A celebrity-backed appeal has been launched for World Lion Day (10 August) to help Animal Defenders International (ADI) build a new wildlife sanctuary in South Africa.
Providing a much-needed refuge for lions in their natural homeland, the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary will also help raise awareness of the needs of lions and other wild animals, and the threats they face both in the wild and captivity.
Actress and national treasure Joanna Lumley said: “Bravo to Animal Defenders International for providing sanctuary to animals in desperate need. Please support this wonderful cause and help provide a home from home for animals who have known only suffering and pain.”
US actor and television legend Ed Asner is also backing the new sanctuary: “Animals deserve to live free, not be exploited for entertainment. That’s why I support the work of Animal Defenders International, and their new sanctuary, a place these animals can at last experience love and kindness.”
The first residents at the 450+ acre sanctuary will be five lions – Tarzan, Tanya, Kimba, Nena and Sasha – rescued by ADI from circuses in Guatemala following a ban on animal acts. Just as the organisation has done in Bolivia and Peru, ADI is assisting the authorities with enforcement of the new law. Setting up and running a temporary rescue centre in the country, an experienced ADI team is caring for the lions until their relocation later this year.
Rescuing large numbers of animals – more than 100 were saved from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade in Peru – presents a challenge of sanctuary space. After years of investing in habitats for animals rescued from Colombia, Chile, Portugal, Mozambique, Bolivia and Peru, it was time for ADI to set up its own sanctuary, enabling the group to help even more animals. Having cared for rescued big cats in South Africa for more than 20 years, the country was a natural choice.
ADI President Jan Creamer said, “Having experienced a life of fear, pain and deprivation, animals coming home to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary will enjoy a life of peace and freedom, in an environment as close to nature as possible. We hope the public and businesses alike will help ADI give animals in need a better life.”
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Lions are extinct in 27 countries and possibly extinct in 7 others, with numbers across the world estimated to be as low as 23,000 individuals, compared to around 200,000 in Africa in the 1980s. It is thought that within 30 years the African lion could disappear from the wild unless urgent action is taken. Vulnerable to extinction due to hunting and habitat loss, lions are also under threat due to persecution by livestock farmers.
Efforts to protect species in the wild can be undermined, research has shown, by animals being presented as objects of fun and within a human environment, such as a circus where lions spend their lives in bare cages on the back of a truck, unable to exhibit their natural behaviours and forced to perform tricks.
Many of the lions rescued by ADI were mutilated in the circus to remove their claws and suffered damaged teeth; others have sight or balance problems caused by blows to the head.
45 countries around the world have introduced prohibitions on animals in circuses to date. Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is always compromised. Animals in circuses can also be subjected to brutal training methods and violence – wherever ADI has conducted an undercover investigation in the UK and around the world it has documented acts of abuse.