Next Friday will mark a historic day for British organization Animal Defenders International as the largest airlift with lions will take place. The flight is set to go from Los Angeles to Bogota to collect the first 9 lions, and then to Lima to collect the other 24 lions before heading to Johannesburg, South Africa. A total of 33 lions will find a new home at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo province.

ADI has been working for the last couple of years with lawmakers in Peru and Colombia to ban use of wild animals in circuses. ADI Vice President Tom Phillips said it will be “hugely satisfying” to see the lions walk on African land where they can live in their natural habitat. “It might be one of the finest rescues I've ever seen; it's never happened before taking lions from circuses in South America all the way to Africa,” he continued.

In 2014, ADI President, Jan Creamer and Phillips rescued 21 lions from the cities of Cusco, Trujillo and Arequipa in Peru. “Giving them minimum basic cares and a few toys to play with, are the first steps to transforming their lives,” Phillips said at the time, remembering the conditions in which they found the lions. “These animals will have sunshine on their backs; they will run through fields of grass; things they’ve never had,” he added. Creamer also stated that the lion’s claws are cut at the circus in a very cruel procedure, which is almost like an amputation of every finger.

The law to ban the presence of wild animals in circuses in Peru became effective in January 2015, which is why Serfor worker, Fabiola Muñoz, said working proactively with ADI was of great help. “Most of the work done with the circuses was voluntary on their part. We explained the importance of getting in line with this law, which eventually will fall on them but it might come at a time when we don’t have an organization like ADI for support.”