Best-selling children’s author and Paddington bear creator Michael Bond has backed a campaign by Animal Defenders International (ADI) to save a real-life Paddington bear called “Cholita” in northern Peru, whose heartbreaking story was reported in The Mail on Sunday.

Cholita was kept illegally by the circus, and so the Peru authorities confiscated her and placed her in a zoo until she could be found a permanent home, but no home has been found. Cholita’s fingers had been cut down to stumps by the circus to remove her claws and her teeth were broken, leaving her defenceless.

She is an elderly Andean bear, suffering from severe alopecia, so where she should have thick, black fur she has none – her body is bald, so she is barely recognisable as an endangered Spectacled bear.

Michael Bond, the author of the bestselling children’s books said: “Bears, especially from Peru, obviously have a special place in my life. It is such a horrendous story. I very much hope that, with the charity’s help, Cholita will get the care she needs to recover.”

Cholita has just one chance: To be on a flight being chartered by ADI to take 33 rescued circus lions to a new life in the United States.

ADI has launched an urgent video appeal to get Cholita onto the flight to Colorado.

The 33 lions have been rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia by ADI in the biggest rescue and enforcement operation ever undertaken to eliminate the use of wild animals in circuses, which has been banned in both countries. During the mission called Operation Spirit of Freedom, ADI has rescued almost 70 animals and is now in the process of building homes for the animals and relocating them.

ADI recently undertook a surprise raid on a circus near Piura, northern Peru, that thought it had slipped through the net – between August and November ADI had raided circuses all over Peru. Working with the Peruvian authorities (SERFOR, ATFFS, Police) the NGO rescued three lionesses, two monkeys and Jan Creamer ADI President who led the rescue came face to face with Cholita in a nearby zoo.

ADI President Jan Creamer: “This elderly bear has endured unimaginable suffering but she has a chance to enjoy her final years; we just need to get her onto the ADI Spirit of Freedom flight. Everyone is pulling together for Cholita, Curt Beer Ecologial Park in Talara where she is living are ready to sign her over to ADI, the US and Peruvian authorities have said they will work together get export permits in place for Cholita, and The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado has agreed to take her if ADI can get her there.”

ADI urgently need funds to get Cholita onto the flight and to complete Operation Spirit of Freedom. The huge rescue operation spanning two countries has lasted many months and is expected to cost ADI over £800,000. The largest single cost will be the ADI Spirit of Freedom flight taking off from Lima, Peru with 24 lions, picking up 9 more lions in Bogota, Colombia, and finishing in Denver, Colorado.

This week ADI Legal Counsel Christina Scaringe flew to Washington to meet with officials from US Fish & Wildlife Services to see if Cholita’s passage to the US could be expedited and ensure the bear with no hair will be on board the biggest airlift of its kind ever undertaken.

Jan Creamer: "Of course, it is not as simple as just saying “we will take Cholita”. She has a remarkable opportunity but there is still a lot to do to make this happen. We really appreciate that the authorities in Peru and the United States are trying to do the right thing for her – but we still need to build two holding units in the temporary rescue centre; build her travel crate; organise transport to bring her on the long journey from northern Peru to Lima to catch the flight. She will certainly need some veterinary attention. I feel sure that when people hear Cholita’s story they will want to help ADI get her and our 33 lions to a new life."

Cholita is an Andean/Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) a species which is at risk of extinction in the wild. Classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and listed on CITES Appendix I. However, Cholita is elderly, her teeth have been broken and her digits cut off her front paws, to remove her claws. She is also suffering from alopecia, so the best place for her is a sanctuary where she can retire and live out her final years in peace.

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