Bolivian circus lions await new life in U.S. sanctuary

Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:13pm EDT
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By Diego Ore

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia (Reuters Life!) - After growing up in a Bolivian circus and being confined to a small cage, Simba the lion is getting in touch with his wild side in preparation for a new life in a big U.S. wildlife sanctuary.

The three-year-old feline, who weighs about 440 pounds, is one of the first animals to benefit from a new Bolivian law that defines the use of circus animals as "an act of cruelty."

Turned over to an animal rights group by his former circus trainer, Simba is living in a temporary home in a public park in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba, waiting for veterinary clearance to be sent to the United States.

With him, and also waiting for travel permits, are his mother, Maiza, and his brothers, Gordo, Daktar and Camba, as well as a monkey, Tilin.

The animals' new handlers are trying to put them back in touch with their instincts and undoing their habits of performing and being afraid of humans, said Enrique Mendizabal, a veterinarian with the Bolivian branch of Animal Defenders International, a British-American group that campaigns around the world for circus animal rights.

Bolivia is the only country in the world to have banned both wild and domestic animals in circuses. Other countries, including Austria and Costa Rica have banned wild animals, but not domestic ones, according to the London office of Animal Defenders International.


"Law No. 4040 is the only one (of its kind) in the world because it doesn't just prohibit the use of wild animals, but also dogs, cats, doves and all types of domestic animals," Congresswoman Ximena Flores told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Simba, one of five lions getting in touch with his wild side, is seen in Cochabamba, October 18, 2009, in preparation for a new life in a U.S. wildlife sanctuary. REUTERS/David Mercado</p>