Rescued circus lions to be removed from sanctuary after six die
Judge orders move in scrap between sanctuary and animal rights group over the big cats
The dispute over 27 rescued circus lions that were kept at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo has finally been resolved with a court order that the animals be removed.
The animal rights group Animal Defenders International (ADI) took Emoya to court to have the remaining cats removed after six of the original 33 rescued lions died at the sanctuary.
ADI placed them at Emoya at huge cost more than two years ago after rescuing them from circuses in Peru and Colombia in South America.
Now the Limpopo High Court has ordered that the lions be removed by the end of February. They will be moved to an undisclosed sanctuary.
ADI claimed that within a few weeks of the rescued lions arriving at the sanctuary, all of them were struck down with botulism poisoning, having been allegedly fed a rotting giraffe carcass from a neighbour’s field.
Four were put in hospital and two young lionesses died. In 2017, two more lions were killed in a poaching incident. Over Christmas that year a lion died after a fight with another lion. In May 2018, another had to be euthanised after becoming ill.
Emoya has instructed its lawyer to apply for leave to appeal against the judgment by acting judge MI Mangena, who ruled that the big cats be moved to a sanctuary, which is currently being prepared by ADI.
Emoya demanded a draft of the relocation plan. “As regards the relocation of the lions to new premises, our client requires the draft relocation plan to include additional information relating to the transport and relocation of the lions.
“This should include approved permits from nature conservation authorities for the transport and relocation of the 27 lions, including holding permits and sanctuary permits that accord with the terms and conditions of the existing permits,” said Emoya, through their lawyer, Bowmans.
“Despite this, our client’s primary motivation in all things concerning the rescued lions remains the best interests of the lions themselves. For that reason, and to avoid further litigation if this is possible, if our client is presented with a relocation plan that adequately protects and preserves the best interests of the lions, our client will not proceed with the appeal and will cooperate to return the lions to the custody and care of your client.”
ADI and Emoya entered into an agreement in 2015 and in May 2016 the lions were flown into the country. They were delivered to the state-of-the art secured sanctuary at Emoya. Regarding the court action, ADI said: “The decision to take this action followed the preventable deaths of five lions, a further lion death, where ADI were denied immediate access to see the animal, and other problems including misappropriation of funds, materials for the lions and associations with trophy hunters and more.”
ADI said it paid millions to for the lions to be relocated to Africa. “The cost of flying the cats to South Africa cost $330,000 (R4,5m).”
In his judgment, Mangena ruled that the agreement between Emoya and ADI should be terminated.
“The applicant should without delay present a relocation plan for consideration, input and implementation to the respondent,” read the judgment.
Emoya’s Minunette Heuser said the lions would be moved if they were satisfied with the alternative circumstances, adding that she believed the cats were happy at Emoya.
“The care they receive here is of the highest standard.”
ADI said: “We will move the animals as soon as possible and in accordance with the court order.”