Meet the families

The Huaral family: Leo, Coco, Chino, Rolex, Muñeca, Africa, Kiara

During a difficult seizure ADI was forced to take only Leo, a stately patriarch, and his three rambunctious sons Coco, Chino and Rolex from a circus in Huaral. ADI caught up with the same circus again several months later, and was able to rescue lionesses Muneca, Africa and Kiara (as well as two capuchin monkeys).

The Ayacucho brothers: Rey and Simba

The ADI team was surrounded by an angry mob as we seized Rey and Simba from a circus. It took a 19-hour journey over the Andes through rain, sleet and snow to get them to the ADI rescue center. The brothers took the long journey in their stride, snuggling up together on a deep bed of hay for comfort. The two remain extremely close and often take naps with a paw draped over the other’s shoulder.

The Cusco family: Rey, Kiara, Scarc, Mahla, Amazonas, Smith 

A family torn apart, at first the circus would only give Amazonas, Kiara and Rey into ADI’s care. The most difficult seizure during Operation Spirit of Freedom was complicated by high altitude (Cusco is located more than 10,000 feet above sea level) and the circus’ resistance to surrendering the three youngest lions. It took near tragedy and negative global media attention to turn things around.  In an incredibly irresponsible act, the circus invited a local school teacher into the ring to take part in a performance by Smith. Distressed from being separated from his companion Amazonas, Smith pounced on the teacher, dragging her round like a ragdoll. Caught on film, the images raced around the world. Thankfully, the teacher was not seriously harmed in the attack however angry members of the public called for Smith to be killed. ADI sprung into action and successfully fought to save him – the circus additionally agreed to surrender the two cubs, Scarc and Mahla. With the support of armed riot police and SWAT teams ADI moved in, taking Smith, the cubs and Pepe the spider monkey into our care. After crying for her babies for days following their separation, mum Kiara was overjoyed to be reunited with them.

The Arequipa boy: David

After weeks of hiding out in the jungle, the circus with the last illegal lions in its possession was finally tracked down. It was too late to save father Muneco, who had died from a parasite, but the circus owner agreed to give up David and promised ADI that his circus would remain animal free.

The Huancayo boys: King, Junior and Ricardo

King and Junior were extremely aggressive when ADI first met them. These two boys were placed with Huancayo Zoo after being confiscated from a circus. Since being in our care, King and Junior have become much calmer around people and lived happily together at the ADI rescue centre, playing in their enclosure and napping in the afternoons.

One-eyed Ricardo had been confiscated from a circus and temporarily placed in Huancayo Zoo; as with the others in this situation, a permanent home could not be found. ADI had a real scare when he was removed from the zoo, along with King and Junior (also taken from a circus). The zoo had anaesthetized the three boys but Ricardo suffered an extreme adverse drug reaction, with repeated seizures over several hours. Thanks to the expertise and determination of the ADI team, Ricardo survived his ordeal – a huge relief when he woke up and walked around! Thanks to improved nutrition, proper care and exercise this old boy has regained his lively spirit.


Elderly and almost blind, Joseph had been confiscated from a circus and placed in Lima Zoo, where he was collected by ADI. Only known in the zoo as ‘Blind’, Joseph was immediately given a name and is a lovely old boy who has clearly been through the wars.

The Bucaramanga pride: Barbie, Bolillo, Bumba, Junior, Easy, Shakira, Iron, Ojiclaro and Zeus

Our lovely lion family from Bucaramanga, Colombia are the first animals in their country to be freed from a life in the circus after a nationwide ban on wild animal acts was passed. The law-abiding circus owner immediately surrendered the nine lions to the regional wildlife authority (CDMB) and ADI then assumed responsibility for their care at the CDMB rescue center. This group is fondly known as the ‘Colombian Nine’ and were airlifted to Peru to join the Spirit of Freedom flight to Africa.

Find out more about our lions here!