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Bolivian Lions Released Into 80-Acre Enclosure (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 04/15/11 04:30 PM ET Updated: 06/15/11 06:12 AM ET

Stretching Lioness

Colorado was the first place where lions seized from the Bolivian circus travesty were able to experience actual grass under their feet and rub their golden faces against the pine trees, according to a journal kept by the Wild Animal Sanctuary. Since being rescued, the pride of 25 lions are reportedly adjusting well to their new surroundings, and some even experienced their first snow storm.

When the lions first arrived in Colorado after a 13-hour plane ride from Bolivia however, they were underweight and had to undergo several medical procedures including a root canal, and inspection of a mast cell tumor. At least one lion is crippled from cramped conditions with the Bolivian circus.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary reports that it costs about $200,000 per year to care for all of the lions.

Last year, Bolivia began enforcing Law 4040, which bans the use of animals in circuses. Bolivian authorities worked in conjunction with Animal Defenders International (ADI) to rescue a total of 25 lions from eight different circuses around the country. The Wild Animal Sanctuary was then selected to house and care for all 25 lions, providing them a total of 80 acres of land in Keenesburg, Colo., just 30 miles northeast of Denver.

The rescues prevented the lions from entering the illegal exotic animal trade, which is the third largest source of illegal profits in the world today, according to the Sanctuary. They shared more about the trade on their website:

In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 30,000 captive large carnivores living outside the zoo system. There are 4,000 Tigers living as “pets” in private homes in just the state of Texas – more Tigers than exist in the wild throughout the world.

Visitors to the Sanctuary are welcome every day, seven days a week (excluding major holidays and bad weather) and donations and adoptions are encouraged.

PHOTOS:

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Filed by Andrea Rael  |