Written by Paul Day KEENESBURG, Colo. (CBS4) – Twenty five African lions who have been rescued from circuses in Bolivia are being flown to Colorado to live out the rest of their lives at an animal sanctuary.

“It’s the biggest international rescue that’s ever been done,” said Shawna Finkenbinder, the development director for the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Weld County.

Located near Keenesburg, the sprawling 320-acre facility is already home to 270 large cats, bears and wolves. All the animals were raised in captivity and have never known what it’s like to live in the wild. They were removed from circuses, traveling shows or private homes because they were unwanted or worse — they were abused.

Mistreatment is the reason for the rescue of the Bolivian lions. Pictures provided by Animal Defenders International, an animal rights group, show eight of the Bolivian lions crowded into a small trailer.

“There’s not enough room for them to move without standing on each other, they’re living in their own feces,” Finkenbinder said.

Final preparations are under way on a spacious indoor enclosure where the lions will be acclimated indoors to Colorado’s winter.

“Obviously coming from Bolivia during February is really not a good change unless you have a good environment for them,” explained Pat Craig, the executive director at the Sanctuary.

The relocated cats are getting the royal treatment. The heated enclosure will have sodded lawns. There’s a big toy ball for them to play with and live pine trees provide something fun and fragrant to rub against.

The Bolivian lions are due to arrive Wednesday via jetliner at Denver International Airport. A small convoy of trucks will bring them to the facility after nightfall.

Getting acclimated will take about a month. After that they’ll be released to newly-constructed 20-acre outdoor habitat areas surrounded by tall, sturdy fences.

It’s estimated the entire operation will cost about $300,000. Funding is coming from animal rights activists and private donors.

Comments (15)
  1. gene says:

    That is a lot of money that could be spent on health for the aged or food for the poor meals on wheels or coats for tots or something worth while. Animals can be put to sleep.

    1. Cathy says:

      The animals did not ask to be put in this position. Someone needs to look out for them too.

    2. Sally says:

      Gene – To say this isn’t worthwhile is appalling. These animals are truly worthwhile and deserve this outcome. Unlike humans they can’t make choices about what happens in their lives. When someone like Pat Craig can come in and relocate them and provide them with the absolute best after they have had to endure the absolute worst is priceless. Humans and our society supporting humans is not the be all end all as you imply.

    3. Andrea says:

      Gene, you are a bitter individual. Sad.

    4. Walter says:

      Sure, go put your mom to sleep whenever she becomes expensive to support

  2. katie says:

    Admirable that animals in the world get taken care of. People can care for themselves (not kids!) but animals cannot.

  3. Walter Kautz says:

    next time we go to Denver we will go see the Big Cats!!!

  4. Lilly says:

    This is ironic, I was just looking at the spring news from “The Wild Animal Sanctuary”. We have been to the Sanctuary several times, it is well worth seeing, and they do a fantastic job with the animals. We receive their publication several times a year. The Lions couldn’t be at a better place.

  5. Enjoy your retirement lions!

  6. Sharon says:

    Pat Craig is absolutely a savior for the animals! I support the Wild Animal Sanctuary and thank then for what they do I love exotics and I am glad we have some there to save them!! Hats off to them!!

  7. Maggie Schafer says:

    Gene – there are plenty of people and organizations that help the elderly with food, shelter and coats! You seem to have no compassion for creatures that have been put into this situation by HUMANS! Shame on you! I am glad I do not know you – I would be embaressed! I cannot understand how people can victimize creatures who share this planet. These animals are a gift – Gene, I wonder if you are one of these people who call themselves Christians. You are cold and haven’t got a clue as to what kind of misery these anmals have had to endure, or don’t you even care -probably not – SHAME ONE YOU!

    The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a wonderful place. Anyone who can, should visit it. Well worth the time. I cannot say enough about Pat Craig. He is a caring, compassionate person and has a wonderful rapport with the animals. Gene, you should not go. Your have a poisoous aura. You should find the rock you were under and return.

  8. George says:

    I can’t believe that people are so polite in answering to the comments made by that monster that calls himself Gene. Let’s ship off this dirtbag back to the cages in Bolivia where these poor animals were and then ask him if he still feels the same way.

  9. Andrea says:

    Maggie and George! I thank you! Truly. Walk a mile in his shoes or live in his cage. A human with no compassion for animals cannot truly even have compassion for other humans. This is not possible.


    I have been a couple of times at the Sanctuary and I alwats cry. Thank’s for all your effort!!!

  11. Michele says:

    What a wonderful story. Animals need our help and what a wonderful way for them to live out their life. I would love to ask Gene with his horrible comment, do you do anything for anyone, any volunteer work? I suspect that you do nothing for anyone and yet have your misguided opinion. Maybe if all Americans could open up their hearts to help some cause, whatever it might be, we would be in a better way. PAT and TEAM are wonderful, thank God we have people like them.

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