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Weird & Wild

Watch Ex-Circus Lion Experience Feel of Grass for First Time

Will the Lion had been confined to a cramped cage in Brazil his whole life.

Watch as Will the lion is released in a sanctuary in Brazil after a life in the circus.


How do circus lions retire? Some end up in a sanctuary, where they can live out the remainder of their days in sunshine.

A touching video uploaded to YouTube last week and going viral Wednesday shows the retirement of a circus lion named Will from a life of performances in Brazil.

The footage was uploaded by the nonprofit Rancho dos Gnomos Santuário (known as Ecological Sanctuary Association - Rancho dos Gnomos in English), a sanctuary outside Sao Paulo that has spent the last 24 years taking care of domestic, wild, and exotic animals displaced by abuse, circuses, cockfighting, trafficking, the fur industry, deforestation, accidents, and other issues.

The video shows “the thrilling moment Will experiences, for the first time, the feeling of soil and grass beneath his feet,” according to the Cotia-based sanctuary, which has not responded to a request for comment. (Watch a touching reunion of elephants.)

Before that, Will reportedly spent his life with a traveling circus in Brazil. “For 13 long years, the lion had been confined to a cramped cage and denied any semblance of a normal existence,” the sanctuary wrote.

Resembling a playful house cat, the lion—who is relatively elderly for his species at 13—kneads the grassy ground, which is “tragically, a foreign material for a creature who, up until then, had known only cold metal floors.”

A Menagerie

According to the sanctuary’s website, the facility is currently home to 230 animals, including lions, jaguars, sloths, deer, macaws, parrots, monkeys, otters, dogs, and cats. The sanctuary turns excrement from the animals into fertilizer, recycles graywater, and conducts environmental education programs that have reached about 25,000 children.

“Unfortunately, with the quick growth of Cotia/Sao Paulo, the city is surrounding and pushing us, leaving the animals in vulnerable situations,” the group writes.

The sanctuary hopes to move to a new location in Serra da Mantiqueira but is seeking funding from the public to do so.

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