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Rescued lions explore new home in South African sanctuary

Rescued lions explore new home in South African sanctuary

EMOYA SANCTUARY: Thirty-three lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia set paw on the African veld for the first time on Sunday after an epic journey by plane and truck.

The lions roared in unison as they arrived shortly after dawn at their new home on the 5,000 hectare Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in the north of South Africa, where they will live out their lives.

Among the first out of their crates were brothers Junior and Bumbo from Columbia, who came out cautiously, sniffing the trees and grass and marking their territory.

After ambling up and down the fences of their enclosure, they charged playfully at each other and rolled in the dust.

“I am so grateful to have them here finally, it’s a dream come true,” said Savannah Heuser, 19, who runs the sanctuary with her mother.

“They have had a long journey but they are surprisingly calm. Some of them were agitated during the trip and they have some minor injuries, but nothing serious.” The lions arrived at Johannesburg’s international airport late on Saturday afternoon after flying for more than 15 hours in what is believed to be the biggest airlift of its kind, and were driven through the night to Emoya.

“They have lived a life of absolute hell. They’ve been beaten and they’ve been starved,” Jan Creamer, the president of Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights charity that organised the flight, told reporters at the airport.

“They’ve been deprived of everything that makes life worth living for a lion. I believe we have brought them back to paradise, where they belong,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2016

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