33 Lions Rescued From Awful Circus Life Will Be Returned To Their African Homeland

Animals deserve way better.

The tragic death of Cecil the Lion last month triggered an international outcry over the "sport" of  hunting endangered animals and highlighted the plight of these big, beautiful cats. 

But not all news on that front is sordid. In what is being called the largest airlift of its kind, 33 lions that have been rescued from inhumane circuses in South America will be flown back to their homeland of Africa.

The operation is thanks to the British nonprofit Animal Defenders International (ADI). Working alongside local authorities in Peru and Colombia, the group took several years to rescue the circus lions. They will be transported back on a charter Boeing 747 flight.

While in the circus, the lions were severely mistreated, underfed and forced to perform tricks for the amusement of circus-goers.

Most of them were found with their teeth broken and claws removed, so they could not defend themselves.

Being that these felines have been kept — some born — in captivity and will likely be unable to survive in the wild, they will live in the 12,000-acre Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo Province in South Africa, Global Post reported. Emoya is a private reserve off limits to the public and has a no-breeding policy, unlike the country's big game industry.

The initial plan was to have them live in a private reserve in Colorado, but when the opportunity for them to be in Emoya came up, ADI said it was hard to pass up. 

The estimated $600,000 airlift is scheduled for October and the organization is still seeking funds. 

If you would like to donate, go to the website donation page here.

Cover image via iStock/miroslav_1

(H/T: Global Post)