South American circus cats heading for new life in Tampa

- Bay Area big cat fans are getting a really cool Christmas present -- actually three, if all goes well.

Big Cat Rescue in Citrus Park is expecting three tigers that are now in a temporary holding facility in Guatemala. Kimba, Simba, and Max, are all former circus performers now under the care of the activist group Animal Defenders International.

"They are reaching out to sanctuaries such as Big Cat Rescue to re-home these animals," explained Big Cat Rescue spokeswoman Susan Bass.

The cats are coming to Big Cat Rescue from Guatemala. But Guatemala, like a growing number of countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Peru, are banning exotic animal acts. As a result, there is a glut of former performers that need to find new homes and new lives.

Dozens are waiting in the temporary sanctuary in Guatemala, many of them lions. Animal Defenders International is setting up a permanent sanctuary in South Africa and plans to eventually move them there.

"It is a joy to see these animals finally get out of their little circus cages they have been living in, where they have been forced to perform," Bass told FOX 13.

Wherever they end up, it is not going to be cheap to maintain them. Each cat is expected to cost $10,000 a year for food, vet care and other things.

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