedy would have been if he had never experienced that freedom at all.

Mufasa the mountain lion lived for 20 years chained in the back of a pick-up truck amongst rusting circus equipment. Despite Peru’s ban on wild animals in circuses, there seemed little hope for Mufasa as the circus went undetected, on the run, moving between remote villages. Then in a dramatic raid earlier this year, wildlife officials and Animal Defenders International rescued the elderly cat, believed to be the last wild animal in a Peruvian circus.

Watch our video of Mufasa’s incredible rescue here:

ADI President Jan Creamer who led the rescue team in Peru said, "It was heartbreaking to see Mufasa chained among the circus equipment, living on the back of a pickup truck. A heavy harness and chains were wrapped around his body and as we cut them away, he stretched, free, for the first time. It is magical to see him moving about in and out of the trees in his own piece of protected forest. Mufasa was torn from the wild and has endured the worst possible life”

Mufasa’s journey to freedom began in April 2015, when ADI received a tip-off that Circo Koreander was illegally operating with wild animals in an isolated village in northern Peru. ADI, police and wildlife officers moved in for a surprise raid but were met by hostile resistance. An eight hour stand-off saw riot police and a Public Prosecutor called in before Mufasa – Peru’s last wild animal in a circus – was handed over, along with a condor.

Mufasa was cut from his circus chains and taken to ADI’s Spirit of Freedom rescue centre near Lima to rehabilitate. His appetite and coat condition have improved after receiving specialist veterinary treatment. It is believed that Mufasa was taken from the wild as a baby.

After being nursed back to better health, Mufasa made a 3-day journey by road and boat to his forever home on the edge of the Tambopata reserve in the Amazon rainforest.

At the Taricaya Ecological Reserve he joined real-life Paddington bear Cholita, three woolly monkeys, two spider monkeys and a macaw also saved during Operation Spirit of Freedom. During the mission, ADI has provided complete logistical support to Peruvian officials to enforce the wild animal circus ban and tackle the illegal wildlife trade. Nearly 100 animals have been rescued, with most relocated to ADI funded habitats in the Amazon. The mission will conclude with the world’s biggest airlift taking 33 lions to a new life at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

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