Two African lions find a home at Colorado’s Wild Animal Sanctuary after Iowa lawsuit

A lioness from Iowa at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. (Courtesy of The Wild Animal Sanctuary)
A lioness from Iowa at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. (Courtesy of The Wild Animal Sanctuary)

Two endangered African lionesses are recovering at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado after being released Monday from an embattled zoo in Iowa.

The older of the two lionesses is in pretty rough shape, said Kent Drotar, director of the Sanctuary Ambassador Program. A California-based animal rights group sued the Cricket Hollow Zoo northeast of Cedar Rapids to release the animals.

On July 21, The Animal Legal Defense Fund presented evidence to an Iowa judge that showed there were “grave concerns” about lionesses’ conditions. The judge allowed Jonwah, 16, and Njjarra, 18, to be examined by a veterinarian and the zoo settled the lawsuit shortly after that, according to a news release.

This was the second case the Animal Legal Defense Fund won against the Cricket Hollow Zoo under the Endangered Species Act. Earlier this summer, four tigers and three lemurs were transferred to new homes.

A lioness from Iowa at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. (Courtesy of The Wild Animal Sanctuary)
A lioness from Iowa at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. (Courtesy of The Wild Animal Sanctuary)
If Jonwah and Njjarra recover, they will join the dozen other lions at The Wild Animal Sanctuary.

“Both have serious medical issues that need to be addressed before they can be released into large acreage habitats,” said Pat Craig, executive director of the sanctuary.

The nonprofit sanctuary is located about 30 miles northeast of Denver in Keenesburg. The 720-acre facility houses about 420 animals — mostly large carnivores who were raised in captivity, Drotar said.

About 40 to 60 animals are sent to Keenesburg each year, he said. The nonprofit has a roughly $13 million budget and gets the majority of its funding from donations.

“We give them as a good life as they can live,” Drotar said. “We can’t think of any place that’s better for them than the wild, but that’s not possible.”

A lioness at the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Iowa, June 30, 2016. The lion was released to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado in August. (Courtesy of The Animal Legal Defense Fund)
A lioness at the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Iowa, June 30, 2016. The lion was released to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado in August. (Courtesy of The Animal Legal Defense Fund)

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Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia covers business and trends for Denverite. He's covered business for The Fort Collins Coloradoan and serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.