Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Lions rescued from bare circus cages take their first steps on grass

Posted: 13 August 2018. Updated: 14 August 2018

For the whole of their circus lives, lions Sasha, Kimba, Nena, Tarzan, and Tanya, had only ventured out of their bare board cages to perform tricks under the big top. That was to change forever when Guatemala’s ban on animal circus acts came into force, and Animal Defenders International (ADI) embarked on a mission to enforce the law.

President of ADI Jan Creamer said, “This is a new beginning for these animals – never again will they be forced to perform or beaten into submission. Their suffering is over and we hope the public will help us give them a better, richer life.”

ADI’s first task was to set up a temporary rescue center from scratch, where animals removed from the circuses could be cared for until relocation to their forever homes, from scratch. ADI then negotiated the handover of the animals:, three lions from one circus, two lions and nine tigers (Sun, Moon, Sasha, Kumal, Luna, Jade, Kimba, Simba, and Max) from another.

Since their arrival at the center, ADI’s experienced team has built exercise enclosures for the animals, with fresh grass and enrichment such as swinging tires and big hay bags filled with catnip. The most space the big cats have ever known, the play areas are vital for keeping the animals entertained and healthy, building their muscles, and improving their coordination.

Sasha was the first to cautiously step out onto the grass before bounding across the enclosure with excitement. Free to be themselves, the lions’ characters began to emerge. Sasha and Tanya, leading their prides, faced off through the fence before keeping a wary eye on each other. Kimba – whose watering can ‘toy’ recently fetched $5,000 at a fundraiser auction! – played with everything, rolling in the hay, picking up all the logs, and swinging from a tire. Nena was just as playful, wrestling with one of the giant catnip toys and hurling it into the air. Tarzan quietly explored, but only began to really play with a tire on his second day.

SLIDESHOW: The lions take their first steps on grass

VIDEO: Kimba plays with his tire

It is expected to take months to complete the necessary health checks and documentation needed to take the animals to their forever homes. For the lions, this will be a new 450+ acre sanctuary ADI is building in South Africa, their natural homeland. The tigers have been offered permanent homes at US tiger sanctuaries Big Cat Rescue and Tigers for Tomorrow.

As with many of the animals ADI has rescued from circuses, a number of the big cats have been mutilated to remove their claws and at least two of the animals need treatment to repair damaged teeth.

ADI is seeking funds to care for and treat the animals until they are ready to go to their forever homes. Donations can be made here.

The organization plans to help the remaining circus animals in Guatemala. Two circuses with 18 tigers, 2 more lions, 2 pumas, a camel, 2 spider monkeys, and a porcupine are defying the law, and the Guatemalan wildlife department (CONAP) is working through the court to seize them.

Media Contacts:

US: Lesley McCave, ADI Communications Director | (323) 935-2234 or (323) 804-9920 (after hours) |

UK: Devon Prosser, Press Officer | 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548 |

© Animal Defenders International 2019