3139134.largeIn another victory for circus animals rescued in Peru, 39 of them are now free from their past lives and enjoying their new home in the Amazon rainforest.

The animals, including several native species of monkeys, coati mundis and kinkajous, were rescued by Animal Defenders International (ADI) in partnership with Peruvian authorities, following the country’s 2011 ban on circus animals.

The rescue effort, dubbed Operation Spirit of Freedom, has lasted for months and has saved almost 80 animals from a life of exploitation in circuses and the illegal wildlife trade.

After spending three months constructing new habitats at the Pilpintuwasi Wildlife Sanctuary in the Amazon, these animals were finally flown over 600 miles from ADI’s Spirit of Freedom rescue center in Lima to Iquitos by the Peruvian Air Force and taken by boat down the Amazon River with support from the Navy.

The mission includes animals like Pepe, a lonely spider monkey whose touching love story reached us on Valentine’s day when he finally got the companionship of another of his kind after spending eight years alone chained by the neck.

Now, Pepe and dozens of others will be able to live out their days in an environment that’s as close to their natural habitat as it gets, where they’ll have plenty of space to explore and the opportunity to socialize with each other. According to ADI, while all of their futures are secure at their new home, some may be eligible for release in the future.

ADI President Jan Creamer described the effort in a statement:

The grueling 15-hour relocation operation began at 2am, and we raced against a tight schedule to catch and load the monkeys, coatis and kinkajous into their travel crates. We traveled by road, air and river across Peru to reach the animals’ forever home in the Amazon rainforest. Our team gave the animals treats and held nervous individuals’ hands to keep them calm during the flight. All the animals were torn from the wild, so it was magical to take them back to the jungle. After Pepe the spider monkey was released, he gave me a big hug before heading out into the trees. One by one, all the animals scampered from their crates into their wonderful new homes.

The move to the jungle marks one of the last phases of this operation. For the next part, 33 lions and a tiger will be flown from Peru to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado this June.

In even more good news, those big cats will be joined by Cholita, an abused bear who was being kept illegally by a circus. Since we first heard about this elderly Andean bear’s heartbreaking story, she has been moved to ADI’s rescue center in Lima where she’s getting the love and care she deserves as she’s prepared for the journey to her new home.

Victory 39 Rescued Circus Animals Returned to the Jungle | Care2 Causes.