Not too long ago there were twenty-five lions held in the worst possible conditions by a circus in Bolivia. Sometimes up to eight lions were pent up in a small cage. Many of them had never known open spaces. The circus even ran out of money to feed them properly and malnutrition began to take its toll on the magnificent creatures.
Word of their plight reached Colorado's incredible Wild Animal Sanctuary. With significant financial support from game show host Bob Barker, the lions were flown from Bolivia to their new home in Colorado. The Denver Post carried a follow-up story entitled "Bolivian Circus Lions in Keenesburg Get First Taste of Wide Open Space" written by Monte Whaley. The sanctuary has identified four prides and each pride will now have twenty acres of open space to claim as their own. This is in contrast to the 6 x 12 foot trailer where eight of them have spent their entire lives sleeping on top of each other.
As the lions were released into their twenty acre new home it was like watching babies taking their first steps. Here is an excerpt from Whaley's article:
In Keenesburg, the female lions eased out first, lured by hunks of raw chicken and turkey thrown just beyond the shelter walls. Regal Bam Bam eventually made his appearance and immediately began staking out his turf, growling and smacking his female following with his paws.
But the lion who drew the most cheers from sanctuary volunteers when he trudged out of the shelter was the undersized Campeon.(photograph above) The 2-year-old male's legs were twisted and deformed by disease and injury while in captivity.
"He's our Tiny Tim," Craig said. "He's a tough little guy."
The Denver Post article continued:
Since they arrived in Keenesburg, the lions have lived in a special 15,000-square-foot, 44- foot-tall biosphere where they have become acclimated to living outside of a cramped cage.
"Most had never really walked around much at all before they came here," Craig said. "They had no motor skills. Some just tripped and fell when they tried to move forward."
They also encountered snow in small open-air enclosures adjacent to the lion house a few times over the winter.
"They were running around, rolling around in it," Craig said. "They were having a good time."
On Thursday, after just a few minutes of gingerly inching their way through the enclosure barrier into the habitat, the lions were bounding over the terrain, nipping at one another and nosing around their new surroundings.
It wasn't long before the sun was shining on their backs.
Photograph by Joe Amon of "The Denver Post"