116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Two lions at the Cricket Hollow Zoo were transferred this week to a wild sanctuary in Colorado as the result of a lawsuit settlement between an animal rights group and the Manchester zoo owners.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund of California said in a news release Wednesday the two lions, Jonwah, 16, and Njjara, 18, were transferred on Monday to Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg, Colo.
The big cats had been temporarily moved to the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines last month after a federal judge granted the defense fund an injunction to have a veterinarian treat them before the suit was settled.
The defense fund sued zoo owners, Pam and Tom Sellner, claiming the lions, which are classified as endangered animals, were not receiving proper care. The group won a previous similar lawsuit against the zoo over the treatment of lemurs and tigers. 'Our primary concern is for the lions' health and well-being,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said Wednesday. 'The success of these lawsuits set a new standard for the way endangered species can be treated in captivity, and we will continue to fight for other animals' release to reputable sanctuaries.”
Pat Craig, executive director of the Wild Sanctuary, said in the news release that Jonwah and Njjarra are under veterinary treatment in the sanctuary's Bolivian Lion House.
'Their condition is being assessed and treated, Craig said. 'Granting their health allows, after rehabilitation they will join an existing lion pride and live out their days in social groups with access to the quality veterinary care that is so necessary for their health and well-being.”
Larry Thorson, the Sellner's lawyer, didn't respond to a request for comment.
The Colorado sanctuary is the largest nonprofit carnivore sanctuary in the world, with over 400 rescued Lions, Tigers, Bears, Wolves, Leopards and other carnivores living in large acreage natural habitats, according to its website. The sanctuary, established in 1980, operates a 720-acre refuge for abused, abandoned and confiscated carnivores, and specializes in rehabilitating captive wildlife so they can be released into natural habitats to live.
U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade found there was a 'threat of immediate and irreparable injury” based on affidavits provided by veterinarians and other animal professionals, who described conditions of the lions' care. She ordered the Sellners to allow a vet to examine the lions.
After losing the first lawsuit, the Sellners were ordered by a federal judge to transfer their lemurs and tigers to other Midwest facilities, which could provide better care.