Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Flight to freedom: Lions and tiger saved

Posted: 18 April 2007

1

On 2nd February, following months of negotiation, two lions (Caesar and Sarah) and a tiger (Tarzan) rescued from a traveling circus in Portugal arrived safely at the ADI Rescue Centre at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa where a life of peace and freedom awaits them. An urgent appeal has been launched to raise funds to cover the costs of the incredible rescue mission and to cover the costs of caring for the animals for the rest of their lives – averaging £1,000/US$1,955 per year for food and care including veterinary costs.

Click to donate

With the circus

Preparations for the move

The incredible journey from Portugal to South Africa

Tasting freedom – Tarzan, Ceasar, and Sarah reach their new home

Last year, through our Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Portugal, we learned of two lions and two tigers apparently abandoned at the roadside in Parmela, by Circo Universal. An ADI Field Officer was dispatched to investigate and discovered that the animals had not been abandoned but that the circus was simply off the road due to lack of funds. An ADI vet then assessed and vaccinated the animals, and gave them a hearty meal with mineral supplements.

The Portuguese authorities then seized the animals and agreed to hand them over to ADI as soon as permits were in place to move them to South Africa. Disappointingly, the animals were temporarily held at Lisbon Zoo where access to them was even denied to the ADI veterinary team.

Just days before Christmas, import and export permits were granted after a series of agonising delays.

Then tragedy struck. The zoo reported that the female tiger, Royale, had suddenly died. Just two weeks before she would have tasted freedom. Thus, as the other animals headed to South Africa in their crates, the saddest sight was Royale’s empty flat-packed crate. A poignant reminder of their suffering.

Although we have called for an inquiry, we still do not know the official cause of death, but we know that the animals we rescue can be broken by the lives they lead – be it abuse, lack of appropriate care and diet, the impacts of severe confinement, or even the results of irresponsible inbreeding. Our rescue team were spurred on by the desperate desire to quickly move Tarzan, Caesar and Sarah to safety and freedom.

1

In late January, our rescue team including Chief Executive Jan Creamer and Campaigns Director Tim Phillips, were joined in Portugal by Mrs Lente Roode and vet Prof. David Meltzer of the HESC. The animals were finally placed in the care of ADI at Lisbon Airport, where a press conference condemned animal circuses. The animals were given final health checks and water before the journey.

Tarzan, the tiger, was especially calm, even rolling on his back inside his travel crate. Sarah and Caesar were less happy, perhaps remembering previous torment in the circus. Caesar, a truly huge lion (but minus his mane because he has been castrated) was pacing up and down and both he and Sarah would launch themselves at their rescuers whenever they tried to inspect or water them. At ADI, we have learnt to respect animals who don’t like people – we can understand why! The animals were then shut into their crates and loaded into the aircraft – we are especially grateful to TAP, Portugal’s national airline who gave us a reduced rate to fly the cats.

As the sun set, we took off from Lisbon, landing at Johannesburg at 6am the following morning. The team nervously awaited the cats to be unloaded and with a huge sigh of relief, discovered that all of the cats were in great shape.

They were then loaded onto a truck for an eight hour drive up to Hoedspruit in Limpopo.

1

In the late afternoon, there was mounting anticipation for their release into the enclosures. Upon lifting the crate door there was no bolt for freedom from Tarzan, who coolly wandered out into his new home. However the lions bolted out as soon as the crate doors were lifted, taking shelter and comfort from each other in the night house in their temporary holding pen.

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.

Four of the big cats we rescued from a circus in Mozambique over a decade ago continue to enjoy their freedom, so we hope that Sarah, Caesar & Tarzan will enjoy their freedom for as long.

Special thanks

Click to donate

With the circus

Preparations for the move

The incredible journey from Portugal to South Africa

Tasting freedom – Tarzan, Ceasar, and Sarah reach their new home

Click to find out about more about ADI rescues

Toto the chimp saved from a circus in Chile

Tiger relocation

Monkeys saved from neuroscience lab

© Animal Defenders International 2019