The rescue of 33 lions from the South American circuses and their relocation to the South African sanctuary in 2016 was charged as a compassionate gesture, returning home after years of abusive and caged housing. Things did not show up as planned.
Animal Defenders International, a group that fired lions into South Africa, secured a court order to remove the 27 surviving lions from the Emoya Big Cat sanctuary in Vaalwater. Two organizations collaborated on the project, but disputes about alleged poor leadership in the sanctuary soon emerged and six lions died as of the arrival.
"ADI believes that if we leave our rescued lions at Emoya, they will die before their time," said Animal Defenders International on Thursday. "We'll move the animals as soon as possible and according to the court order."
The group said it was acting after "five-lion-avoidable deaths, including food poisoning and poaching, and that he was denied immediate access to another left who had died. Animal Defenders International cited "other issues, including misappropriation of funds, materials for lions, trophy hunters, and others."
Emoya dismissed allegations of misconduct and said the South African court that ruled against it is based solely on a 90-day contract termination clause in Animal Defenders International.
"It's true: Despite unpredictable tragic events, lions were in excellent condition," Emoya said on her website. Lions live in large shelters "in the natural environment of Africa," they receive venison food with added ingredients and, according to Emoy, they are protected by a modernized security system.
While Animal Defenders International said it was organizing a "lunar flight" for lions to another location, Emoya said that this step could only happen if he is satisfied with the lion's transmission logistics. The Order of the Judge requires that Emoya "do all that is necessary" to coordinate the return of the lions to the animal defense group.
Nine of the original 33 lions were given to the circus in Colombia. The remaining 24 were rescued during the Peru Circus raids as part of the fight against wildlife trade. The transition to South Africa had no protective value because animals in poor condition were held in captivity and could not live in the wild.