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Projects Abroad and ADI successfully rehome rescued circus animals at Taricaya

Projects Abroad Peru Conservation staff and volunteers transfer rescued circus animals to Taricaya Ecological Reserve in partnership with Animal Defenders International

Last month, we were thrilled to announce that Projects Abroad and Animal Defenders International (ADI) have joined forces to rehome rescued circus animals. In an exciting update, the first group of these animals have arrived at their new home in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest.

ADI has been working in Peru as part of their ‘Operation Spirit of Freedom’ campaign, rescuing mistreated animals from neglectful and abusive treatment in Peruvian circuses. This operation has been a huge collaboration with CITES and the Peruvian government and military. To date, they have successfully confiscated over 100 individual animals in this campaign alone.

Our new partnership with ADI has seen eight animals rehomed at Taricaya Ecological Reserve, where Projects Abroad has been operating since 2001. Two of these animals have captured the hearts of the international community due to their tragic stories.

Projects Abroad Peru welcomes eight rescued animals to Taricaya

The first is Cholita, an elderly spectacled bear whose abuse was abhorrent. The circus owners chopped off her front toes to remove her claws and pulled her teeth out to stop her biting. Spectacled bears are the last remaining short-faced bear species on the planet and South America's only bear. Their natural habitat is dense jungle and they are elusive and hard to find. Deforestation and hunting have significantly reduced their numbers. Cholita had spent over 20 years in a tiny cage being poked by curious circus-goers and being fed too little. An adult spectacled bear can reach 330 pounds, but Cholita weighs less than 110 pounds.

Projects Abroad Peru Conservation staff and volunteers build new homes for rescued circus animals at Taricaya Ecological Reserve in partnership with Animal Defenders InternationalThe second case of note is that of Mufasa, a male mountain lion. Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, have a huge range and can be found from Canada all the way to Argentina. There are thought to be several subspecies of this cat and they can survive high in the mountains or deep in the jungle. Mufasa, as this male is called, is another elderly rescue from a circus and while he has all his claws and teeth, serious malnourishment means that he is too small to be an effective predator. His stunted growth is irreparable but with the proper diet and exercise provided at Taricaya, we are optimistic that he will gain weight.

Brown woolly monkeys Rojas, Joan, and Diego, Peruvian spider monkeys Pepe-Lucho and Lily, and James the military macaw have also joined Cholita and Mufasa at their new home. The animals have all come from similar backgrounds of abuse and mistreatment. Once their quarantine period of 60 days is over, the primates will be united with our resident troops of the same species and the macaw will join our other two macaws to freely move around the center as they regrow their flight feathers and strengthen their muscles.

Making Taricaya home: creating enclosures in the jungle

Providing adequate enclosures for Cholita and Mufasa proved to be a challenging task. There was a huge amount of preparation and manual labor required. Together with a team from ADI, our staff and volunteers quickly began clearing the areas and preparing materials. Due to limited time and a pressing need to relocate the animals, working days were lengthened, physical reserves exhausted, and everybody involved was pushed to work harder than ever.

With much dedication, the two enclosures were completed in less than four weeks. Mufasa's enclosure is 360m2, complete with a roof, while Cholita's enclosure is an impressive 600m2 and has a bathing pool and cave for her to enjoy.

A new life begins for the animals as they adjust to their freedom

Mufasa, the mountain lion rescued from a lifetime of mistreatment at a Peruvian circus, can be seen enjoying his new home at Taricaya Ecological Reserve, PeruThe ADI team began their journey to transfer the animals on September 2nd, preparing the vehicles and cages to be as comfortable as possible for the animals during the 1000 mile journey across the Andes. After much anticipation and a long and tiring journey to Taricaya, the rescued animals finally arrived at their new home on September 5th.

The animals settled in very well during their first week at Taricaya and are thoroughly enjoying their new home in the jungle, which provides a habitat similar to their natural one. They are slowly adjusting to having large spaces and natural stimuli, which they never experienced previously during their years spent in captivity. Projects Abroad staff and volunteers will continue to monitor and care for them and ensure that they adapt well to their new environment.

With the success of this first project, we are now expecting to rehome a further three bears later this year, with two set to arrive at the end of the month. We are hopeful that these bears can become companions for Cholita, who has lived in isolation her entire life.

ADI is urgently appealing for donations to fund the bears' new homes at Taricaya. Send your support today.

Read more about the Rainforest Conservation Project in Peru.

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