After suffering for years under deplorable conditions as circus animals in Bolivian circuses, on Wednesday 25 lions will soon be starting a new life at a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado. Since Bolivia issued a ban on performing animals, officials have partnered with a team from Animal Defenders International (ADI) to round up the remaining big cats in the country and transport them to rehabilitation facilities in the U.S..According to a report from The Denver Post, ADI played a pivotal role in liberating animals from Bolivia's traveling circuses, exposing the disturbing conditions many of them were subjected to in their lives as 'performers'. Jan Creamer, the group's president, hails the Bolivian government for its protection of animal rights; responding to ADI reports, lawmakers became the first in South America to ban the use of live animals in circuses and traveling shows.
"This is the first country that has been emptied of its performing animals," Creamer told The Post. "In a traveling circus, you keep large animals on the back of a truck, and they will always suffer."
Since then, ADI and Bolivian officials have systematically seized the nation's at-risk animal performers, a process which Creamer has documented on her Web site. Now that the last of the big cats have been collected, in an effort known as Operation Lion Ark, they'll soon be heading to join some 270 other rescued animals at their new home, The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.
Unfortunately, the lions have grown too dependent on their human keepers to be released into the wild, so caring for them will take some serious funding -- but ADI has managed to inspire some serious support from celebrity animal-lovers, writes The Denver Post:
The cost to care for a lion or tiger at the sanctuary is about $8,000 a year, bringing the total annual bill to care for the Bolivian lions to about $200,000, said Shawna Finkenbinder, the facility's development director.
Creamer said her organization, with help from Bob Barker, former host of "The Price is Right" game show and a longtime animal-rights activist, has contributed about $150,000 to help underwrite construction of the new lion house at the sanctuary.
"ADI always makes a promise that we will care for them for the rest of their lives," Creamer said of the lions' annual feeding and veterinary costs.
The lions, whose lives were once exploited for profit as mere curiosities, will now be afforded the basic dignity which all animals are deserving of. Once they've been acclimatized to their new home in Colorado, the magestic cats will are certain to draw in more than their share of eager visitors -- but ADI plans to ensure that they're not subjected to the same conditions from which they were rescued.
ADI says visitors should not come to see the lions for mere "entertainment" -- instead, perhaps, they should marvel at their pride.