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Rescued Circus Lions Won’t Stop Playing With New Toys Offered To Them In Their New Home

Lions and other big cats have been used in the circus industry for years, especially in Latin America and other parts of the world. However, a new push to end circus suffering has resulted in sweeping bans on the use of wild animals in circuses. You won’t believe how these rescued circus lions reacted when they saw their new home and walked on grass for the first time ever.


15. Sasha, Nena, and Kimba

Image: Animal Defenders International

Lions Sasha, Nena, and Kimba had an unhappy life once upon a time. Kept in cages at a Guatemalan circus for 10 years, a company called Circo Navarro. The only time they felt even the smallest taste of freedom was when they were let out to perform. 

14. A Hard Life

Image: Care2

The life of the lions was brutal. Not only were they forced to perform tricks, but they were also declawed so trainers could handle them easier. Declawing is not a pain-free procedure and involves amputating their toes partially. Without claws to defend themselves, they were forced to endure long, hard training sessions. Luckily, their nightmare was going to be over.

13. A New Circus Ban

Image: Animal Defenders International

The country of Guatemala officially banned the use of live animals in circuses and now the lions were being kept illegally. Animal Defenders International helped release Sasha, Nena, and Kimba, along with a pair of lions — Tanya and Tarzan —  owned by another circus company. Newly free, the lions had no idea what to expect.

12. Making New Homes

Image: The Rainforest Site

First, they needed a new enclosure. Animal Defenders International set to work constructing homes that would be safe and pleasant for the big cats. While they worked, the cats had to be housed in large crates. The crates were much larger than their previous houses, however, and came with fresh hay and toys.

11. First Grass

Image: Animal Defenders International

The enclosures Animal Defenders International was constructing were large and filled with real grass. The staff was excited to help the big cats in their new home. Sasha was the first and when she touched the grass floor, she reacted with such glee. It was her first time on grass.

10. Sasha Plays

Image: Daily Express

The excitement continued when Sasha saw her tire toy. She immediately began chewing it and pawing it in a playful action. It was a far cry from her sad life at the circus. Watching Sasha, the other lions were eager to explore their new homes.

9. Kimba’s Reaction

Image: Animal Defenders International

Kimba was just as playful as Sasha, batting around all of the large toys they had placed in the enclosure. The lions were immediately relieved and happy with their new surroundings. “Enjoying the feeling of grass beneath their paws, of hanging freely from a tire swing, or flopping down onto a bed of hay — simple pleasures previously denied them — the true characters of the lions are shining through,” Jan Creamer, Animal Defenders International President, told The Dodo.

8. Tarzan is Overcome with Joy

Image: Animal Defenders International

Tarzan was understandably hesitant as he explored his new enclosure. He approached each thing gingerly and reacted to the grass. It wasn’t until his second day in the enclosure that he began to act like a kitten by playing with a tire swing.

7. Even More Space

Image: Animal Defenders International

The lions aren’t going to stay in these enclosures forever, however. Animal Defenders International is making plans to move them to the organization’s large sanctuary in Africa where they can spend out of the rest of their days. The new space will feature even more grass and plenty of space to roam.

 6.  Content Lions

It will take a while for the lions to be prepared and screened for the African sanctuary. For now, Animal Defenders International is happy to give the lions a second chance. Sasha, Nena, and Kimba aren’t the only lions that were rescued from Circo Navarro.

5. Tomas

Image: Animal Defenders International

This August, Animal Defenders International was able to rescue Tomas, brother to Sasha, Nena, and Kimba. Tomas was given to a zoo by the circus and then Animal Defenders International took him when the zoo was no longer able to care for him. Now he’s been happily reunited with his siblings.

4. Circus Bans

Image: Animal Defenders International

The group has been instrumental in making sure former circus animals get proper homes and encouraging the ban of wild animals in circuses. Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, Greece, Macedonia, and many European countries have effectively banned wild animals from being used in circuses. It’s a great stride thanks to the efforts of many.

3. Rescuing More Animals

Image: Animal Defenders International

Animal Defenders International didn’t stop at rescuing the lions from circuses. They also rescued nine tigers who are to be sent to the Tigers for Tomorrow and Big Cat Rescue — both sanctuaries are located in the U.S.

2. The Sanctuary

Image: Animal Defenders International

Animal Defenders International has 450 acres of grassland located in South Africa. The property is abundant with trees, lakes and even some water holes. Fundraisers are currently underway to fund the sanctuary, and you can give at their website.

1. Flying the Lions Home

Image: Animal Defenders International

Rescuing lions and flying them across the world isn’t easy. Through, Animal Defenders International is fundraising to relocate the lions to the sanctuary when the time’s right. It’s going to be the biggest change of the lions’ life, and will give them the life they always deserved.