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Jul 072011

By Brett Kessler
Green Right Now

Lions rescued from Bolivian circuses have found a home in Colorado.

When parents take their kid to the circus to see baby elephants riding bicycles and doing handstands, neither junior nor his parents probably realize that these tricks are the result of grueling training sessions most people would consider animal cruelty. The decorated creatures jumping through rings aren’t trained, as Ringling Brothers maintains, through a system of “positive reinforcement” but through one of punishment and confinement, using chains and muzzles and prods. Investigations by PETA paint a very clear and unpleasant picture – one that finally, last year, prompted Bolivia to become the first South American country to ban the use of animals in circuses.

Animal Defenders International, with the help of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, released twenty-five rescued Bolivian lions into their new home near Denver, Colorado this week. The animals will live in the largest big cat habitat in the U.S., “a savannah-type landscape with water features [and] underground den areas.” The release is the final phase of Operation Lion Ark, which began when the ADI rescued the lions from eight Bolivian circuses last year.

“Malnourished, thin and dehydrated lions were found in tiny cages on wheels,” according to the ADI. “One circus had a staggering eight lions in a small cage, little bigger than two double beds, on the back of a truck.”

Activists hope the rescue will raise awareness about the treatment of animals in the entertainment industry and lead to new regulations in other parts of the world.

“This has been a landmark operation in so many ways,” says ADI president Jan Creamer. “It shows how a government can pass bold animal protection measures and work with a group like ADI to ensure enforcement. The sheer scale of the animal relocation was unprecedented – when we arrived with the lion ark aircraft it really was a sight to behold…Seeing these lions enjoying the freedom they deserve will hopefully also send a loud message that it is time to ban the use of wild animals in circuses here in the USA.”

Want to help fight circus cruelty? Tell your lawmakers. And next time you want to see some spectacular tricks, try an animal-free circus.

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