A beautiful mountain lion who had lived in chains for two decades as part of a traveling circus was finally freed by wildlife officials and activists who brought the wild animal back to its rightful place in a Peruvian forest.
Mufasa the mountain lion was chained for 20 years to the back of a pick-up truck amid piles of rusting circus equipment.
Though Peru has banned circuses from using wild animals, Mufasa lived with a heavy harness strapped to his body and was forced to perform as his captors evaded the law and moved between remote villages.
He was finally freed from his chains when the Animal Defenders International (ADI) and wildlife officials raided the circus and rescued Mufasa, video captured by ADI shows.
The elderly cat, believed to have been the last wild animal in a South American circus, sat still as his bindings were cut off and he stretched when they were finally taken away.
“It is magical to see him moving about in and out of the trees in his own piece of protected forest,” said Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International.
Creamer, who led the rescue team in Peru, added: “Mufasa was torn from the wild and has endured the worst possible life and will need special care so I hope people will help us give him a wonderful retirement by making a donation today.”
ADI had received a tip that a circus was operating illegally with wild animals in an isolated village in northern Peru, the group said.
After an eight-hour stand-off with the circus, ADI and law enforcement officials were given Mufasa. A condor was also surrendered.
Mufasa, who is believed to have been taken from the wild as a baby, was brought to ADI’s Spirit of Freedom rescue center near Lima to rehabilitate.
He then made a three-day journey by land and water to the edge of Tambopata reserve in the Amazon rainforest, where he will spend the rest of his days.
“Mufasa’s story symbolizes the suffering we have ended. He was kept for years in chains in a truck, sleeping on metal, barely able to move. An unbearable torture. Now, in his twilight years, I hope people will help us give him back the life the circus stole from him,” Creamer said.
Almost 100 animals in similar situations to Mufasa have been rescued and rehomed as part of Operation Spirit of Freedom.
The year-long mission is expected to cost ADI more than $1.5 million and is funded entirely by donations. To donate to the cause, visit here.