Res­cued cir­cus lions poi­soned

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ILANIT CHERNICK @Lanc_02

IN A heart­break­ing turn of events, two res­cued lions who had found refuge at the Emoya Big Cat Sanc­tu­ary in Lim­popo have been poached. The two males, José and Liso, were among 33 lions res­cued from cir­cuses and ter­ri­ble mis­treat­ment in Colom­bia and Peru.

It’s be­lieved the poach­ers broke into the sanc­tu­ary last week and poi­soned the two big cats, who died as a re­sult. At this stage, the mo­tive for the poach­ing is un­clear.

The co-founders of Emoya, Mi­n­unette Heuser and her daugh­ter Sa­van­nah, de­scribed their dev­as­ta­tion and grief as their “heart be­ing torn in two”.

“They (the killers) have bro­ken my heart. They have bro­ken Sa­van­nah’s heart. This is not just an­other poach­ing in­ci­dent. We are go­ing to unite, stronger than ever, and bring to jus­tice the per­pe­tra­tors who mur­dered our two beloved boys, José and Liso,” Mi­n­unette said.

She said both lions had spe­cial needs as they were visu­ally im­paired and brain dam­aged. De­spite be­ing heart­bro­ken, the for­mi­da­ble pair said these killers “will never break our spirit and the spirit of free­dom that ADI (An­i­mal De­fend­ers In­ter­na­tional) has fought so hard for”.

“We are an­gry and are not go­ing to take this ly­ing down. We are stand­ing to­gether, ev­ery sanc­tu­ary, ev­ery con­ser­va­tion­ist, ev­ery friend of ADI and Emoya – ev­ery one of us – we stand to­gether against il­licit wildlife trade,” she said.

The Heusers made it clear they have 24-hour se­cu­rity and armed pa­trols and have taken im­me­di­ate and added mea­sures to safe­guard their big cats and sanc­tu­ary as in­ves­ti­ga­tions by po­lice and an­tipoach­ing units con­tinue.

“The ter­ri­ble slaugh­ter of wildlife in South Africa and the rest of Africa con­tin­ues to reach des­per­ate pro­por­tions,” said an emo­tional Sa­van­nah.

“Poach­ers are get­ting bolder and ev­ery wildlife refuge, sanc­tu­ary and park has now be­come a tar­get – it is time for us all to stand to­gether,” she said.

Last year, after the 33 lions were moved to South Africa, The Star vis­ited the sanc­tu­ary and spent time with the Heusers and some of the res­cued big cats, learn­ing about their dis­abil­i­ties and the in­cred­i­ble work Emoya has done in con­junc­tion with ADI, who res­cued the lions and fa­cil­i­tated the move to the sanc­tu­ary.

In a state­ment re­leased on Sun­day, ADI deemed it “an evil at­tack”. “This cow­ardly killing of two sweet, el­derly lions, one of whom had suf­fered brain dam­age from blows to the head in the cir­cus, must not be left un­pun­ished.

“The safety of the re­main­ing lions is our top pri­or­ity. ADI and Emoya are re­view­ing all se­cu­rity mea­sures. Armed guards are in place and a range of ad­di­tional se­cu­rity mea­sures are be­ing eval­u­ated, including evac­u­a­tion if nec­es­sary,” said ADI pres­i­dent Jan Creamer.

POACHED: José and Liso were poi­soned at the Emoya Big Cat Sanc­tu­ary in Lim­popo last week. The two were among 33 lions res­cued from cir­cuses in South Amer­ica and re­lo­cated to Emoya.

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