From the news desk

Rescued lions resting after long journey

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The 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia have been adjusting well to their new surroundings.

On Saturday night the lions arrived at OR Tambo Airport and were transferred to a truck which drove them to Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Vaalwater, Limpopo, on Sunday.

“They’re quite exhausted from the travelling but they’re basking in the sun and enjoying the bush and the trees,” said Savanna Heuser, spokeswoman for Emoya, this morning. Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Emoya worked together for several months to bring the lions to South Africa.

Heuser said a vet took an overall look at the lions and assessed their stress levels and superficial wounds yesterday.

“The travel time was about four to four and a half days for them and because of the long travel time some were uncomfortable and wanted to stretch their legs which resulted in the superficial wounds. But overall they have been adapting well,” she said.

Heuser said the 24 lions rescued from Peru had already been removed from the circuses a year before.

The nine from Columbia are still agitated and anxious because they were rescued from the circus and put into a government facility.

“They haven’t had any positive experience or interactions with humans so they are showing a little more aggression. They have had a squabble through the fence but we’re monitoring them closely and we’re hoping over the next six months that they will adapt completely,” she said.

Some of the older lions have sight problems and have been provided with “special needs” type enclosures with anything that could harm them removed.

Heuser said some of the lions had cataracts which would be removed to help them to regain their sight, and one lion was missing an eye.

ADI president Jan Cremer said the lions would first be released into bonding camps, “where families will be reintroduced to one another and become familiarized with their new home”.

The second phase is the construction of habitats 2.5 to 5 acres in size with trees, platforms and watering holes.

“There are two large family prides and several pairs and some who will be introduced to see whether they would form a family,” Cremer added.

[Source: The Star]
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