ADI to airlift 17 rescued tigers and lions from Guatemala to South Africa

ADI’s Operation Liberty, enforcing Guatemala’s ban on animals in circuses nears conclusion on Sunday when a cargo aircraft will take off from Guatemala City carrying 12 tigers and 5 lions to a new life.  

The animals, which endured years of severe confinement, are destined for the 455 acre ADI Wildlife Sanctuary (ADIWS) in South Africa.  The flight will be arriving at O.R. Tambo International Airport in the early hours of Tuesday, January 21.

For 18 months an ADI team has been in Guatemala working with government officials from the departments of Unidad de Bienestar Animal (UBA) and Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (CONAP) to enforce a ban on animals in circuses that became law in 2018.  21 lions and tigers were removed from circuses and have been cared for in a specially built ADI Temporary Rescue Center until they could be relocated to sanctuaries.  The ADI team has undertaken similar operations in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia rescuing approaching 200 animals.

Watch this video about the rescue in Guatemala, soon to be subject of a new online series ‘Wild Rescues’

This weekend’s airlift is being supported by nonprofit leader, whose fundraising efforts included a competition for supporters to name two tiny tiger cubs rescued by ADI from a junkyard.  The cubs’ names are being announced for the first time today as: Stripes and Max.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI, said: “These animals have suffered a lifetime of deprivation and abuse in circuses, and, working together with the Government of Guatemala, ADI has ended their suffering. At the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary, we can give them something as close as possible to the freedom of the life stolen from them. We cannot wait to get them home.”

Liz Baker, CEO for said “We are proud to support ADI’s efforts to enforce Guatemala’s circus ban and to fly these former circus tigers and lions to a safe environment where they will live peacefully for the rest of their lives. Our community has rallied behind funding this flight so that these animals that have endured a life of neglect and abuse can roam free on a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa.”

Legislation banning animal circuses in Guatemala was passed in 2017 and came into force in April 2018.  With several circuses defying the law, ADI were contacted to help enforce the ban.

Launching Operation Liberty in May 2018, ADI established a Temporary Rescue Center in Guatemala to care for the rescued animals until they could be relocated to their forever homes and began removing animals from circuses.  All of the animals have required veterinary treatment in ADI’s field facilities, several have health issues due to in-breeding, others have required dental surgery to repair smashed teeth.

The last animals to be removed were from Circo Hermanos Ponce who initially surrendered nine tigers and two lions, but refused to hand over 7 tigers.  After five months, the tigers, which were being kept in a junkyard, were handed over to ADI.  Tragically, one cub had already died.  The two surviving cubs along with aunts Bimbi and Lupe, and parents Itza and Sombra, have since been named by supporters as Max and Stripes.

An ADI team has been caring for the lions and tigers in Guatemala while all of the necessary permits were secured and preparations made for their new homes.  This has included building a huge, 650,000sqft tiger territory at the ADI Willdife Sanctuary with spring-fed pools for the tigers to play in.  The lions will be enjoying acres of the natural homeland of the ancestors at the sanctuary.

The ADI Wildlife Sanctuary is already home to 26 lions – all but one rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia.  Due to the abuse these animals have suffered and their years of confinement it is not possible to return these animals to the wild.

ADI is urgently calling for donations to support the rescue and lifetime care of the animals, which will be a great many years for youngsters Max and Stripes:

US $:
UK £:

To find out more about the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary

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