Lions and Tigers Rescued From Abusive Circuses in Central America

Down With The Big Top


Emma Roe

On January 23, 17 big cats were rescued from circuses in Guatemala and were relocated to a secret wildlife sanctuary in South America after they were found to be malnourished and abused.

According to BBC, a team from Animal Defenders International, an organization dedicated to helping wildlife, moved the lions and tigers after persuading the Guatemalan government to enforce a ban on the use of animals in circuses. 

“You imagine, because of the performance, that the animals are now enjoying themselves,” says Jan Creamer, the President and founder of Animal Defenders International, when asked about the current condition of the felines.

According to CNN, these twelve tigers and five lions had spent their whole lives in cages, only to be taken out for the entertainment of others. Their long awaited rescue, known as “Operation Liberty,” took eighteen months to run and complete; yet, the end results were worth the while.

According to PETA, elephants, tigers, and other animals that circuses use to entertain audiences do not stand on their heads, jump through hoops, or balance on pedestals because they want to. They perform these and other difficult tricks because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t. To force animals to perform, circus trainers abuse them with whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end), and other painful tools of the circus trade. Video footage of animal training sessions shows that elephants from the same circus were beaten with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods. Circuses easily get away with such routine cruelty because the government doesn’t monitor training sessions and handlers are cautious when they’re in public.

Most circuses travel nearly year-round, in all weather extremes, sometimes for days at a time. While in transit, the animals are confined to trailers or trucks, where they may not have access to basic necessities, such as food, water, and veterinary care. Elephants are chained, and big cats are imprisoned in cramped, filthy cages, in which they eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate—all in the same place. And there’s no relief once the animals reach a venue, where they remain caged and are chained in arena basements and parking lots.

For 30 years, animal organizations around the globe have been fighting to ban the use of animals in circuses; but sadly, only forty-five countries, now including Guatemala, have agreed to the ban