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  1. ITV Report

Biggest airlift of rescued lions as 33 flown to South Africa

33 cats will be involved in the airlift Credit: Reuters

The biggest ever airlift of rescued lions will take place on Friday - involving 33 of the big cats.

All of the animals will be flown to South Africa having been rescued from circuses in Colombia and Peru.

The lions, with names like Zeus and Shakira, were rescued from captivity after the use of wild animals in circuses was banned in Peru and Colombia in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

The lions will be in their natural habitat for the first time in their lives Credit: Reuters

The lions were rounded up with the help of authorities by Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights charity.

"It's truly wonderful that these lions, after a lifetime of suffering and abuse in circuses, are going home to Africa," said Jan Creamer, president of ADI.

"All of the lions when they arrive from the circuses have health problems, parasites, disease.

"All of their lives they haven't had enough food, so they have long-term malnutrition problems".

Twenty-four lions rescued in Peru will be driven from their temporary rescue centre to Lima airport to be picked up by a cargo plane that is bringing another nine over from Colombia.

That contingent includes Shakira, named after the Colombian pop singer.

From one of 10 Peruvian circuses also comes "Ricardo, the one-eyed lion" and from another "Joseph, the almost-blind lion".

On arrival in South Africa, the lions will be moved to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary where they will be in their natural habitat for the first time in their lives.

One of the lions is called "Ricardo, the one-eyed lion" Credit: Reuters