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

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!

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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