Twenty-five rescued Bolivian lions who were flown to the U.S. for a new start received quite the welcome when they were unloaded from a plane in Colorado yesterday to yells of 'Come on down!'
On hand to greet big cats, most of who were given salvation from circuses in the South American country, was former The Price Is Right host Bob Barker, renowned for the popular catchphrase.
As the first caged animal was moved off the plane, Barker yelled, 'Lion No. 1, come on down,' mimicking the way contestants were introduced on his game show.
Nervous flyer: Fida, who was saved from a travelling circus, looks petrified while waiting at an airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Now boarding: A Bolivian army officer walks among the cages of the rescued lions before they are loaded onto a plane to America
Thirsty: One of 25 lions rescued from Bolivian circuses gets a drink of water in its shipping crate after landing in Denver, Colarado
The 14 males and 11 females landed at Denver International Airport in the afternoon and were then unloaded into a maintenance hangar where police officers armed with assault rifles stood by as a precaution.
The lions were saved from deplorable conditions after a law was passed last year in Bolivia prohibiting all performances involving animals, Animal Defenders International said.
Most of the lions were dehydrated and suffered from eye and foot infections when rescued, the group has said.
Bumpy flight: A lion roars at Animal Defenders International vice president Tim Phillips after landing in Denver yesterday
Loading up: The special containers are prepared to be moved onto an airplane at Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz
Cheers: CSI actress Jorja Fox and former The Price Is Right host Bob Barker were at the Denver airport awaiting the arrival of the rescued animals. As the first caged lion was moved off the plane, Barker yelled, 'Lion No. 1, come on down,' mimicking the way contestants were introduced on his game show
Barker, who is a keen animal advocate, helped finance the $200,000 airlift.
He was on hand to welcome Operation Lion Ark and said he was excited to see the animals headed to a sanctuary where they will have room to roam.
'They will be the happiest little babies you ever met,' Barker told reporters.
Barker said he hopes someday no circuses will have animal acts.
Former life: Two of the lions who were given salvation from captivity in Bolivia are seen in cages in Santa Cruz
Captivity: The big cats, seen here held in tiny cages in Santa Cruz, will now live at a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado
While three cubs were in one cage with their mother, the rest travelled in their own cages, accompanied by a veterinarian.
Before leaving Santa Cruz, Bolivia, they were given sleep medication.
The lions will now be trucked to their new home at the Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesburg, about 35 miles north-east of Denver.
A 15,000sq ft biosphere was built to help them adjust to the chillier climate.
The sanctuary is already home to about 270 wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears and wolves.
Landed safely: Airport staff in a United Airlines hangar in Denver unload the animals
Read more: Bob Barker greets 25 rescued lions flown from Bolivia to U.S. | Mail Online