Now in our care, the 25 rescued lions are already showing signs of recovery, gaining weight, relaxing and becoming more active and playful. After years of hardship, these lions are finally getting the attention they deserve – and with your help, they have a bright future ahead of them.
India (5), who tragically lived without the companionship of her own kind; sweet-natured, nervous and gentle, but has only lived with humans for her entire life. Learning to be a lion. Nervous when she first saw other lions, she did not want to leave her old cage – but with three weeks of kindness, encouragement, good food, and a new cage with straw, toys, and logs to play with, she has slowly started to communicate with the handsome boys in the cage next door – Temuco and Pancho. Very affectionate towards animal care staff, purrs a lot. Slim and elegant, a dainty eater. Likes straw.
Temuco and Pancho (both 4), two very large, handsome males. Brothers, very affectionate with each other. Both behave well when they eat, no fighting. Love the straw, logs and footballs. Their favourite game is tag, where they chase each other around their cages at great speed. In fact they played so hard when they were first let out, that they smashed the front off their old cage (which is attached to their new cage, to maximise space). This had to be quickly repaired and then completely replaced! Very nice boys. They like the girls on both sides.
Chitara and Dalila (about 6), sisters, very affectionate with each other. Lived all of their lives in a tiny cage, were lucky to have each other. Clearly closely bonded. Like to take their food to separate parts of the cage but good with each other, no fighting over food. Very playful in their new double cage, they run around playing chase; love their tyres and footballs (footballs are the special favourite and as with all of the others, have to be replaced daily!). Talk a great deal to the boys next door, Temuco and Pancho. Tall, with very pretty faces.
Lonely Kiara (4) – has lived a tragic and solitary life in a tiny beastwagon, completely enclosed in solid metal on three sides. She had no views, and nothing to look at, nothing to do. She was the most visibly distressed lioness; pacing back and forth in the classic abnormal, stereotypic behaviour of an animal going out of her mind. When asked why he had her in such an inappropriate metal box, the owner said that he bought her as a cub and did not realize she would grow so big, so he just left her in it. The joy with which she ran out of her old cage and into her new space, rolling in the straw, playing with the logs, chasing her football, was wonderful to see. She slept her first nigh hugging her favourite log to her chest – it was clear how she loved just having something to cuddle. After three weeks, she is looking happy, and watches the other lions in the other cages with great interest. Very gentle nature, likes our animal carers. Very organized in the way that she eats – takes it piece by piece to the second part of her new cage, eats it all, then returns for the rest. Beautiful female.
BamBam, Morena and their mob of 6 rowdy cubs
This family of lions had lived their whole life in the circus: they were all crammed into a cage the size of two double beds, literally living on top of one another (photo above). Severely malnourished, water-deprived; the family has a bone disease from lack of proper food, exercise and sunshine. They had nothing to interest them as a break from the boredom and misery of circus life – a sorry tale.
Their new ADI quarters were filled with straw, logs, tyres and footballs. As soon as BamBam (9), Morena (9), Maria, Marta (3), Campeon (4), Rosita, Rosario and Rosa (all 18 months) were released, the young cubs ran up and down their new cage with great excitement, playing with the footballs, jumping on logs, rolling in the hay, jumping on their older sisters. Mum and Dad rolled about the straw in great excitement, gathering it to their chests and sticking their noses right into the straw, breathing in the new smells. The reaction of the whole family can only be described as sheer joy. More sensory experience than they have ever had in their lives.
One of the cubs, Campeon, could barely stand when he lived with the circus, let alone run and play. His growth is stunted and his legs are weak, one is deformed from a break that the circus owner said they could not afford to have properly attended to. After we rescued him and his family and brought them to safety, we made a special effort to revive him. Now in our care, footballs are his toy of choice!
In three weeks, this family is getting much stronger. They are increasingly rowdy, with the young females racing up and down the cages, treading on anyone who happens to be in their way. They are still a little frantic at feeding time and will fight over food if not separated, however, they are getting used to the idea that there is plenty of food to go around and that food and water are always available.
ColoColo, male, and two adult females, Muneca and Lulu (all 12 years): This is a very sad group. ColoColo is the most mentally disturbed of all the animals, but Muneca and Lulu are similar. Very aggressive and all respond very badly at feeding time, convinced that the food is going to be taken away again – it looks like they have been tormented over food. They have to be fed separately. ColoColo becomes enraged when he sees anyone with a broom, or cleaning equipment – we suspect that he has been beaten in the past. We are working on calming him down and showing him that he will never be hurt again. We are confident that we can win his trust and give him a better life than he has ever known. Our animal carers in Santa Cruz are giving Colo special attention, talking to him, encouraging him. All three have also loved the straw and logs, but appear too depressed to play much. Muneca and Lulu have responded well to our carers, but need more help to enjoy life again. This family is being moved into a much larger, more complex cage, where we can communicate with them better and give them better a better view of their surroundings.
The most recent arrivals: Hercules (9), Kiara mother (9) and three 7-week cubs, daughters Panchula and Fida (both 2). All are in very poor health. Probably have a lot of internal parasites, as all the others have had. Hercules is an extremely handsome lion, although lots of scars on his face. Appears calm. Has started roaring contests with BamBam, which has encouraged Temuco and Pancho to join in, and even at times, the dear ColoColo.
Panchula and Fida are in very poor shape and both very aggressive, but we hope to work on that by good feed, plenty of water, gentle treatment, talking and and encouragement.
Kiara the mother is clearly nervous about anyone going near her and her cubs she has good reason – the circus workers would surround her cage and torment her into running after each cub to protect it, so that they could grab one for photo shoots. So to make Kiara feel safe, we have built her a den in the back of her new cage so that she can hide her cubs. She is a very good mother and we see no reason why she should not do well with her cubs.
As with all the families, the males are separated from the females to prevent more breeding, and Kiara and her cubs are now in their own cage, but next to Hercules so that they can communicate with each other. The male cubs are already trying to imitate Dad when he roars!
The final lion we rescued, Kimba, is about 15 years old and was dumped in a zoo by a circus by a ten years ago. He has spent all of that time alone, without the companionship of other lions. his tiny enclosure and poor food has left him in poor health; he has ingrowing toenails and some tooth and skin problems, he lacks muscle and he has a cataract in one eye. however, his spirit asserted itself when he joined the rest of the lions at the Santa Cruz Holding Compound, where he immediately roared his presence to the other lions. In his permanent home in the US, he will have the companionship of the lions, and freedom to roam in his own enclosure.