Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Update on ADI mission to save circus animals in Guatemala

Posted: 16 May 2018. Updated: 8 October 2019


GUATEMALA CIRCUS RESCUE MISSION STATUS: An ADI team has been in Guatemala for over a year helping enforce the ban on animals in circuses. We have removed fifteen tigers and six lions from circuses and they are in our care at the ADI Temporary Rescue Center (TRC). Guatemala’s ban came into force in April 2018, we negotiated the handover of the first 15 big cats by June, and removed an additional 6 tigers in November of that year. Now just one circus is defying the law. ADI HOPES TO RESCUE EVERY ANIMAL.

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The Guatemalan wildlife department (CONAP) is working through the court to seize the remaining animals, but we don’t know how long this will take. ADI would like to also commend Guatemala’s agriculture ministry’s Animal Welfare Unit (UBA), who have worked tirelessly to make this ban a reality and helped us enormously.

Most of the animals rescued to date will be going home to the new ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, with three tigers going to Big Cat Rescue. Located in the US, the sanctuary is providing financial support for the animals they are taking. It can take many months to secure the paperwork to move the animals, that’s why we have built exercise enclosures to keep the lions and tigers healthy and entertained – thank you to everyone who has donated. ADI also organized veterinary teams and supplies necessary for health protocols and microchipping prior to export.

We are now entering the final phase of the rescue in Guatemala – we have moved the TRC closer to the airport so that we can build the travel crates, get the cats familiar with going inside them, and make arrangements for customs and getting to the airport. The original site, mandated by government and owned by a reptile facility, was too hot, too remote, badly laid out, and the access roads were not suitable for animals in travel crates. It was beset with problems and our team endured harassment and intimidation. We were forbidden from employing security guards to protect the animals even after a mob attempted to enter their area. For a while, the landowners locked out ADI, officials and police, and tried to take control of the animals. They even took our volunteers’ personal possessions, as well as ADI’s fencing, gates, etc., which we had planned to use at the new TRC. We are pleased to be putting this chapter behind us, and taking another step towards the animals’ new lives.

This rescue is complicated and comes at the same time as we are establishing our own sanctuary! We really appreciate how everyone has stuck with us on this mission. The prize will be another country emptied of suffering circus animals, and the opportunity to transform the lives of up to 40 animals. The stress and heartache will be worth it!

Our special thanks to the brilliant team at for launching a fundraising campaign to support the rescue of these animals. Previously supporting the airlift of 33 lions rescued by ADI from circuses in Peru and Colombia, Greater Good initially agreed to help ADI rescue 6 lions from circuses in Guatemala, then committed to fly all 12 tigers home to South Africa!

To bring the lions home to Africa and build their forever home at ADI’s new sanctuary, click here.

Watch as the first 9 tigers and 2 lions are rescued! See more videos here.

Previous updates:

27 September 2019: A new Temporary Rescue Center (TRC), closer to the airport and with a better climate, is up and running. Read more »

14 June 2019: A special Father’s Day for Itza, the huge tiger who is such a good father to his two young boys. Read more »

13 November 2018: Six more tigers SAVED from circus suffering in Guatemala! ADI has rescued six more tigers from circus suffering in Guatemala, as we continue to help enforce the country’s ban on animal circus acts. Read more »

8 September 2018: A new member of the ADI lion pride! Meet Tomas, a lovely male lion, who arrived suddenly into our care in the ADI Temporary Rescue Center in Guatemala. Read more »

4 September 2018: Health checks for ex-circus big cats. Fourteen ex-circus big cats have undergone a raft of health checks to get the travel permits needed to take them home. Four of the big cats required surgery to repair damage caused in the circus. Read more here »

25 July 2018: Rescued circus lions walk on grass for the first time! Enjoy the moments when five rescued circus lions walked on grass, ran and played! Watch now »

15 May 2018: First big cats SAVED following Guatemala circus ban! A mission to enforce a new law banning the use of animals in circuses in Guatemala is now underway, with Animal Defenders International (ADI) removing the first animals – lions Sasha, Nena, and Kimba. Read more here »

11 May 2018: Rescue mission launched to save circus animals! unites with Animal Defenders International to launch mission to rescue caged lions in Guatemala. Read more here »

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© Animal Defenders International 2019