Leaving the Circus

Tuesday, May 03, 2016


Lion in Namibia, c. 2004. Creative Commons.

Last week, Animal Defenders International transported thirty-three lions to Limpopo, South Africa, where they will be housed in a sanctuary. Nine of the lions were surrendered by Colombian circuses while the rest were rescued from circuses in Peru. Both countries recently passed bills that prohibit the use of wild animals in performances. National Public Radio reports: 

“The lions are returning to where they belong,” sanctuary founder Savannah Heuser says in a statement. “This is their birth right. African sun, African night skies, African bush and sounds, clouds, summer thunderstorms, large enclosures in a natural setting where they can remember who they are.”

ADI says the group consists of “two large family prides, several pairs and some who will be introduced to see whether they would form a family,” and the group will likely need “at least 10 or 12 separate habitats.”


Lion tamer Adjie seated inside a cage with a male lion, c. 1897.

Due to a mechanical malfunction, a lion escaped from his cage during a circus performance in Buffalo and ran, before a crowd of thousands, into the street. The lion was pursued by a crowd of circus employees and onlookers for three blocks before getting trapped between a garage and a fence. The New York Tribune reported: 

Wedged there he was helpless, and while ropes were made fast to his legs his cage was drawn to the scene by an elephant.

Then a horse was hitched to the ropes attached to the lion to drag him out. When the horse pulled the lion leaped out and, slipping loose from the ropes, dashed into the crowd.

A circus cook leaped on the lion’s back and tried to hold him away from the crowd. He was dragged for several yards, but was uninjured.

Cowboys from the show then lassoed the lion with several ropes. He was hoisted into the cage and taken back to the menagerie tent.