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A few months earlier this year, one of the numerous circus that toured Peru, caught the attention of Animal Defenders International. The team decided to make an ambush hoping to find well treated animals but instead they came across one of the most extreme cases of abuse. Click through the slideshow to learn about Cholita, a bear who lost all of her fur because of the stress. What happened in the end, will bring you in tears!

20. A Strange Creature

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What could this strange and lonely creature -that looks like it comes from an ancient mythology book- actually be? This was what the members of Animal Defenders International thought during an unexpected raid on a circus in north Peru. Circuses have a bad reputation regarding animal rights and the team of ADI was expecting the worse… No one could imagine what they found out,

19. Cholita!

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The day of the raid the ADI team discovered Cholita, an endangered Andead bear that had been extremely abused and neglected. The poor bear lost all her fur because of the stress and living under awful conditions. The team was shocked, they hadn’t have seen a case of abuse like this ever before…

18. They Had Cut Her Fingers

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During the raid, Jan Creame, the president of ADI, came face to face with the bear, only to be scarred for the rest of his life. The circus not only did abuse Cholita but they also had cut her fingers in order to remove her claws. Jan Creame couldn’t believe it.

17. Abuse


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Jan wished that this was all of it but he unfortunately realized that the poor bear had endured many more things. The circus. broke her teeth and they pushed her so much, that she lost all of her fur because of the stress. ADI members were shocked. ” Her teeth were broken. And she was almost completely hairless and “barely recognizable as an endangered spectacled bear,”, Jan said.

16. They Acted Immediately

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The members of ADI were so shocked that they refused to leave the circus if they didn’t take Cholita with them. Thankfully, after informing the local authorities, ADI managed to take Cholita with them, after long and hard negotiations.

15. Where Would Cholita Go?

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As it turned out though, Cholita couldn’t stay in any local shelter so the team had to transfer her at a local zoo where she could have the space and time to relax and try to recover. It was obviously a big relief for Cholita and the rescuers to see her finally a little bit happier. But there were still problems…

14. Negotiations

2 Cholita And Adi President Ja

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It was the beginning of a long and demanding process for ADI. They had to negotiate with the local authorities as well as the zoo to obtain full custody of Cholita and maybe get her in the US. If this was successful as Tim Phillips, vice president of ADI, put it:  “we will collect Cholita next week and move her to the ADI temporary custody center. Our veterinary team will be able to monitor her and prepare her for [a flight to the U.S.].”

13. Had To Get The Permit

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As Tun said, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service would most likely authorize Cholita to enter the U.S but Peruvian authorities had to agree. At this point it was them who had the full custody of Cholita and had to agree to an export.

12. A Flight To Safety

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Adi was hoping to fly Cholita all the way to Colorado, in The Wild Animal Sanctuary where Cholita could enjoy over 720 acres of space. The sanctuary was big and offered species-specific habitat as well as mental supervision of the animals. Cholita would surely use that!

11. Cholita Wasn’t Alone

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But this wasn’t only for Cholita. The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, working with ADI, wanted to import 33 other former lions from the same circus that ADI also rescued. Those poor souls were rescued from Peru and Colombia under an operation conducted by ADI named: “Operation Spirit of Freedom”

10. Ready To Welcome Them

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The staff of the sanctuary in Colorado, was eager from the first moments they saw pictures of Cholita, to welcome her in and try to relieve her pain as much as they could. The staff was siting in the edge of its seat, waiting for the final decision to be made.

9. Special Care

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Of course, having the full custody of Cholita wasn’t easy. The poor was so afraid and mentally unstable that the crew had to treat her very carefully. “Cholita will require special care, especially with her skin problem and because her toes are cut back severely for declawing,” . “The hair issue will also require some care, but a lot of it will resolve itself because it is stress-based.”, the executive director stated.

8. Time To Recover

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Craig also said that her condition is so rare that they would not introduce her to the other bears immediately. “Bears like to be together when they are healthy and happy”, Craig says, and obviously Cholita has a long road ahead of her to be healthy and happy. But she will make it!

7. Paddington Bear

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Cholita is a reminiscent of “Paddigton bear” (after the popular kid’s tale)  and she is often cited as a real life one. Her story though isn’t something that we could find in a story book for kids.


6. Finally Approved!

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After months of negotiations ADI managed to obtain full custody of Cholita, as well as the right to move the 33 lions. It was time for them all to be introduced into their new forever home, where they will have a chance to feel loved and live healthy.

5. Finally In The US

9 Cholita Loaded On Boat

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Cholita was finally introduced into her new forever home in Colorado, after a 1.000 mile journey across the the Andes and then by boar though the south coast of the US. The team didn’t manage to get the lions and Cholita in a flight but they found a way around it!


4. Enjoying Her New Home

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Cholita’s new home was perfect. For the first time of her life she had all the space she could ever ask for, complete freedom and her very own bathing pool! ADI says that she will never be release back in the wild but she will find her peace and slowly recover.

3. Dark Past

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“When we first met Cholita, the vivid scars of her abusive circus life were clear to see. She has come so far since then, and it is a wonderful feeling to have seen Cholita return to the world from which she was stolen as a baby. We thank everyone who has donated to help us save Cholita and bring her home,” Jan said in an interview shortly after Cholita’s arrival in Colorado.

2. Getting Social


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As Cholita started to become more energetic, the staff of the sanctuary observed that she wanted company. Soon they introduced her to the other bears in the sanctuary and Cholita made her first friends of her life! She was looking happy and healthy.

1. No Bear Left Behind


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While Cholita seems to have finally recovering, ADI got a call for three other spectacled bears who needed them. By watching Cholita being so happy, they realized that they had to do the same for them too. We wish them the best of luck!


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