Ex-Circus Lions Successfully Rehomed in Africa After 10,500 Mile Journey

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Two lions, Jora and Black, were rehomed in South Africa after being rescued from a circus in Bulgaria. Born Free Foundation

Two lions named Jora and Black are roaming free on a South African reserve after being rescued from Bulgaria and traveling over 10,500 miles.

The pair of eight year old lions spent most of their life in the circus, traveling through Turkey and Eastern Europe in a caged wagon. When Bulgaria outlawed wild animal performances in circuses in 2014, Jora and Black were still in cages. Born Free, an animal rescue organization, rescued the pair this past July from Sofia, freeing them from a cramped caged wagon.

This is the first time the lions will be able to roam free since they were cubs. Born Free Foundation

From their home in Bulgaria, the lions traveled to the Borgas Airport to be flown to London's Gatwick Airport this past Friday. They arrived safely and were transported to Heathrow Airport where they prepared for the longest leg of their journey: a flight to Johannesburg. Jora and Black were accompanied by big cat experts who checked on their health.

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After traveling over 10,500 miles, two rescued lions were released on the Shamwari Game Reserve. Born Free Foundation

From the South African airport, the lions had more to travel still: they took a special convoy to the Shamwari Game Reserve, where they arrived Sunday evening.

Once at the spacious 25,000-hectare reserve, the lions fit right in and were already beginning to show signs of returning to their natural, pre-captivity behavior.

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The lions took to their new home in South Africa well. Born Free Foundation

"I am delighted we have been able to take these animals and offer them a permanent home in the African bush. It is a stark contrast from the trucks in which they were first found," Dr. Johan Joubert, head of wildlife at the Shamwari reserve, said in a statement. "These animals have travelled well and show every sign of settling in and reestablishing some of their natural behaviour."