Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Lions rescued by ADI go free in Colorado

Posted: 6 July 2011. Updated: 9 April 2015

LOS ANGELES, July 5, 2011 - It will be their own Independence Day, as three groups of lions from Animal Defenders International’s record-breaking Operation Lion Ark are released on Tuesday 5th July, 10 a.m. by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) near Denver Colorado.

In November last year the biggest search and seizure operation of its kind began in Bolivia with ADI raiding circuses all over the country to remove animals. The move followed Bolivia’s ban on animal circuses. In February in one massive airlift, ADI transported 25 rescued lions – the Lion Ark was greeted in Denver by Bob Barker, who had funded the operation.

In recent months this huge rescue has continued to establish new standards in animal protection.

  • The lions are being released in the largest big cat habitats in America.
  • The challenge of the radical change in climate due to the move from Bolivia was addressed with a huge heated biosphere, from which the lions have progressively been given access to outdoor pens
  • Several lions have presented a range of health care problems with some requiring life-saving dental work from the Peter Emily Foundation.
  • Several lions, which came from different circuses across Bolivia, have been successfully built into family prides.
  • The huge outdoor enclosures that are the final homes to the lions feature a savannah-type landscape with water features, underground den areas and enrichment that will be steadily expanded – in short a new gold standard has been set in captive carnivore husbandry.

The team that brought the lions to Colorado from Bolivia will be reunited to see the lions finally taste freedom for the first time.

Jan Creamer ADI President: “This is a wonderful occasion. Just a few months ago, I was looking into the sad, lethargic eyes of these lions in their tiny, barren cages as we removed them from the circuses in Bolivia. They cannot have imaged how their lives were to change. It is not possible to return animals like this to the wild, but we have given them the next best thing.

“This has been a landmark operation in so many ways. First in how ADI worked with the Bolivian authorities to orchestrate all of the seizures. It shows how a Government can pass bold animal protection measures and work with a group like ADI to ensure enforcement. The sheer scale of the animal relocation was unprecedented – when we arrived with the lion ark aircraft it really was a sight to behold. And these achievements have continued with rehabilitation and re-introduction of these lions into family groups.

“Seeing these lions enjoying the freedom they deserve will hopefully also send a loud message that it is time to ban the use of wild animals in circuses here in the USA.”

Pat Craig, Executive Director of The Wild Animal Sanctuary said: “These lions have come a long way in recovering from their past abuse, and we are all looking forward to witnessing their final steps to freedom. There are few animals on this planet that have made such a monumental journey as these lions have, and we are extremely grateful to have played a part in their salvation.”

Following an ADI undercover investigation exposing cruelty, Bolivia became the first country in South America to ban the use of animals in circuses.

One circus immediately handed all of its animals, lions and a baboon, to ADI for relocation, the other circuses refuse to comply with the law.

During November and December 2011, ADI and the Bolivian authorities conducted a series of raids on circuses all over Bolivia seizing lions, monkeys, and other animals. In a historic animal protection law enforcement operation the Bolivian circus industry was closed down at a stroke.

The animals were brought back to health in temporary ADI facilities in Santa Cruz Bolivia, with some animals relocated in Bolivia, some overseas and some animals including monkeys and a coati returned to the wild.

A total of 29 lions were brought to the USA by ADI with 25 airlifted to Colorado and a further four to California. ADI is working in co-operation with TWAS and together have co-funded construction costs for the animals.

Ironically, although the USA has provided safe haven for so many of these animals, animal circuses remain legal here.



High resolution VNR footage is available on request. Photographs are also available.

About Animal Defenders International (ADI):
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogotá, Animal Defenders International (ADI) campaigns to protect animals in entertainment; replacement of animals in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI also rescues animals in distress worldwide. ADI-gathered evidence has led to campaigns and legislative action all over the world to protect them.

ADI’s Mission: To educate, create awareness, and promote the interest of humanity in the cause of justice, and the suppression of all forms of cruelty to animals wherever possible to alleviate suffering, and to conserve and protect animals and the environment.

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Agnes Huff Communications Group
Agnes Huff, PhD or Anna Jerden
(310) 641-2525


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