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33 abused lions finally arrive at new home in Limpopo

The lions were rescued by Animal Defenders International, volunteer organisation that raids illegal circuses.

Thirty-three abused rescued lions arrived at OR Tambo airport on 30 April 2016, from where they were transported to their new home in natural enclosures at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo. Picture: Louise McAuliffe

JOHANNESBURG - Thirty-three abused rescued lions arrived at OR Tambo airport last night, from where they were transported to their new home in natural enclosures at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo.

The lions, who lived in deplorable condition in cages on the back of trucks in Peru and Columbia, were rescued by Animal Defenders International, a volunteer organisation that raids illegal circuses with the assistance of riot police and swat teams.

Animal Defenders International co-founder Tim Phillips, who was part of the 18-month 'Spirit of Freedom mission' to rescue the lions, said it's good to finally have the animals return home.

"Taking these lions back to Africa is more than symbolic. It is showing the world that we need to look after animals as nature intended.

"It is no good incarcerating them in zoo's and things at the other side of the world. We should take them home to where they belong."

Heuser added "These cats are real circus cats that had to jump through fire hoops, climb ladders, to balance on balls and if they did not do it, they were beaten into submission.

"Most of the cats have been declawed which is basically like cutting off half of your fingers. It changes the whole cat, the posture. It takes away one of the main features that makes it a wild animal."