FOUR abused lions have been rescued from a “circus from hell” that left the animals with open wounds and needing tail amputations.
Horrific pictures show the “very distressed” and “scarred” lions – Hannah, Patty, Celeste and Marli – which were rescued from a travelling circus in France.
Animal rights organisation One Voice helped rescue the big cats from the Cirque de Paris.
The circus was intercepted in France near the Belgian border a few days after an inspection was ordered by the French authorities after campaigning by the group.
One Voice are now the legal guardians of the four lionesses after the authorities determined that the animals were being mistreated.
The animal rights group have said this is the first time in France that animals have been seized from a circus for the the sole reason that they were being mistreated after action from campaigners.
It comes after an emaciated lion named Jon was also found at the horrific sideshow.
The magnificent beast had been left having to have his tail amputated after being found severely malnourished.
The four lionesses have been transferred to the Tonga Terre d’accueil animal refuge, who work closely with One Voice, ahead of being reunited with Jon.
One Voice president Muriel Arnal said: “Today the fate of Jon and his companions shows that circuses do not only make animals suffer, they also make them die.”
She added: “We are dealing with wild animals which are disappearing in the wild, and which we inflict the worst cruelties in all illegality.
“Whenever we sounded the alarm for them, we were offered meetings. But where are the actions?”
Ms Arnal said One Voice hope new French ecological minister Barbara Pompili will be ready to take action against travelling circuses.
She added: “In the meantime, if we have to rescue these circus animals one by one, we will do it.”
French authorities are filing a complaint against the circus for the mistreatment of Hannah, Patty, Celeste and Marli, and will also be stripping it of its certificate of competence.
The certificate allows the circus’s trainer to handle the animals.
Ms Arnal said that the operation to save the four lionesses “went very well”.
But she added that the lionesses have “handicaps”, “were very stressed”, and vets do not know “if we can heal them”.
Ms Arnal said the lions had “lots of scars”, with one in particular being “very thin” and “unable to stand up”.
She said “one is very afraid of everything” and it took them “an hour and a half just to get her to leave the transport box” she was in.
The animal rights activist lamented that they gave one “a ball to play with” and she defended it ferociously “because she had never had a toy like that”.
She said “another appeared to discover wood for the first time” and enjoyed scratching it with her claws.
Ms Arnal said: “That one has her claws, but it is currently unclear if the other three had been declawed.
One Voice has said it will “see the trainers in court where they will have to answer for the mistreatment inflicted on these five lions”.
In a statement, One Voice said: “If a circus wants to save money or no longer needs its animals, it will starve them until death ensues.
“In any case, the Ministry of Ecology does not have a register of these animals belonging to endangered species, and feline traffickers, omnipresent between circuses, immediately replace them.”