Poachers Kill Former Circus Lions At Wildlife Sanctuary

After only a year of freedom, two former circus lions, Liso and José, have been killed by poachers at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. The pair of big cats was part of a wide-scale rescue that saved 33 lions from abuse and imprisonment in Peru and Colombia. Animal Defenders International worked for nearly a decade to orchestrate the rescue, including the largest animal airlift of its kind, to bring the big cats to their new home.

Thank you for your concern, your kind words, and support. It’s time to #standtogether.We were “just” a sanctuary. This…

Posted by My Life with Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary on Friday, June 2, 2017

Liso and José were brought to Emoya where they had 5,000 acres of natural habitat and freedom from exploitation. Founded in 2013 by 16-year-old Savannah Heuser, the sanctuary is home to about 40 animals living in the semi-wild with armed guards and 24/7 protection. Despite these security precautions, sanctuary staff found Liso and José dead from poison last week. Newsweek reported their heads, skin, tails, and feet had been removed.

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Posted by My Life with Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary on Sunday, June 4, 2017

After spending the majority of their lives at the circus, both Liso and Jose suffered long-term health affects. Their vision was impaired, and at least one of the lions had brain damage from being repeatedly hit on the head. In spite of their health difficulties, Emoya reports both lions were thriving at the sanctuary. ADI said in a statement,

“José and Liso had suffered a terrible life of abuse, but their new life in Africa had given them a new lease on life.”

ADI and Emoya Sanctuary released statements about the brutal attack, and while heartbroken, they won’t let the act go unpunished. Both organizations are working closely with local law enforcement and anti-poaching units to find those responsible. ADI suggested a reward for information will be released, and further steps will be taken to ensure the incident doesn’t happen again.

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Posted by My Life with Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary on Saturday, May 27, 2017

They’re planning to implement additional security measures and are considering temporarily evacuating the remaining lions until their safety can be guaranteed. Minunette Heuser, Savannah Heuser’s mother, said,

“This is not just another poaching incident. We are going to unite, stronger than ever and bring to justice the perpetrators who murdered our two beloved boys.”

This is the first poaching incident for ADI and Emoya, and they are determined to fight the threat in order to continue saving the lives of rescued lions.