Twenty-five lions rescued in Bolivia from what animal welfare advocates say were miserable conditions, mostly in circuses, are bound for a wildlife refuge in Colorado in a $200,000 airlift.

A law took effect in Bolivia last year prohibiting all animal performances.

Animal Defenders International is underwriting Wednesday's planned airlift from the steamy lowlands city of Santa Cruz to Denver, where the 13 males and 12 females will move into the nearby Wild Animal Sanctuary.

To acclimatize them, the sanctuary has built a 15,000-square-foot biosphere.

ADI president Jan Cramer says most of the lions were dehydrated and suffered from eye and foot infections when recovered.

"The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a dream come true. We know the lions are going to have the life they deserve on these 80 acres. It is more than we could have ever wished for anywhere else," she told the Denver Post.

Cramer also added that Bolivia is the first country to not have performance animals.

It will cost about $8,000 a year to maintain each lion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.