Denver, Colorado - Twenty-five lions, most of them rescued from Bolivian circuses arrived at Denver International Airport to begin their new lives at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, 30 miles northeast of Denver. Bolivia's Law 4040 virtually shut down the country's circus industry prohibiting all performance involving animals because of years of unethical and egregious living conditions the animals have had to endure.
Animal Defenders International, along with the Bolivian government, gathered 25 lions (12 females and 13 males) from eight circuses across Bolivia. In one instance eight full grown cats were living in one small circus trailer with only wooden planks for the animals to rest. The steel cage was too small for the number of animals causing the cats to step on each other. In another situation, a female lion had been kept in a cage since she was a cub because "she was too big."
Bob Barker, television host of Price is Right and devoted animal rights advocate donated $200,000 to finance the rescue. A special arrangement was made with Wild Animal Sanctuary to provide 80 acres of land where the cats will live free in multiple large habitats. Since Bolivia is substantially warmer than Colorado, a special temproary 15,000 square foot biosphere building with heat, grass, trees, and natural sunlight was constructed.
As the lions adjust to their new lives and the weather warms up, they will be divided into four different prides and released on 20 acre habitats to be more like lions in the wild. None of these animals had ever stepped out on grass, and on their arrival were showing typical pacing behaviors of animals kept in captivity for long periods of time.
Pat Craig of Wild Animal Sanctuary was present as the lions arrived.
"It was a momentous thing to get them here from Bolivia. Now we're facing many years of rehabilitation getting them out in these big open spaces - where they can get out and roam and be like real lions," stated Craig.
According to Wild Animal Sanctuary it costs $8000. a year to feed, care and house each lion. The continuing operation is costing an extra $200,000. Animal Defenders International is providing some support, but public support is needed for the sanctuary to continue their work.
More information to "adopt" a lion is available by clicking here.