ADI Operation Liberty rescue mission, Guatemala

Animal Defenders International has been working this past year with Guatemala’s wildlife and animal welfare officials to enforce their country’s ban on animal circuses. We have rescued 21 lions and tigers who are being cared for and prepared for export at our Temporary Rescue Center in Guatemala.

Where the animals were rescued from…

…where they are now…the temporary rescue center…

…and their soon-to-be forever home, a place of peace, freedom and loving kindness…

Huge thanks to for pulling out all the stops to raise funds to fly 12 of the tigers and 6 lions to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. The three other tigers will go to our friends at Big Cat Rescue in Florida (who are fully financing their rescue – thank you), once the US import permit is issued.

Conducting a large-scale rescue is always a huge challenge! Temporary facilities have to be set up while we get the animals fit for travel and await import and export permits – the most long-drawn out task of all. It took 9 months to get the animals from the circuses; they all needed veterinary attention including urgent dental work and necessary export health procedures.

Latest developments…

21 lions & tigers relocated to new Temporary Rescue Center

At the outset of the operation, we objected to the Guatemalan wildlife department’s choice of location for the Temporary Rescue Center (TRC), on welfare grounds – it was too hot, too remote, too far from supplies and veterinary facilities, and badly laid out. The rough, unmade roads would likely result in injury when the cats were in their small travel crates, being taken to the airport for their flights.  We were told by officials it was the only option, and so rather than risk the circuses disappearing, we got on with the job.

The location has been beset with problems, and we were forbidden from employing security guards to protect the animals even after an armed mob tried to gain access. 

In February, it was agreed with the Guatemalan wildlife department that we should move the Temporary Rescue Center closer to the airport, ready to get the animals onto flights.

Throughout August we quietly prepared a new location for the TRC. For the final phase of the mission, we can build travel crates and prepare the animals for their flights. At the end of August, we worked for over 30 hours to relocate the animals to the new Temporary Rescue Center. The animals are all enjoying the new location, especially being out of the searing heat. They are clearly more relaxed.

We have enjoyed the support of conservation group ARCAS; the animal welfare division (UBA) has helped; the Guatemalan army turned up to help with building and planting trees; and our new site was licensed by the wildlife department, CONAP, with approval from UBA.

This has been a huge setback in time and increased our costs, but we are now in the right place to wrap up this exhausting mission. Despite all of this we have no regrets that, with your support, we rescued these animals from hell on earth and will be taking them to paradise for the rest of their lives.

The finish line is almost in sight but we now urgently need your help to get there. Please keep supporting this rescue and these animals – we cannot do it without you on our team!  DONATE HERE.

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