April 18, 2015, Lima, Peru: Hoover the tiger, Mustafa the mountain lion and Condorito the condor have been removed from two circuses in northern Peru during raids as part of Animal Defenders International’s (ADI) mission to enforce Peru’s ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, Operation Spirit of Freedom.
ADI, Peruvian authorities ATFFS Piura, and the police moved in after ADI received tip-offs that two circuses were illegally operating with wild animals in the area. Both circuses heavily resisted the legal action, with riot police and the Public Prosecutor called in to secure the condor and mountain lion during a long and hostile stand-off.
Almost 80 animals have been rescued from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade during ADI’s Operation Spirit of Freedom so far. The rescue mission will culminate in June with a huge airlift to Denver, Colorado of 33 lions, a bear and now Hoover the tiger. The animals are destined for The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado where large acreage habitats are being prepared for them. ADI is also relocating nearly 50 native wild animals to a specially built facility at Pilpintuwasi near Iquitos in the Amazon with the Peruvian Air Force providing an aircraft for the animals and the Navy providing river transport.
Hoover the tiger was removed from Circo Africano, the same circus that Cholita, an endangered Andean spectacled bear who has won the public’s hearts, was removed from several years ago. Cholita, dubbed the “real life Paddington bear”, had her paws mutilated to remove her claws and has lost most of her fur.
Eight months ago, ADI was poised to remove two tigers from the same circus but it slipped through the net and eluded authorities until now – the other tiger died during that time. Hoover is the sole survivor of up to six tigers with the circus. He is thin and will be monitored closely by the ADI veterinary team.
ADI was tipped off about the location of the circus via social media and began discussions with ATFFS Piura about the seizure operation whilst continuing to trail the circus. The organisations were then tipped off about another circus in the area.
The second raid took place on Circo Koreander less than 24 hours after the first, in an isolated village in the same area of northern Peru. A mountain lion called Mustafa who was kept chained in the back of a pick-up truck was removed by ADI along with Condorito the condor, named after a Chilean comic book character. The heated seizure saw police reinforcements and the Public Prosecutor called in. Legal proceedings are now underway concerning the circus’ obstruction of the seizure and to try and secure a monkey still with the circus.
The seizure operation began on Sunday with ADI trucks carrying cages heading to the circus locations, and ended on Friday morning with the animals arriving safely at ADI’s Spirit of Freedom Rescue Center near Lima.
Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer, who oversaw the difficult seizures in Peru this week said, “Before we began seizure operations with the Peruvian authorities last year, ADI conducted a census of all animal circuses in Peru. Some disappeared as soon as the first seizures took place, but we have steadily tracked down every circus that was on that list and removed their wild animals. It has been public tip-offs to ADI that have led to the seizures on the last three circuses so we urge people to remain vigilant and report any sightings of wild animals in circuses.”
Jan Creamer: “A huge thank you to the Piura ATFFS, police and Public Prosecutor who stood up for these animals in very difficult circumstances and ensured the animals were safely removed by ADI.”
ADI’s Spirit of Freedom flight to take the 33 lions and Cholita the bear to the USA had originally been planned for April. However, ADI, Peruvian authorities SERFOR and ATFFS, The Wild Animal Sanctuary and Denver International Airport all agreed the priority had to be saving the animals, and so the airlift has been postponed until June and will now take Hoover the tiger to a new life in the US.
Jan Creamer: “We never gave up hope that we would find the illegal circuses and give each and every animal the chance of a better life, free from their circus cages and chains. Locating and raiding circuses all over Peru and looking after this number of different animals has been a huge challenge. Now we are looking forward to the next stage: getting all of the animals ADI has rescued to their new homes.”
Operation Spirit of Freedom rescue mission is expected to cost ADI over $1.2 million, with the biggest single cost being the flight to the US.
Please donate to help get Hoover the tiger, Cholita the bear and all the other animals saved during Operation Spirit of Freedom to their forever homes: www.ad-international.org/FreedomAppealUS or 323-935-2234.
More information about ADI’s Operation Spirit of Freedom http://www.ad-international.org/SpiritofFreedom
South America circus bans: A two year undercover investigation by ADI from 2005 to 2007 led five countries in South America to ban wild animal circus acts – Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and Colombia. In Central America, Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica have also passed bans. Peru’s ban on wild animals in circuses was passed in 2012 following a successful campaign launched in 2007 by ADI and backed by local animal protection groups. Bolivia was the first South American country to ban wild animals in circuses and ADI was called in after most circuses defied the law. During its ‘Operation Lion Ark’ enforcement mission ADI raided eight illegal circuses in Bolivia rescuing all the animals including horses, dogs, coatis, monkeys, baboons and lions. ADI flew 25 lions to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado and 4 lions to California. The rescue is the subject of the multi-award-winning film Lion Ark. In August 2014, ADI began working with the Peruvian authorities to enforce its animal circus ban in a mission known as ‘Operation Spirit of Freedom’.
National restrictions on performing animals in travelling circuses, either wild, all animals, or in a handful of cases specific species have been enacted in 31 countries – Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Malta, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, The Netherlands. Similar laws are under discussion in the UK, USA, Brazil and Chile.
Animal Defenders International
With offices in London, Los Angeles, Lima and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues. www.ad-international.org
The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) is a 720 acre refuge in Keenesburg, Colorado, USA, for more than 350 rescued lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other large carnivores. ADI rescued 29 animals from circuses in Bolivia in 2010 and 2011 and the story of the 2011 seizure, rehabilitation and relocation of 25 of the lions to the TWAS is told in the movie, Lion Ark www.lionarkthemovie.com