Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Lion who attacked teacher in Peru in care of animal organization helping to enforce circus ban

Posted: 1 September 2014. Updated: 1 September 2014

The circus lion involved in an attack on a teacher in Cuzco, Peru – footage of which has received worldwide media attention – has been removed from the circus by the Peruvian government and handed over to Animal Defenders International (ADI), which is assisting with the enforcement of a ban on wild animals in circuses in the country. The lion, rumoured to have been killed following the attack, is alive and well and can now look forward to a life of peace in a sanctuary, free from the circus.

The attack took place less than two weeks ago during a circus performance in front of school children, after the teacher was invited into the ring by the trainer. Just days previously, the circus had refused to hand over their animals to the authorities and it was only possible to remove three of the six lions that were kept by the circus.

As a result of the stand-off during the rescue, one lioness was separated from her cubs, both of whom were retained by the circus, and a solitary castrated male, Smith was separated from his cage mate and initially put with the cubs – ADI’s quick intervention ensured he was separated from the cubs, which he had started to attack. ADI officials were convinced that these actions by the circus caused Smith to be distressed and he should not have been performing in his heightened emotional state. Thankfully, the woman was not seriously injured.

Smith and the other five lions from the Cuzco circus, together with Spider monkey Pepe,are now being cared for by ADI at a temporary custody centre built specifically for the challenging rescue mission, called Operation Spirit of Freedom. Along with lions rescued from other circuses to date, they will remain at the facility until they are ready to be relocated to specialist sanctuaries. The Peruvian authorities have also temporarily placed three capuchin monkeys with ADI, seized from the illegal pet trade.

ADI President Jan Creamer: “We are extremely relieved and delighted to have Smith and his companions safely in our care, alongside the other animals we have helped remove from circuses in Peru. What happened with the teacher was entirely the fault of the circus workers, not Smith himself. ADI wishes her a speedy recovery from her ordeal. Without wild animals, circuses in Peru will be safer and more enjoyable.”

Under the banner of Operation Spirit of Freedom, ADI is assisting the Peruvian authorities to enforce the country’s ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, secured in 2012 after a major campaign by ADI, exposing terrible suffering of circus animals in Peru. Five Latin American countries, and a total of 27 worldwide, have banned the use of all or wild animals in circuses.

ADI is collaborating with a number of government agencies including SERFOR (wildlife and environment), ATFFS (enforcement), and the police on the operation, which is being overseen by SERFOR Director Fabiola Muñoz and will be one of the largest animal welfare enforcement operations undertaken in the world.

Jan Creamer, ADI President: “We are delighted to be able to assist the Government with this important mission to stop circus suffering, placing Peru as one of the forerunners of animal protection in Latin America.”

ADI has worked all over the world rescuing and relocating animals in difficult circumstances. In 2011, ADI successfully worked with the Bolivian Government to enforce that country’s animal circus ban. The mission known as Operation Lion Ark – documented in the award-winning movie ‘Lion Ark’ – saw 29 lions from eight circuses airlifted to safety in the USA and numerous other animals rescued and relocated in Bolivia.

Operation Spirit of Freedom is being entirely funded by donations from ADI supporters. The legendary and award-winning US game show host Bob Barker has also made a substantial contribution towards the mission.

Jan Creamer, ADI President: “ADI exposed the suffering of circus animals in Peru, campaigned for the ban and now we are honoured to be assisting the authorities and bringing these animals to safety, and a new life. We are so grateful for the generosity of Bob Barker and our supporters who are making this rescue possible.”

To make a donation towards the Operation Spirit of Freedom rescue mission please visit

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ADI’s Operation Lion Ark saw 29 lions from eight circuses in Bolivia airlifted to safety in the US and numerous other animals rescued and relocated. The rescue is documented in the action-packed and award-winning movie, Lion Ark

National restrictions on performing animals in travelling circuses, either wild or all animals, have been enacted in five Latin American countries, and a total of 27 worldwide – Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, and Taiwan. Similar laws are under discussion in the UK, Brazil, Chile, Malta, Mexico and The Netherlands.

Animal Defenders International: With offices in London, Los Angeles and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

ADI’s global campaign to end the suffering of animals in circuses:

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