Lions and tigers rescued from Guatemalan circuses have arrived in South Africa after a multi-day journey by air and land.
The long journey was complicated due to various restrictions related to security for flights and transit of the animals.
The group ADI Animal Defenders International rescued the animals after the Guatemala government banned all animals in circuses.
In total 21 lions and tigers will be living at the wildlife sanctuary in South Africa after years of living in severe confinement and maltreatment.
The Guatemala government banned animals in circuses in 2018 and ADI has been pursuing the government to release the animals.The animals were in abject condition, with some having had their toes clipped to prevent claw growth or their canine teeth knocked off, the group said. They were cared for at an ADI rescue center until they were able to be relocated to the sanctuary, ADI said.
“This has been the toughest operation we have ever had,” said ADI president, Jan Creamer. “We had lots of threats to ourselves, to the animals and to the operation, and we had to really battle our way through it.”
The cats were kept in cramped conditions with little room to move, and “were malnourished, they were only being fed chicken feet and they were all poorly developed,” Creamer said.
The animals are recovering at an ADI sanctuary in South Africa. The nonprofit has conducted similar operations in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia and rescued nearly 200 animals.