Over 30 circus lions rescued from Peru, Colombia

Posted at 9:38 AM, May 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-01 10:38:22-04

A new life in South Africa has begun for over 30 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Colombia. 

Most of the lions were taken from circuses in surprise raids and were moved to Africa in what's thought to be the biggest airlift of its kind. 

The group landed in Johannesburg over the weekend and soon will be living on a 12,000-acre private sanctuary.  

It's unlikely the lions would've survived if they'd been released into the wild instead. Many had broken teeth and their claws were removed before being rescued. 

The U.S.-based nonprofit Animal Defenders International planned their relocation, and an online crowdfunding campaign took care of about half the cost of flying the lions to South Africa. 

The use of wild animals in circuses was banned in Peru in 2011 and in Colombia in 2013. Nine of the lions rescued were voluntarily surrendered by a Colombian circus.

This video includes clips from BBCAnimal Defenders International and images from Getty Images.