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Lion who was rescued from a cruel circus roams free in the African bush

Roar-inspiring! Lion who was rescued from a cruel circus roams free in the African Bush two years after she was saved

  • Sasha the rescued lioness is fighting fit again and free to roam the African bush 
  • The nine-year-old was among the animals saved from circuses in Guatemala
  • Vets hope she will be roaming free in the next fortnight after her successful op

A little over two years ago she faced a death sentence, having been rescued from a cruel circus life in such a pitiful state vets feared they could not save her.

But after a groundbreaking operation to save her leg, Sasha the lioness is fighting fit again and free to roam the African bush.

The nine-year-old was among five lions and 12 tigers saved from circuses in Guatemala, where they were beaten and kept in tiny cages, fed on scraps and forced to perform three times a day.

Sasha is being kept in an enclosure as her leg builds up strength but vets hope she will be roaming free in the next fortnight

A UK wildlife charity waged a long battle to free them, then began the complicated and sometimes dangerous business of transporting them to a sanctuary in South Africa, dealing with gangsters, crooked officials and red tape.

Sasha had spent six years in gruelling conditions and had a painful, debilitating limp from being crudely declawed by her trainers to stop her from mauling them. 

It crushed her toe and caused an infection to spread bone cancer through her right front leg, leaving her at risk of losing the limb and being put to sleep.

Animal Defenders International organised pioneering surgery which replaced 8cm of diseased bone with a titanium rod, support mesh and medical cement to stimulate natural bone to grow back.

Hellish: Sasha’s cramped circus cage

Pioneering: During op to save leg

Sasha’s cramped circus cage is seen left, while she is seen during her operation to save her leg. Sasha had spent six years in gruelling conditions

Rescue: Jan Creamer, of UK charity Animal Defenders International (pictured above). ‘Sasha is such a sweet personality but she’s also a fighter,’ she said

Rescue: Jan Creamer, of UK charity Animal Defenders International (pictured above). ‘Sasha is such a sweet personality but she’s also a fighter,’ she said

She is pictured above being released into a sanctuary. Sasha is unusual for a lioness as she has a small mane from a condition which means she has excess testosterone

She is pictured above being released into a sanctuary. Sasha is unusual for a lioness as she has a small mane from a condition which means she has excess testosterone

The four-hour operation was a success and Sasha has taken her first steps at the 450-acre ADI sanctuary near Johannesburg.

She is being kept in an enclosure as her leg builds up strength but vets hope she will be roaming free in the next fortnight.

Tim Phillips, vice-president of the charity which worked with MailOnline to highlight the lions’ plight, said: ‘Sasha is pain-free at last after such a desperate start to her life. We thought she was doomed as she’d have struggled if we couldn’t save the leg.’

Sasha is unusual for a lioness as she has a small mane from a condition which means she has excess testosterone.

‘Sasha is such a sweet personality but she’s also a fighter,’ said Jan Creamer, president of ADI.

‘She existed in an oppressive environment where every day was full of fear. It has been a long, tough road to get these lions and tigers to safety but it is wonderful to witness.’

To learn more about ADI or make a donation, go to https://adiwildlifesanctuary.org.za 

Tim Phillips, vice-president of the charity which worked with MailOnline to highlight the lions’ plight, said: ‘Sasha is pain-free at last after such a desperate start to her life. We thought she was doomed as she’d have struggled if we couldn’t save the leg'

Tim Phillips, vice-president of the charity which worked with MailOnline to highlight the lions’ plight, said: ‘Sasha is pain-free at last after such a desperate start to her life. We thought she was doomed as she’d have struggled if we couldn’t save the leg’

Carrie’s wild about her Big Cat challenge

Carrie Symonds has revealed her first project in her new role at a conservation charity – helping to ‘rewild’ two cheetahs in Zimbabwe.

Boris Johnson’s 32-year-old fiancee has been appointed the head of communications at the Aspinall Foundation, which runs Port Lympne and Howletts wildlife parks in Kent. Miss Symonds said: ‘Just this weekend we are rewilding two cheetahs, brothers named Kumbe and Jabari, from captivity in Canada to a conservancy in Zimbabwe.’

The new job comes nine months after she gave birth to Wilfred. Miss Symonds was pictured wearing a cheetah-print hair band, and she welcomed her first day in her new role by posting a photo of her son in a cheetah-patterned onesie on Instagram. 

She has been hailed as the driving force behind the end of the badger cull.

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