Colorado prepares for arrival of 33 circus lions from Peru

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado is heavy into preparation for an incredible group of new residents.

The 720-acre refuge is home to formerly captive and exotic large carnivores. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Mountain Lions. Leopards. Wolves. (There are also camels, alpacas, ostrich and other critters residing there.) Since 1980, the sanctuary has been a safe haven for formerly abused, mistreated and otherwise illegally-kept animals.

Next month, 33 lions from Peru will be moved to the sanctuary. The Peruvian lion rescue is being called the largest airlift of lions in history. The animals had performed in circuses throughout Peru – and Colombia – but new laws banning the use of animals under big tops left them homeless.


Former circus horses, dogs and monkeys were relocated within Peru, but officials said no one would take these 33 lions: They were too dangerous to handle, and cost too much to feed. The sanctuary pegs the cost per year at of $8,000 per lion. It will spend about $250,000 annually to care for the lions. Over the next 15 to 20 years, the cost for their lifetime care could exceed $4-million. But officials are undaunted.

“Their new lives will really begin when they arrive here in Colorado,” Pat Craig, executive director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, said in a statement. “These lions have endured incredible pain and hardship, but their new home with us will be a natural oasis where they can live freely in family prides the way nature intended.”

In 2011, the Sanctuary took in 25 lions from circuses in Bolivia in a similar monster airlift operation.

Bolivian Lion Brothers Pancho and Temuco. The Wild Animal Sanctuary


Donations can be made by visiting or calling (303) 536-0118.

Photos The Wild Animal Sanctuary/Facebook

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