Following a plea for funds, four lions were rescued from “appalling conditions” at a circus in France and transported to a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa. Angela, Bellone, Louga, and Saida, the four lions, are now at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
“For years they were constantly on the move, forced to perform unnatural tricks in front of noisy crowds – music blaring, lights flashing. Their only home was a rusty trailer, with barely room to turn around,” the Born Free Foundation says.
The lions were housed at a temporary habitat in Lyon run by a nonprofit called Tonga Terre d’Accueil since their rescue in 2018. According to the Born Free Foundation, the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the lions’ permanent migration.
The Lions of Lockdown urgent fundraising campaign helped the Born Free Foundation raise funds to move the lions. The Born Free Foundation claims on its website that the lions were forced to perform in front of raucous crowds in a French circus with music blasting and lights flashing.
It went on to say that their only place of residence was a rusted trailer with hardly enough room to turn around in. The relocation of the lions, according to the organization, involved hundreds of hours of effort from professionals and specialists.
According to foundation officials, the South African sanctuary will be “the next best thing to being in the wild.”
“We have a large natural bush enclosure with space the size of possibly two rugby fields for them, space that they have never experienced in their life, with natural vegetation, with the sights and sounds and smells of Africa,” said Catherine Gillson, Born Free Manager at the Shamwari Reserve.
The French parliament has enacted legislation prohibiting France’s 120 circuses from exposing wild animals to the public by 2026 and from keeping them by 2028.
After being rescued from “horrendous” confined conditions in France, the charity released four lion pups into its big cat sanctuary in South Africa in 2019. The “Lions of Lyon” began their adventure in an animal rescue center near Lyon after being rescued by another wildlife organization.
According to the Born Free Foundation, the number of wild lions has decreased by 90% from roughly 200,000 in the 1960s, when the movie “Born Free” was released, to as few as 20,000 now.