Jora and Black are two former circus lions and today is the first day of their wonderful new lives! Their journey began back in the summer of 2014 when the Bulgarian government announced the end of wild animal circus acts in their country. With no future engagements booked, Jora and Black’s owner’s left the animals in the tiny confines of their metal traveling car, nicknamed “the beast wagon,” until they could figure out what to do.

For many months, these beautiful animals stayed confined to this tiny space, with barely enough room to turn around. They were hot in the summer and cold in the winter, sleeping on the unforgiving metal floor.

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Bulgaria's Last Two Circus Lions Are On Their Way To Freedom

The situation seemed dire, but good news finally came for the lions when their owners were contacted by the Born Free Foundation, with an offer to return them to Africa. However, transporting two lions over 10,000 miles is no easy feat.

Bulgaria's Last Two Circus Lions Are On Their Way To Freedom

 

It took the cooperation of a number of international groups, including The Born Free Foundation and FOUR PAWS International Animal Welfare Organization to organize every leg of the journey.

After a brief stay at a rehabilitation center in Bulgaria, the weary lions began their journey on September 25th to London, where they were flown to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then moved by a caravan of donated Land Rover’s to the Shamwari Game Reserve.

Bulgaria's Last Two Circus Lions Are On Their Way To Freedom

 

Virginia McKenna, actress and co-founder of Born Free said: Born Free has successfully moved many captive animals but each occasion is unique in its own way. I am really happy to have seen these two lions at Gatwick before they head to their African homeland. I hope their story will inspire people to treat wild animals with respect and understanding, and never subject them to totally inappropriate existences in captivity. Jora and Black are flagship animals for the ending of all wild animals in circuses. Let all countries follow Bulgaria’s example.”

When the caravan arrived and the two lions stepped down onto the grass, it was the first time their feet had ever touched African soil. After so many years of abuse in captivity, it is difficult to imagine just what these animals must have been thinking. But at least it is certain that Jora and Black will now have all of the time they need to enjoy their new freedom.

Bulgaria's Last Two Circus Lions Are On Their Way To Freedom

If you would like to donate to the Born Free Foundation, please visit their website or click here.

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All image source: Born Free Foundation/Flickr