Get ready for the warm fuzzies, in the form of two lions who now officially know what it’s like to taste freedom. In January 2015, Bulgaria banned the use of wild animals in circuses. This September, the last two circus lions in the country were freed from cruel conditions by a team from the Born Free Foundation and FOUR PAWS.
Bulgaria’s last two circus lions
Reportedly inseparable brother lions, Jora and Black, left Bulgaria recently and traveled 10,500 miles to the African plains where they will live out their lives in freedom. As Nature World News reports, Bulgaria’s ban on using wild animals in circuses left many retired circus animals with nowhere to go. The seven-year-old lions, who were taken from their mother at birth and raised by the circus, found themselves in the same homeless situation as other circus animals throughout the country.
With no place to house the lions, the Bulgarian government contacted the Born Free Foundation for help. Born Free rescued the brothers in July of this year with the help of FOUR PAWS, an international animal welfare organization. The lions’ journey to freedom had begun.
“The story of Jora and Black and their opportunity to live in peace in South Africa is an uplifting one: a testament to the hard work of so many dedicated people, including Born Free staff, and an inspiration that drives us to save more animals in need wherever they sadly languish,” said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, in a press release dated October 1, 2015.
From Bulgaria to Africa
At the end of September, the lions flew from Bourgas, Bulgaria, to London’s Gatwick Airport. There, they met Born Free Foundation co-founder, Virginia McKenna, OBE, who was overjoyed to see the animals on their way to the Shamwari Game Reserve in Africa.
“It’s fantastic to see the animals have traveled so well,” said McKenna. “They still have a long way to go, but I am really happy that with the generous public support, we are able to offer them a wonderful new home with our friends at Shamwari Game Reserve. They deserve no less.”
The globe-trotting pair traveled via an approved quarantine vehicle to London Heathrow, where they flew to Johannesburg, South Africa. From there, a convoy took them to the game reserve, where Jora and Black took their first steps of freedom.
Veterinarian Dr. Johan Joubert and big cat expert Tony Wiles accompanied the lions on the entire journey. “They are traveling well in their crates and we are keeping a close eye on them throughout the journey, with regular health checks and water stops,” Wiles said while on the journey from Bulgaria to South Africa.
The Born Free Foundation fights for animals worldwide, with an ultimate goal to phase out zoos in the future. International animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS has also recently helped Bulgaria’s last circus tiger find her new home in a big cat reserve in Germany. Both organizations continue the fight for animal welfare across the globe.
Many countries have banned either wild animals or all animals from circuses, and it’s likely that zoos will follow. As circuses and zoos close, animals are often left without homes, but we’re glad that organizations like Born Free and FOUR PAWS are out there fighting a good fight for these animals.
Circuses and zoos are certainly controversial. What do you think about them?
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.