It is with great sadness that we report that dear Bolillo has passed away. Like many of our circus survivors, almost a decade in a tiny circus cage, enduring abuse and poor nutrition in Colombia, took its toll on this senior lion. In October, after his last hospitalization, Bolillo was on palliative care for his arthritis and failing kidneys – we kept him comfortable as possible in his African home. He continued to enjoy life, slowly pottering around Augie Habitat dozing under the trees. Then in the past week Bolillo retreated to the safety of his house, venturing out only to bask in the sunshine, his appetite failing. He was clearly unhappy and uncomfortable and it was becoming hard to entice him to even take his medication treats. Dr Caldwell came to see him and under anaesthetic, discovered in addition to his deteriorating bones and kidneys, Bolillo had a large stomach tumour. It was time to do the kindest thing for him (and the toughest for us) and say goodbye to our elderly trooper.
With his spectacular mane, Bolillo had the air of a high court judge. He came across as an old-fashioned gentleman. He was one of our Colombian pride of nine, rescued over seven and a half years ago and taken into our temporary rescue center in Bucaramanga. The pictures of the lions in their circus cages were haunting; they looked completely broken and were some of the most heartbreaking we have seen. Released from the circus and in ADI’s care, they regained their spirits and love of life and finally, we returned them to the land of their forefathers Africa.
When ADI rescues large numbers of animals from a circus the beatings, horrific conditions, poor food, in-breeding and lack of veterinary care, we know that early suffering will likely begin to catch up with them in later life. This has been the case over the past 18 months with the loss of several senior members of the Colombian pride. Although their lives have been shortened by circus life, it is a comfort that they got to live and roar as lions should.
So, although we are heartbroken to say “goodbye”, we celebrate his great escape from the circus and those years under the African sun. Farewell Bolillo, it was an honour to know you and a privilege to care for you.
Thank you to everyone who helped give this lion those precious years of freedom and living as a lion should. Please continue to support the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary and give others like our beloved Bolillo a new life.