Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Lift off for Guatemalan ex-circus tigers going home to Florida!

Posted: 25 November 2019. Updated: 25 November 2019

Bengal tigers Max, Simba, and Kimba are on their way to a new life in Florida after being rescued from a circus in Guatemala, where Animal Defenders International (ADI) has been helping the authorities enforce a ban on animal acts. The big cats are the first to be relocated to their forever homes and are scheduled to arrive at Big Cat Rescue (BCR) in Tampa via Miami International Airport (MIA) later today.

Following their flight from Guatemala City to Miami, Max, Simba, and Kimba will be transported by road to their forever home at Big Cat Rescue, where they are expected to arrive around 3:00pm EST (8pm GMT). They will then be released into their individual enclosures.

ADI will be providing live updates on Facebook throughout the day.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI, said: “Max, Simba, and Kimba are going home for Thanksgiving, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Animal Defenders International is hugely grateful to Big Cat Rescue for giving our rescued tiger trio the happy ending they deserve, in their forever home.”

Banning the use of animals in circuses in 2017, the government of Guatemala invited ADI, after the new law came into effect 12 months later, to help enforce the law. With the London-based organisation successfully completing similar missions in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru, ADI sprang into action. Launching Operation Liberty in May 2018, ADI quickly established, from scratch, a temporary rescue centre in the country to care for the rescued animals until they could be relocated to their forever homes.

Male adult tigers Kimba (2.5 years old), Max and Simba (both 9 years old) were rescued from Circo Hermanos Ponce along with two lions and six other tigers in June 2018. The circus had agreed to voluntarily surrender the animals but in a tense, daylong operation, the ADI rescue team endured verbal abuse and intimidation, theft of their tools, and a circus worker exposing himself. The circus also refused to hand over six of their 15 tigers, ADI vowing to return for them.

An insight of circus life for the animals, ADI had to step in and stop circus workers from beating Kimba, on two occasions, during the rescue operation. The brutal incident left the young tiger, who was 18 months old at the time, bleeding and so terrified that he had to be sedated.

Like many of the big cats ADI has rescued, Simba has been declawed, a cruel mutilation that doesn’t just remove the claws, but the toes at the first joint – akin to having the tops of your fingers removed – changing the structure of the foot, causing ongoing discomfort, and which can lead to painful disability later in life.

Since arriving at the ADI Temporary Rescue Centre, Max, Kimba, and Simba have been able to experience simple pleasures denied them in the circus, such as walking on grass for the first time and their very own pools, as well as enrichment such as giant catnip sacks, logs, ice balls, and tires.

ADI has rescued a total of 15 tigers and 6 lions during its 18-month long Operation Liberty mission, including the remaining six tigers from Circo Hermanos Ponce, who were removed from a junkyard where they had been living in November 2018. At ADI’s temporary rescue centre, all of the animals have received veterinary care and some emergency treatment, including dental surgery to repair painful, damaged teeth. Aside from Max, Kimba, and Simba, the other big cats will be relocated to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, already home to 25 lions rescued by ADI from circuses in Peru and Colombia.

At BCR, Max, Simba, and Kimba will each enjoy their own spacious, natural enclosure with a freshwater pool for swimming, plus trees, soft grass, foliage, dens, and large platforms. They will have the best medical and dental care and nutrition, as well as mentally stimulating and fun enrichment treats at least twice a week.

Big Cat Rescue Founder and CEO Carole Baskin said: “Big Cat Rescue is thrilled to become the permanent forever home for these three former Guatemalan circus tigers. Big cats should not be forced to perform tricks and unnatural behaviors in circuses. We applaud Guatemala for banning wild animals in circuses and look forward to the day when all countries have ended this cruel, inhumane practice.”

ADI would like to thank the Guatemalan government for its commitment to enforcing the law and eliminating the use of animals in circuses; departments CONAP and the animal welfare unit (UBA), animal protection group ARCAS, and the Guatemalan army for their support and assistance; Big Cat Rescue for providing the animals with a wonderful forever home; Priority Worldwide Services and Tony Arecco with Tampa Customs Broker for helping to make the tigers’ relocation possible; and to who are raising funds for the flight to Africa for the lions and tigers.

Ronnie Espino Rodríguez, Coordinator, Animal Welfare Unit (UBA), said: “Finally, we are accomplishing what we have set out to do and what the law requires of us. We are very happy that these animals will have a chance to live the rest of their lives in a dignified manner. We could not have done this huge endeavor without the help of ADI - they have been great partners and without them none of this would have been possible. This is just the beginning of us accomplishing this noble mission and as a government we are firmly committed to safeguarding animal welfare.”

Jan Creamer, President of ADI, said: “We are extremely thankful to everyone who has helped make this rescue possible, giving Max, Kimba, and Simba, and the other animals we have rescued from circuses in Guatemala, a better and more natural life and receiving the lifelong and specialist care they need.”

To help ADI fly the remaining animals to their sanctuary in South Africa, donations can be made here:

Media contacts:
Lesley McCave, ADI Communications Director: (323) 935-2234, (323) 804-9920, or

Angie Greenaway, 020 7630 3344, 07785 552548, or

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