GREAT ESCAPE: Dramatic moment rescued tigers said goodbye to the circus

SIX big top tigers are heading for a life of luxury after saying goodbye to the circus.

The moment circus tiger is lifted to safety (Image: Animal Defenders International)

A British-based animal rescue charity spared the majestic creatures the ordeal of living at a scrapyard in their latest operation to save circus animals in Guatemala. Animal Defenders International vowed to return to save the six tigers – parent tigers Itsa and Sombra and their two unnamed cubs along with adult females Bimbi and Lupe – when they were thwarted last summer by the circus during Operation Liberty Mission. This is the code name of the charity’s massive rescue exercise which has seen it working with the Guatemalan authorities to enforce the country’s ban on animal circus acts.

Tiger on its toes as it begins journey to freedom (Image: Animal Defenders International)

When the ADI team was removing two lions and nine tigers from a show last June, the circus refused to allow the six other big cats to be transported away.

“We vowed to not let these six tigers down, and we kept our word,” said ADI President Jan Creamer today as she announced the charity’s latest rescue operation.

“ADI’s mission is to ensure that no animal will suffer in circuses in Guatemala ever again. With the public’s support we can save them all.”

As these scenes show, ADI campaigners worked throughout the day to ship the tigers from the scrapyard where they were living to the charity’s temporary Guatemalan rescue centre.

Here, they are joining the six lions and nine tigers rescued previously before beginning the next stage of their journey to live out their days at bespoke sanctuaries.

Already the rescued circus animals are enjoying more space than they have ever known, having time to bathe in pools, swing on tyres and enjoy the smell of hay bags filled with catnip. Keeping the animals healthy and entertained helps build their muscles and improve their condition, says the charity.

Tiger cubs heading for a new life of luxury (Image: Animal Defenders International )

While ADI continues to work with the Guatemalan animal welfare and wildlife departments to enforce the ban on circus animals, officials will be preparing documentation over the next few months so the rescued big cats can begin the next stage of their lives.

For the lions, this will be a journey to a new 450-plus acre sanctuary in their natural homeland of South Africa. Meanwhile, the first nine rescued tigers have been offered forever homes at the Big Cat Rescues and Tigers for Tomorrow sanctuaries in the United States. ADI is seeking permanent locations for the newly rescued tigers.

As of today, there remains one circus in Guatemala with a reported 15 big cats. ADI says it is raising funds to save these remaining animals as well as for the care of the 21 lions and tigers it has already rescued.

Donations can be made here: