Of all the big cat species, lions are some of the most social. It isn’t odd to see a pride of lions lounging together in the wild or hunting out in their natural habitat. While many cat species live in social groups, lions are among the only that are not solitary hunters. This little tidbit says a lot about how these animals interact with one another and in many ways, they thrive when their families and prides are kept intact.

Unfortunately, when lions are taken from the wild and forced to perform in circuses, this social structure is indefinitely destroyed. Suffice it to say, life in a circus pales in comparison to the wild for a lion. Instead of having miles and miles of land to hunt and explore, most lions in the circus are confined to tiny cages and only taken out of these enclosures for training sessions. More often than not, these training sessions involve starvation and beating to ensure the animals perform perfectly on cue during showtime.

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Luckily, as the cruelty behind animal circuses becomes more widely known, more organizations are coming forward to rescue former performing animals and given them new lives in sanctuaries. Animal Defenders International (ADI) is one such organization.

ADI has been working to rescue circus animals from defunct Peruvian acts for years. They have successfully rehabilitated and relocated many animals, however, the process is incredibly challenging and often expensive – but they are determined to give all the animals a better life, no matter what. What ADI has done for rescued lions Leo and Munica is just one example of the lengths they’ve gone to.

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Leo and his beloved mate Munica endured horrific conditions in a Peruvian circus, now they are steps away from being reunited in a new enclosure at their sanctuary home in Africa.

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ADI explains on Facebook, “Torn apart by the circus, we saved Leo in the first rescue during ADI’s Operation Spirit of Freedom in Peru, but the circus blocked the authorities and ADI from seizing his mate and daughters Kiara and Africa. It took eight months of pursuit but ADI never gave up, finally catching up with the circus and saving the lionesses in northern Peru.”

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The process to rescue this couple was daunting, to say the least, but now that both are in ADI’s care, all that is keeping them apart at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is a simple mesh fence. ADI is now working to raise funds to help Emoya build an enclosure big enough for Leo, Munica, and their daughters so they can finally be reunited – without the threat of being exploited.

While it breaks our hearts that Munica and Leo ever had to endure life in a circus, we are so glad they can now experience relative freedom in their sanctuary home.

You can help ADI and Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary reunite this little family by making a donation, here. Remember, we can all help put an end to circus cruelty by refusing to attend these attractions – when the paying stops, so will the cruelty.

Image source: Animal Defenders International/Facebook