Animal Defenders International (ADI) has rescued two endangered bears after a dawn raid on a remote, illegal Peruvian zoo, which saw all of the animals removed.

The two spectacled bears, Lucho and Sabina, were confiscated along with condors, a fox, and a kinkajou after Peru’s SERFOR wildlife officials, and a team from ADI and Taricaya Reserva Ecologica moved in at 3am.

A two-day journey over the Andes, through cloud forest at 5,000 metres above sea level, ended with a boat ride along the Madre de Dios River to the bears’ new home at Taricaya, in the Tambopata Amazon National Reserve.

The rescue was part of ADI’s 18-month Operation Spirit of Freedom mission in Peru to help enforce the ban on wild animals in circuses and assist on illegal trafficking, which has seen the rescue of over 100 animals. There had previously been several unsuccessful attempts to remove the bears, due to local opposition.

11-year old Lucho had been removed from a circus, while 4-year old Sabina is a victim of the illegal wildlife trade. Both were intended to be rescued but had ended up in the illegal zoo and kept in tiny cages, never receiving veterinary care.

The bears’ first day in their new forest home was also the 92nd birthday of the legendary, award-winning TV host Bob Barker. Barker has been a major backer of Operation Spirit of Freedom in Peru, and previously enabled ADI to empty every circus of animals in Bolivia.

Bob Barker said: “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to have Lucho and Sabina moved to an appropriate wildlife sanctuary. ADI continues to be a God-send for circus animals everywhere. I’m confident that ADI will continue the good fight until circus animals are declared illegal around the world.”

ADI President Jan Creamer said “It is appropriate that the lives of these bears were transformed on Bob Barker’s birthday, a philanthropist extraordinaire, who has given so much to protect animals. It felt right to dedicate the new lives of Lucho and Sabina to Mr Barker. They can now enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest, and will be neighbours to another Paddington Bear, Cholita, already rescued and living next door.”

The bear facility at Taricaya came about after ADI rescued Cholita, a 25-year old spectacled bear who had lost almost all her fur due to stress. In the circus, her fingers had been brutally cut off to remove her claws and her teeth broken, leaving her completely defenceless. She won the hearts of people around the world and became known as the “real-life-Paddington-bear” as ADI searched for a home for her.

Finally a space was found close to her native cloud forest at the Taricaya Reserva Ecologica, where ADI funded construction of a forest habitat and moved Cholita there in September. Her new neighbours, Lucho and Sabina, are the first of her own kind she has seen in over 20 years.

Jan Creamer: “Early this year Cholita was in deteriorating health in a concrete cell, now she is enjoying her very own piece of pristine forest. Her rescue has also provided a real legacy, a sanctuary for other spectacled bears. We know there are more bears to help, so I hope people will continue to support this important project as they see the progress we are making.”

$15,000 / £10,000 was raised for the operation to rescue Sabina and Lucho and for phase one of their habitats after British actress Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous), launched an emergency appeal asking people to “give these bears the storybook ending they deserve”. ADI is now asking for donations for the lifetime care of the bears and expansion of their forest habitats.

Please donate now at or 323 935 2234.

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