You are here: Home » Heroes » 33 Circus Lions Are Heading Home to Africa

33 Circus Lions Are Heading Home to Africa

This is one of the stories that makes you smile, it is a glimmer of hope in a desert of emptiness. “Operation Spirit of Freedom” will took 33 lions from 10 circuses in South america back to their native land in Africa. Animal Defenders International (ADI) orchestrated the largest airlift in history today by transporting 33 lions from 10 Peruvian and Colombian circuses to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary  in South Africa.

Thanks to the the efforts of ADI which is an animal rescue organization founded Tim Phillips and Jan Creamer, a dynamic husband and wife duo. Now, several countries, including Peru and Columbia, have restrictions, banning the use of wild animals in circuses. This fantastic organization has relocated and rehabilitated over 100 former circus animals under Operation Spirit of Freedom. ADI is chartering a Boeing 747 for an airlift to relocate 24 ex-circus lions from Peru and nine from Colombia to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

Once on the ground, the lions will be rehabilitated there. The Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is situated on a 5 000-hectare private estate in Vaalwater, Limpopo called Bahati Estate, which is owned by the Heuser family. The sanctuary was opened by Savannah Heuser in 2012 when she was just 16 years old and their first cat, a rescue lion from Cairo called Chanel, arrived in June 2013.


“When we visited Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, we knew this is a dream come true for ADI and, more importantly, the lions,” Creamer said. Sanctuary founder Savannah Heuser was elated for the opportunity to be an integral part in such a major effort. “I cannot start to comprehend the endless days [of] suffering that these animals had to endure. They have a lot of lost time to make up for. They will live out the rest of their lives in a natural habitat, the closest they can ever come to freedom,” Heuser said.

You can donate, sponsor, adopt, or volunteer at Emoya by clicking here. Thank you to ADI and the team at Emoya. You have made a feline’s dream a reality for “The 33.”