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The biggest circus lion rescue of its kind just happened, and it was epic.

An animal rights activist spent over a year fighting for the biggest transcontinental lion rescue ever.

The circus can be a really cruel place for animals.

You might think the lions and tigers (hopefully not bears — oh my!) performing in circus acts are tough, wild beasts doing just fine, but we’re starting to understand that these magnificent creatures are actually treated really poorly.


All photos courtesy of Animal Defenders International, used with permission.

Paws.org describes life as a circus animal as “a monotonous and brutal routine of boredom, stress, and pain.” The animals spend virtually 100% of their lives in chains or caged and are subjected to extreme forms of discipline, such as whipping, choking, and electrical shocks.

No living thing deserves to be treated like that.

But recently, an organization called Animal Defenders International launched the biggest rescue operation of its kind to save some of these animals.

Their small team, led by founder Jan Creamer, has been saving wild animals from cruel captivity all over the world since 1990.

All GIFs via Animal Defenders International/YouTube.

Creamer gets things done.

Over the past year, Creamer and ADI have rescued 33 lions from circuses in Peru and Colombia and slowly nursed them back to health.

Working with local governments, Creamer and her team investigated the biggest offenders of the countries’ wild animal trafficking laws.

They discovered 33 lions (and hundreds of other animals) being kept in conditions of extreme abuse and neglect. Nine of the lions were voluntarily surrendered by a circus in Colombia, but the rest had to be forcibly removed by armed government agents.

Many of the big cats were starving, with the tips of their toes cut off as a primitive de-clawing method, and some were even missing their teeth, so they couldn’t survive in the wild. The ADI immediately provided the lions with the medical care they needed.

But in addition to medical care, love and TLC were part of the lions' recovery plan too, and that included making sure the lions were all given proper names.

Meet some of these incredible animals:

Joseph

Rapunzel

Liso

You can meet all 33 of the beautiful cats here.

The lions needed a home, so ADI teamed up with Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa to create one.

After they fully recuperated, in late-April 2016, all 33 rescued felines were flown across the Atlantic Ocean toward freedom.

With fundraising partner GreaterGood.org, ADI successfully raised the more than $330,000 needed for the flight to transport the 33 lions back to Africa on a gigantic MD11F cargo plane (the flight was appropriately named Spirit of Freedom).

On the morning of April 29, the nine cats in Colombia were treated to a nice preflight meal.

You can see their whole journey in this video. The lions were loaded onto the Spirit of Freedom aircraft in Bogota.

Later that morning, the MD11F landed in Lima, Peru, to pick up its 24 remaining passengers.

By the time the plane landed in Johannesberg on the afternoon of April 30, the lions were (understandably) eager to see their new home.

As they were unloaded from the plane, Creamer held a press conference reminding reporters what these lions have been through.

She also explained what this entire rescue operation is for:

After that, it was just a day’s journey by car from the airport to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary.

Once they reached their destination, the animals were unloaded from the truck one by one…

... and released joyously into their new habitat!

Our (big) feline friends are now feeling right at home in their sanctuary.

Photo by Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, used with permission.

Jan says, “[At Emoya] these animals will live in safety, in their natural environment and freedom from fear, pain and distress caused by humans. They will be cared for in a loving environment where they are respected and protected.”


Compared to what they’ve been through, this sanctuary is like a five star resort for the lions. Even better, the lion habitats will be steadily expanded as the lions become familiar with all their new free-space, and with each other.

Fingers crossed this leads to a new reality show called "The Real World: Big Cat Sanctuary on Animal Planet" ... but hopefully without any drama. These cats have had enough of that.

Hakuna matata!

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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