Mustafa the Mountain Lion (Cougar) was rescued from a miserable life in the Peruvian Circus by Animal Defenders International. He had lived in chains, kept in the back of a pickup truck, but thanks to ADI he was given a new home in the forest. His story has captured the imagination of people around the world, reaching over twelve million view on Youtube.

We’ve been lucky enough to work with Animal Defenders International since 2008, documenting their campaign to end animal suffering in circuses. We’ve followed their every move as they’ve uncovered the suffering, campaigned for change and worked tirelessly to save and re-house the animals, moving them to new homes at sanctuaries in South America, South Africa and the US. As the events unfold we produce a stream of video and stills content, working as part of an international team to helps ADI promote their cause. The viral success of Mustafa’s story is a tribute to the amazing work done by Animal Defenders International, but also to the power of simple, honest storytelling, supported by active online networks. ADI’s Youtube Channel has 10,000 subscribers and their Facebook Page 230,000 likes, but the story has clearly reached way beyond this, driven by the power and presence of the animal rights movement online.

Our work following ADI’S work in Bolivia was made into the award-winning feature length documentary Lion Ark which is distributed by ITV Studios.

Mustafa was rescued from a circus in the badlands of Northern Peru, near the town of Piura. The rescue was the result of a long, tense day of negotiations between the Peruvian legal authorities and the circus owners. Piura’s public prosecutor faced-up to an angry crowd, reading out the letter of the law – that’s the Peruvian penal code in her left hand. Both sides pulled in reinforcements; the circus owners using local radio stations to call in extra muscle and the authorities responding with a contingent of riot police.

A Peruvian legal official spells out the law to Circus owners.
A crane lifts Mustafa's cage onto a truck at the end of a long, tense day.

At the end of a marathon 2-year project, ADI‘s ‘Spirit of Freedom’ reached its spectacular conclusion this month, with the arrival in South Africa of 33 lions rescued from the brutality of circuses in Colombia and Peru. We’ve been following the whole campaign and were in South Africa to film the lions taking their first steps on African soil.

We’ve had the privilege of working with ADI for just over 6 years, following their incredible work as they campaign for animal rights across the globe, and focusing in particular on animal rescues in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. As part of an amazing international team we’ve documented the highs and lows, providing a steady stream of still images and video to help promote, publicise and fund-raise. As the stories have unfolded we’ve worked with ADI’s media team to share them with an international audience; short form videos content is uploaded to Youtube with individual videos receiving over 7 million views. The full story of the 2010 Bolivian rescue was told through ‘Lion Ark’ a feature-length documentary that has won 11 awards at international film festivals and is currently being distributed by ITV. Our footage of the ‘Spirit of Freedom’ campaign will be turned into a series for TV but in the meantime you can see some of it in this South African news piece or read a great account here on the Huffington Post. More importantly the 33 are now settling in to a well earned retirement under the African sun at the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo, South Africa.

Rescued and relocated lions recovering in South Africa, after a tough life in the Peruvian Circus.
Rescued and relocated lions recovering in South Africa, after a tough life in the Peruvian Circus.