Lionesses Saved From Circus Cages Now Call The African Plains Their Home

Andrea A.
6/12/2016

Sonja and her sisterMaggie, two lionesses, have not had an easy life. They spent eight years living in a circus, Zircus Las Vegas, based in Germany. They were forced to practice moves, perch on a stool and do other tricks in exchange for some meat, reportsThe Dodo.

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Source: Born Free Foundation

Once the show was over and the lights off, the animals were confined to an uncomfortabletrailer until their next act to entertain the crowd. Maggie and Sonja would have stayed at Zircus Las Vegas until the end of their lives if it had not been for a wound in Maggie's tail, provoking an infection.Sil Janseen, founder of the Belgian rescue associationNatuurhulpcentrum, explained:

When the circus got an inspection from the German authorities, they were warned to take care of the infected tail. When the German animal welfare inspector came back to check, the tail wound was still critical and the owner of the animals got a final warning.
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Source : Born Free FoundationTricia Holford, of theBorn Free Foundation, brought to light the animals' cages and their terrible living conditions. In 2013, a visit from the German authorities sealed the lionesses' fate when they returned and Maggie's tail wasn't better.Maggie andSonja, as well as two other tigers, were removed from the circus and sent toNatuurhulpcentrum's shelter. One of the tigers was suffering from serious problems with his back paw, and all four animals were malnourished. The injured lioness' tail had to be amputated, but she recovered quickly.

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Source : Born Free Foundation

The animals quickly found their strength again after being cared for by the volunteers, before a brave decision was taken: Maggie and Sonja's real home was not in a shelter, but in Africa. In 2014, the big cats left Belgium and were transferred to Shamwari sanctuary in South Africa, which specializes in big cat rescue.

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Source : Born Free Foundation

Once they arrived at the sanctuary after a lengthy journey, the sisters discovered a whole new world. Their new home was the African plains and they quickly became accustomed to all the space and fresh air, and are still as inseparable as ever.

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Source : Born Free Foundation

Both lionesses made a new friend, a lion named Jerry, who had been saved from a Romanian zoo. All three live in the same enclouse and spend their days together on their viewing deck, sharpening their claws and napping. Holford said:

Though they can never been released into the wild, they live in a large, natural enclosure in their ancestral home of Africa. A lifetime away from the cramped and squalid conditions they endured at the circus.

H/t: The Dodo