Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Free at last! ADI saves two ex-circus lions and a tiger

Posted: 1 February 2007


Operation Big Cat Rescue flies cats to a new life in South Africa

Animal Defenders International (ADI), the world’s foremost circus investigation and campaign group has secured a new life this week for two ex-circus lions and a tiger, currently in Portugal.

After being seized from a Portuguese circus, the animals will fly to a new life in the ADI Rescue Centre at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa on Thursday 1st February. ADI had discovered the animals languishing neglected in a Portuguese back street after the circus ran out of money.

There had originally been four animals – two lions, Caesar and Sarah, and two tigers, Tarzan and his mate, Royale. Unfortunately poor Royale remained in poor health and sadly died earlier this month, just a couple of weeks away from freedom.

But lucky Caesar, Sarah, and Tarzan will fly to Johannesburg on Thursday 1st February and are destined for ADI’s Big Cat Rescue Centre at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in Northern Province. They will stand on grass and feel the sun on their backs and faces, with no bars, for the first time in their lives.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s chief executive will be in Portugal for the move and explained today: “The tiger, Tarzan is only five and could easily live for another 10 years. The lions, Sarah and Caesar, are around seven or eight, and will probably reach the age of 15. At this age they should be at the peak of their physical prowess, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to imagine them living out their lives in cramped cages, never having walked on grass or really stretch their legs and run. These animals will meet bushes and trees for the first time in their lives.

"Life in the traveling circus for animals such as these is one of cramped conditions, constant confinement and limitation, deprivation and day-to-day intimidation and violence. When audiences see the big cats come rushing through the curtains into the ring to perform degrading tricks, what the audience sees is not enthusiasm and happiness – it is because someone is behind the curtain with a whip or an iron bar.

"ADI plans to house Caesar, Sarah and Tarzan at our Big Cat Rescue Centre for the rest of their natural lives. We already have two tigers there, rescued from another circus. There’s a vet on-site and the animals will huge natural bush enclosures to explore. Their senses are about to be stimulated by wind, sun, rain, earth, grass and other animals; things they have never experienced will now be part of their lives. It is time for humanity to try to give back to these animals the life that we took away from them. It’s time to make amends.”

Launch of ‘Operation Big Cat Rescue’ appeal

Launching the ‘Operation Big Cat Rescue’ appeal, Jan Creamer said:

"We desperately need the public to take up responsibility with us for helping these animals, to put right a terrible wrong. We need money to pay for their upkeep for the rest of their lives, and we need money to help other animals in distress so that they can go to the Big Cat Rescue Centre.

Anyone can simply go to our website to donate online to ensure their future and others in distress like them.” Click here to make a donation

Samantha Janus, currently in ‘Guys & Dolls’ with Don Johnson ex-‘Miami Vice’, and celebrity supporter of ADI, commented: “These animals have been abused and made to suffer terribly at the hands of human beings. They have been deprived of everything that makes life good for a lion or a tiger. It is time for all of us to take responsibility and do something to make up for what these animals have lost. Please help the ADI Rescue Centre to care for these animals for the rest of their lives. The ADI Rescue Centre needs help and donations to make a difference for these animals, and for many others who can be rescued from similar situations in future. Please help ADI to make a difference with your donations.”

____________ENDS ___________________

Click here to see photo gallery of story so far

For further information, for ADI, please contact: Allison Tuffrey Jones, ADI Press Office, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP on
Tel: 020 7630 9159
Mob: 07785 552548


In late April 2006, ADI received a cry for help from Portugal about a group of lions and tigers that had been abandoned in Parmela, near Lisbon, by Circo Universal. The situation was desperate, with the animals in poor condition in two cages on the backs of lorries with poor sanitation, lack of water and lack of space.

ADI employed a wild animal veterinary expert to assess the animals and commenced negotiations with the authorities to seize the animals.

At the same time, new enclosures were constructed for the animals at the ADI Big Cat Rescue centre at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) in Northern Province, South Africa.

On Thursday, February 1st, the animals will be taken to Lisbon airport where they will have final checks before being loaded onto the aircraft. The TAP flight TP 283 will leave Lisbon at 17.55, on February 1st and arrive Johannesburg at 06.20, February 2nd. The cats will then be driven to HESC; this will take approximately 5.5 hours.

ADI campaign to stop circus animal suffering in Portugal

The story of the rescue really began in 2005, when ADI received various reports of animals in poor conditions in circuses touring Portugal, and conducted a series of undercover investigations which resulted in a major report on the issue of animals in circuses in Portugal. This was jointly launched with our partner organization in Portugal, ANIMAL.

Animal Defenders International (ADI)
With offices in London and San Francisco, Animal Defenders International (ADI) is a major international campaigning group, working to protect animals peacefully and lawfully.

  • Both the UK and Scottish Parliaments have now committed to ban certain wild animals in travelling circuses. Approximately 200 local authorities in the UK have banned all animal acts on council land.
  • In Europe Austria has banned wild animals in circuses and 28 Croatian towns have followed suit. In Greece bans have followed in the towns of Malia, Thessaloniki and Patras. A six-year campaign by ADI secured new regulations in over 160 countries concerning the cross border movements of endangered species with animal circuses.
  • ADI has circus campaigns currently running in Europe in the UK, Ireland, Norway, Portugal and Greece; in the USA and in Chile, South America, with launches planned in, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia and Peru. ADI’s evidence has been used in Costa Rica and Singapore to secure national prohibitions on the use of wild animals in circuses.
  • ADI has rescued and relocated a number of circus animals including: lions, tigers, horses, dogs, a python and chimpanzees.

© Animal Defenders International 2019