Nena the lioness’s first 10 years of life were full of hardship.
The lion was born in 2008 at a Guatemalan circus called Circo Navarro. The circus kept her in a tiny, rusty cage alongside two other lions, Kimba and Sasha. The three lions barely had any room to move, and so they would simply lay side-by-side, staring despondently at the crowd. The lions were only let out of their cage to perform tricks.
Things got even worse for Nena. Her handlers amputated her claws, which permanently damaged her paws. They also used cruel tactics to teach her new tricks, and they punished her severely if she made mistakes.
In April 2017, Guatemala banned the use of live animals in circuses.
While this was good news, things didn’t get better for Nena, Sasha, and Kimba right away. Circo Navarro simply kept the three lions locked in a small cage outside the circus at all times. They used the animals as a way to crowds in.
Thankfully, Animal Defenders International (ADI) heard about the three lions’ plight. For months, they negotiated with the circus until the circus finally agreed to release the lions to their care. In May 2018, the lions left Circo Navarro for good.
ADI took the three lions to their Temporary Custody Center in Guatemala. The lions were so happy to have space to roam and plenty of hay to roll around in!
All three lions were happy to be free, but the lion who has changed the most since being rescued is Nena. As soon as she got out of the circus, a light turned back on in her eyes!
Nena truly came to life when her rescuers gave her a toy log to play with—her first toy ever!
Nena loved the toy, and she wanted to spend all her time playing with it. She rolled around in the hay, clutching her toy close to her chest.
“It was absolutely magical when Nena stepped carefully out of her circus cage and into the ADI unit,” Tim Phillips, vice president of ADI, told The Dodo. “She had soft hay beneath her feet and we had put logs inside for the lions to play with. There was a look of wide-eyed awe and excitement on her face and then she began to roll around and play, grabbing the log with her paws and throwing it up into the air.”
ADI’s rescuers also give the lions treats, like meat wrapped in banana leaves. After everything they went through, these lions deserve all the treats they want!
Nena, Sasha, and Kimba will stay at the Temporary Rescue Center until later this year. Then, they’ll move to ADI’s sanctuary in South Africa, which is still being built. This sanctuary has tons of space for the lions, and they’ll get to live in their natural habitat for the first time in their life.
“The lions will be living in beautiful African savannah-type grassland with a scattering of trees for shade,” Phillips said. “We hope Kimba, Nena and Sasha will be sharing a lovely habitat of about 4 acres. They will be able to run at full speed for the first time in their lives. That will be quite a sight.”
These three lions have been through so much, but now, their lives have gotten so much better. After so many years stuck in a small cage, these lions are finally free!
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Source: The Dodo