PORT ELIZABETH, January (ANA) – Wednesday marked  the beginning of a wonderful new life for 12 tigers and five lions at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, as the big cats relocated to their ‘forever home’ after being rescued from a life of circus suffering in Guatemala by Animal Defenders International (ADI).

The animals’ journey to freedom marks the successful conclusion of the organisation’s 18-month Operation Liberty mission, during which ADI assisted authorities with enforcement of Guatemala’s animal circus ban, ending circus suffering in yet another country.

“These animals have experienced a lifetime of suffering and abuse in circuses in Guatemala but those days are over,” Jan Creamer, president of ADI, said.

“At the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary, our place of loving kindness, the tigers and lions can run, play, and explore their wonderful, natural surroundings under the African sun. The beginning of the rest of their lives, we could not be happier for them.”

The epic journey to freedom began on January 18 at the ADI Temporary Rescue Centre in Guatemala, where the animals have been cared for since their rescue.

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One by one, the 17 big cats were coaxed into their individual travel crates.

Once secured and given time to settle, their journey of a lifetime got underway. The travel crates were lifted onto the trucks to take the animals to board the Operation Liberty Flight from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City.

During the flight that made stops in Mexico, Belgium, and Qatar to load and unload cargo before reaching its final destination in South Africa, veterinarian Dr Howard Rosner monitored them, while ADI founders and rescue team leaders Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips provided their in-flight meals and water.

After more than 34 hours flying, on the morning of January 21 the animals touched down at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to an eager audience of reporters, and ADIWS and airport staff.

Hard work and dedication

“OR Tambo International Airport as a cargo and logistics super site was delighted to be able to play a part in the final stages of this successful rescue of the tigers and lions,” General Manager for the airport, Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, said.

“The hard work of Animal Defenders International is a wonderful example of what can be achieved with such dedication and commitment. We wish the entire team involved, as well as the animals themselves, all the very best.

“With wildlife and our natural heritage under severe threat all around the world, we hope that this rescue will strengthen the resolve of all of us to play a greater role in conservation.”

The ADI sanctuary is now home to 43 big cats — all but one rescued from circuses in Latin America. Due to the abuse these animals have suffered and their years of confinement, it is not possible to release them into the wild.

Most of the animals were declawed in the circus, a cruel mutilation to remove the claws.

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Author: ANA Newswire