Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Ex-circus tigers spend Thanksgiving in their new home!

Posted: 3 December 2019. Updated: 3 December 2019

Saved from a circus in Guatemala by Animal Defenders International (ADI), Bengal tigers Max, Simba, and Kimba began their new lives on Tuesday at Big Cat Rescue (BCR) in Florida, their forever home.

To watch the video of the tigers, click here.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI, said: “Never again will these tigers be abused or made to perform in the circus. The suffering is over. A real team effort, we are delighted that Max, Simba, and Kimba were home in time for Thanksgiving and will be able to live the rest of their lives in peace.”

The relocation of the three male tigers began on Sunday afternoon, when Max, Simba (both 9 years old) and Kimba (2.5 years old), were coaxed into their travel crates, in readiness for the journey of a lifetime. The youngest and more cautious Kimba – who was brutally attacked by circus workers on the day of his rescue, ADI having to step in and stop the incident – needed a little more persuasion than the others.

Once the tigers were settled and securely inside, the travel crates were lifted onto the truck bound for La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, with a police escort accompanying the precious cargo. At the airport, Max, Simba, and Kimba were loaded for the 2:30am cargo flight to Miami International Airport. During the journey, ADI founders Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips checked on the cats, providing them with in-flight snacks and water.

To the sound of cheers from reporters, and ADI and BCR staff, eagerly awaiting their arrival, their freedom flight touched down around 6:30am local time. As soon as the final customs paperwork was complete, the final leg of the tiger trio’s journey, to Tampa, was made by road.

Arriving on Monday afternoon, Simba was quick to emerge from his travel crate and immediately started exploring his surroundings, slowly sniffing out different patches of grass before bounding onto a platform.

Next, it was Max’s turn. Remaining in his crate for quite some time, he finally emerged in his own time, and once Kimba had been released into his enclosure next door, the two tigers tentatively investigating their new space.

Each tiger has their own spacious, natural enclosure with a freshwater pool for swimming, plus trees, soft grass, foliage, dens, and large platforms. BCR’s “Vacation Rotation” enclosure, which Simba was released into, is a spacious area designed to give the rescued residents a break from their usual enclosures.

Big Cat Rescue Founder and CEO Carole Baskin said, “All three of our new tigers from Guatemala are settling in to their new home here at Big Cat Rescue very quickly. Each has been eating well, drinking water, exploring their new enclosures, enjoying their platforms and dens, and chuffing happily to our keepers. We are so grateful this Thanksgiving to finally have these precious boys here in their forever home."

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

Max, Simba, and Kimba 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, and subsequently removing them from a junkyard in November 2018.

ADI has rescued a total of 15 tigers and 6 lions during its 18-month-long Operation Liberty mission. At ADI’s temporary rescue center, all of the animals have received veterinary care and some emergency treatment, including dental surgery to repair painful, damaged teeth. Like many of the big cats ADI has rescued, a number of the animals, including Simba, have been declawed, a cruel mutilation that doesn’t just remove the claws, but the toes at the first joint, causing ongoing discomfort, and which can lead to painful disability later in life.

The other tigers and lions rescued during the mission 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.

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

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, who are raising funds for the flight to Africa for the lions and tigers.

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

Angie Greenaway, 020 7630 3344, 07785 552548, or

© Animal Defenders International 2020