Big Five lion New knowledge hub established to save Africa’s most iconic cat
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An extraordinary “Lion-Air” rescue mission by a team from the UK is to fly 33 abused circus big cats – back to Africa.

The airlift – which will fly the 33 lions on a specially chartered Boeing 747 – is the biggest in history.

Almost all of the rescued lions have been mutilated to remove their claws. One has lost an eye, another is almost blind, and many have smashed and broken teeth.


The big cats were saved by Animal Defenders International from 10 circuses in Peru and Colombia.

Now the animals, which have been rescued from horrific conditions by a UK animal rights organisation, will live the rest of their lives under the African sun.

The lions, which endured years confined in cages in trucks and a brutal life in circuses, are heading to huge natural enclosures at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

ADI is chartering a Boeing 747 to transport all 33 lions with a veterinary team.

President Jan Creamer, who is leading the rescue mission, said: “We are delighted that these lions who have suffered so much will be going home to Africa where they belong.

“The climate and environment are perfect for them.”

The Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is set in 5,000 hectares on a private estate in Limpopo Province. The sanctuary is already home to eight rescued lions and tigers in large acreage habitats of pristine African bush.


Sanctuary founder Savannah Heuser said: “We are deeply honoured and privileged to be part of such a massive operation.

“We salute ADI for saving animals and ending suffering. Let’s bring these 33 to Africa. Let’s bring them home.”

“Their lives were forcibly wasted away in horrific tiny cages, the doing of mindless circus acts, I cannot start to comprehend the endless days suffering that these animals had to endure.”

“They have a lot of lost time to make up for. They will live out the rest of their lives in a natural habitat, the closest they can ever come to freedom.”

Peru’s wild animal circus act was passed recently in 2011. From August 2014 to July 2015 ADI tackled every circus that housed wild animals. Some circuses went into hiding to avoid being caught. One circus did manage to give the ADI team the slip by retreating into Ecuador.

“Seeing these lions go home to where they truly belong will be a testament to the commitment of wildlife officials and the governments in Peru and Colombia to change the treatment of animals,” said Creamer.

“We really need financial support for this move. It is more expensive to relocate these animals to Africa, but who can put a price on taking them home to where they belong? It also sends such a clear and important message about protecting wildlife in their natural habitats and ranges.”

Happy Lion


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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.


  1. The recent Petition ‘Justice for Blaze – help change the Law’ has reached nearly 7.5K signatures and prompted a response from the Scottish Government – we are asking for tougher sentences for animal cruelty – in this case Horse mutilation and sexual abuse, with reclassifying of animals to ‘sentient beings’ as in France. Please highlight and support – ‘Good things’ are happening with this Petition – media are watching and have already covered at 3K, 5K signatures – help us push this through.

  2. Hello, you have good intentions but I am sorry that you are shipping these animals to Africa. I guess you haven’t heard of Cecil the lion who was lured out of a sanctuary and killed. Africa! I have to wonder about what is going on in your head to make such poor choice for relocation of these animals.

    1. Cecil was in Zimbabwe. These lions are coming to South Africa. Not that SA is perfect but one has to hope that the Sanctuary here is about rehabilitation, preservation & study. Not about hunting. I would think, particularly post the recent Cecil case, that stringent checks would have been done.

    2. Cecil was in Zimbabwe not South Africa – he was also in a game park which is a large open area segregated for wild animals that roam free and wild. these big cats are going to a sanctuary – vast difference – it is a place where cats brought up in captivity can live out their years in as close to the wild condition they should have lived. Because humans have no regard for animals and put them in circus’s these big cats cannot be released back into the wild. get your facts straight and maybe do a bit of research on Africa and the many countries within Africa and the difference between a zoo, sanctuary and game park (which covers thousands and thousands of hectares of land).
      If Cecil the lion was in a sanctuary he could not have been lured anywhere – but as he was in a game park these guys cut the fence which it is nearly impossible to monitor due to the large length and breadth of the game park. it was pre-meditated.

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