The back of a rusty old pickup truck is no place for any animal to live, let alone a full grown lion. Sadly, that’s exactly where a mountain lion named Mufasa was forced to live his life as part of a traveling roadside circus in Peru.
While the details of Mufasa’s early life remain mostly unknown, it is believed that he had originally been born free in the wild somewhere in South America. He was likely stolen from his mother when he was still very young and sold into captivity shortly thereafter. Over the following 20 years he was mistreated and kept bound up in heavy metal chains while being forced to endure life on the road with the circus.
Life was anything but natural and comfortable for Mufasa. His captors brought him from one town to the next in the back of an old pickup truck, where he was further chained to some old rusty pieces of equipment. He barely had any room to move around and no bed or clean spot to lay on, just a dusty corner surrounded by metal bars and dirt. There was no shelter over his head to protect him from the elements and so the hot sun and pouring rain beat down on him The neglectful state he was held in was shockingly horrible and sad.
The circus that Mufasa was found with was believed to be the last of many in Peru which for years had been illegally using wild animals in their shows. The country recently changed the law and passed a circus animal ban in response to widespread abuse, cruelty, and the sub-par conditions in which most circus animals were kept. The ban made it illegal to keep and/or use animals in circus shows and authorities, with the help of animal advocacy non-profits, including Animal Defenders International (ADI), have been enforcing it strictly.
The ADI group had recently received a tip that the circus was still holding a mountain lion and they accompanied police and local wildlife officials to investigate it further. That’s when they found Mufasa chained up in the back of the truck. What followed was a long, strained eight hour standoff, but eventually the circus surrendered Mufasa and this video captures the emotional moment he was finally released from his heavy chains. The elderly lion can be seen sitting quietly as he patiently waits for officials to cut the harness off and finally free him from a life of captivity and neglect. For the first time in perhaps 20 years he’s able to fully stretch himself out and perform the one action that cats of all types and breeds seem to love best.
Wildlife officials, with the help and support of the many volunteers who’d worked tirelessly to track down and free circus animal all across Peru, transported Mufasa to ADI’s Spirit of Freedom rescue center for rehabilitation. After he’d been checked out and deemed healthy enough to travel, he was taken on a 3 day journey into the Amazon rainforest to his new home. Mufasa will live out the rest of his life at the Tambopata Reserve where he’s free to wander about his new habitat completely unchained. He no longer faces a life full of uncertainty and constant travel and there are no more people gawking at him. Instead, he finally has the chance to spend his final few years in the wild jungle where he’s protected and able to move about on his own, and that is beautiful.