Former circus lions prepped for trip to South Africa

Fri Apr 29, 2016 11:15am EDT
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COLOMBIA - - Colombia on Thursday prepared nine former circus lions for a long trip to South Africa where they will live out their days in a wildlife sanctuary.

Workers from Animal Defenders International (ADI) adjusted cages in the early morning hours as they readied the lions for the first leg of the journey to Bogota from the north-central department of Santander.

On Friday, an MD11F cargo aircraft will travel to Bogota to pick up the animals. It will then fly to Lima, Peru to collect another 24 lions before heading to Johannesburg, South Africa.

The animals will be taken to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa where ADI officials said they will enjoy natural enclosures with drinking pools, platforms and toys.

ADI worker Yani Mateus said the lions would be moved from one cage to another in Bogota.

"The idea is that the lion will come out of the cage and go into the transport cage.  The cages were designed to allow this easily and we hope that everything goes well," she said.

According to reports, the lions had previously worked in circuses where they suffered from harsh training methods and food shortages. Over the next few months, animal specialists will monitor the lions' adaptation.

Since 2015, the use of wild animals in Colombian circuses has been illegal. The lions are just the latest of a number of wild animals rescued and relocated by ADI in the South American country.

A former circus lion looks out from inside its cage in Callao, Peru, as it is prepared for transportation to a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa, April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Janine Costa