Lions await trip to US refuges

The last of Bolivia's rescued circus lions — 12 females and five males — are now in the hands of animal rights activists, who say the big cats will be sent to wildlife refuges in the United States.

An Associated Press photographer visited the lions on Wednesday.

The felines, though still caged, were under the care of Animal Defenders International. ADI obtained them from circuses that gave them up in compliance with a pioneering Bolivian law that took effect in July prohibiting the use of all animals, domestic and wild, in circuses.

In May, ADI sent four lions to a sanctuary in California. In September, a baboon was sent to a primate center in Britain.

ADI is feeding the lions red meat and vitamin supplements — a big improvement from the chicken parts they received as circus animals — and covering veterinarian and other costs.

ADI spokeswoman Karla Velez told the AP that the organization is evaluating various offers from refuges in the U.S. to take the 17 lions. She said no date has been set for their departure.