Well! I’m here in San Francisco, working with the Animal Defenders International San Francisco team, and we’ve been on pins and needles waiting to get the go-ahead from Jan in Bolivia. I’ve just gotten off the phone with her, and it looks like all systems are a go. Mel, the vet, has checked the crates and has checked the lions — everyone’s doing well. I think that we’re going to start boarding in a few hours. The San Francisco team has been ready for several days. There’s been a tremendous amount of patience, and of course there’ve been some last minute challenges. But.
From the beginning of this whole adventure there’s been a mountain of obstacles. It started with the volcano in Iceland. There was an airline strike in the UK. There was strikes in Bolivia — roadblocks went up, riots ensued. There’s been just ginormous amounts of paper work that needed to get filled to get lions through two countries. Paperwork you would anticipant when you’re moving large cats, but there’s also been some human paperwork issues as well. Just tonight, getting off the phone with Jan, we found out that the aircraft is broken down. So now we’re hoping, and we’re wishing, like we’ve done almost every night about something, that the replacement aircraft arrives soon and the lions will, indeed, be in the air in several hours.
In the past weeks, the incredible habitat for the lions, at the Performing Animal Welfare Society Ark 2000 sanctuary, here in California, has been completed. The lions will have individual dens, feeding areas and, most importantly, will be able to roam in a large, natural, enclosure. ADI has paid for this enclosure, and will pay for the care of these animals for the rest of their lives. Remember when we first saw these lions, they were living in a rusting cage, of the back of a truck, with a traveling circus in Bolivia. In 48 hours, they will feel the grass beneath their feet for the first time ever.
For the past week, the ADI team in San Francisco has been working out of a hotel, completing the paperwork and getting ready for the move. Every day they get the video footage and photographs from Jan and the team in Bolivia, and edit it for online updates and for the media. Each day, the media teams in Bolivia and the USA are sending out news alerts in English and Spanish. ADI will need to care for these animals for the rest of their lives, and we hope that will be a long time. So we are launching an adoption scheme to raise money to care for the lions, and today our teams are hitting the streets of San Francisco, promoting the scheme.
Out at San Francisco Airport, we have assessed the site where the lions will arrive, we will be unloading them, checking that they are okay, giving them a good, solid, drink of water, and then they’ll be loaded onto the truck for the journey to their new home at Ark 2000.
Well, I’ll be back with another update tomorrow, when these amazing animals finally arrive. I can’t wait. I know none of us are going to sleep a wink, and we’ll see you tomorrow.