These rescued South American circus lions are heading back to Africa

Circus lion rescue
Animal Defenders International helped rescue circus lions in Peru and Colombia. Now they're going to airlift them to South Africa.

LIMA, Peru — After the shocking death of Cecil the lion this summer, here’s a rare piece of good news for Africa’s biggest cat. A total of 33 lions rescued from miserable lives in circuses in South America are heading home next month, back to Africa, in what’s being billed as the largest ever airlift of its kind.

Many of the felines spent years in Peru and Colombia being mistreated, underfed and forced to perform tricks for the public.

Working with local authorities, British group Animal Defenders International (ADI) has rescued the animals over the last couple of years, and is now organizing a charter Boeing 747 flight to South Africa.

There the animals will start a new life of relative freedom, in pristine African bush at the 12,000-acre Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo province.