Liberated from a circus after 20 years, a mountain lion returns to the wild

In the wild, mountain lions roam large territories, several hundred square miles in some cases. They’re secretive, solitary creatures that take great care to stay away from people. So it shouldn’t be surprising that when an animal that needs a lot of space and prefers to be invisible is kept in captivity, its mental, physical, and emotional health will suffer.

Suffering is all that an unlucky mountain lion named Mufasa had known. He’d probably been born in a South American forest and then captured when he was young. For 20 years, his home was the back of a rusty old pickup truck. Mufasa was part of a traveling circus in Peru, forced to entertain people so the owner could make a little money. Kept in chains, exposed to the elements, annoyed by gawking crowds, and generally mistreated, the mountain lion was trapped in a living hell.

The traveling circus that was holding Mufasa prisoner was probably the last of its kind in Peru. Growing awareness of the inhumane condition animals like him had to endure prompted the legislature to pass a law banning circus animals. Animal Defenders International (ADI) was doing everything it could to help the authorities enforce the new law. When someone dropped a dime on Mufasa’s circus, ADI was there to help police and wildlife officials with the investigation. Mufasa was liberated, but only after a tense 8-hour standoff with the circus owner.

There’s a video of Mufasa’s dramatic rescue posted below. When his chains were removed, he was surprisingly calm, even subdued — it was as if he was so beaten down that he didn’t care anymore. It wasn’t long before his spirits were transformed simply by being free to stretch out and move around. ADI brought Mufasa to the Tambopata nature reserve where he could finally prowl the forest like a normal mountain lion!

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