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Rescued lions from Peru have complications such as blindness

Special enclosures have been built for them at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, where they are being relocated to.

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 - Rescued circus lions from Peru and Columbia, who arrived in South Africa yesterday, have complications such as being blind.

Special enclosures have been built for them at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, where they are being relocated to, so that they do not hurt themselves.

Concerns raised that the 33 lions have been brought to South Africa for canned hunting have been rejected by Savannah Heuser, founder of Emoya.

Emoya is not open to the public unless by appointment.

Heuser said, "We are a sanctuary. It is not just land that is registered or named as protected. Nature conservation come out and they have to approve of all the enclosures before there is actually an animal put in.

"We really believe that these animals are tired of humans. When they get to Emoya they do not have to be anything else except a lion."

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."

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."