Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Stop Circus Suffering South America report

Posted: 26 March 2007. Updated: 23 May 2012


The use of animals in circuses in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Perú


In the last 100 years human understanding of the planet we live on and the animals with whom we share our world has grown enormously. We have made great strides in technology, medicine and learning. Yet how can we consider ourselves civilised, whilst we continue to allow the suffering and abuse of animals, simply for entertainment?

This report includes the findings of the most thorough study of the use and treatment of animals in South American circuses ever undertaken. The study, spanning several years, involved ADI Field Officers making extensive observations of animal circuses in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The findings paint an ugly picture of systematic abuse, severe confinement and deprivation of animals.

This report should be read in conjunction with viewing the DVD Stop Circus Suffering - which includes shocking video collected during the course of this investigation. The video can be obtained from the organisations listed at the end of this report, or viewed on-line.


Founded in 1990, Animal Defenders International (ADI) has offices in the UK and USA and is working worldwide to end the suffering and abuse of animals in circuses, with campaigns in Europe, Scandinavia, South America and the USA. ADI Field Officers have made detailed observations of circuses all over the world. ADI evidence of circus suffering has led to national and local restrictions on animal circuses. Following a seven year campaign by ADI, new regulations for the cross border movements of endangered species with circuses were adopted at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species, in Santiago, Chile. The rules which are designed to curb the ability of circuses to traffic in endangered species affect over 160 countries.


The new rules under CITES came about after ADI seized every animal from the Akef Egyptian Circus in Mozambique – six lions, three tigers, an African python, horses and dogs. The circus was widely believed to be a front for animal trafficking and would obtain and dispose of animals as it moved between countries. There were numerous irregularities in the documentation for the animals that were later seized by ADI in conjunction with the Mozambique CITES Management Authorities. ADI has rescued and rehabilitated numerous circus animals including a chimpanzee called Toto from a travelling circus in Chile, that had toured numerous South American countries. Having lived in a packing crate with the circus, Toto now lives with other chimpanzees in over 14 acres of natural bush in Zambia. As recently as February 2007, ADI relocated two lions and a tiger rescued from a circus in Portugal, to ADI sanctuary facilities in South Africa.

The ADI Stop Circus Suffering South America campaign is currently being undertaken in partnership with a number of national animal protection groups in the region including:

  • Asociacion par alas Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales (ADDA), Bolivia
  • Educacion y Bienestar Animal, Bolivia
  • Fundacion Mentes Verdes, Colombia
  • Protection Animal, Ecuador


Study methods

This report is based on eye witness observations by ADI Field Officers from 2003 to present. Our Field Officers visited travelling circuses, attending performances, and monitoring them for hours or days at a time. In addition, Field Officers secured employment with circuses, providing an unprecedented, behind the scenes view of the husbandry employed and the way that the animals were treated. This gave ADI Field Officers access to training sessions that would normally take place away from public view – it was during these periods, when circus personnel did not believe they were being watched, that the worst and most sustained abuse of animals took place.
The core findings are based on detailed observations of randomly selected animal circuses in each country – Bolivia (two circuses), Colombia (four circuses), Ecuador (five circuses), Peru (seven). Spot checks were also made on circuses in Chile (seven circuses).

Statements made in this report are supported by video and/or photographic evidence.

Read our report in Spanish

  • Click here to read the report in Spanish
  • Click here for the PDF of the Spanish report

Read about our campaign to stop circus suffering in South America here.

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