Halloween arrived early at the Animal Defenders International Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa.
The 455-acre sanctuary is home to dozens of animals rescued by Animal Defenders International (ADI), including a group of tigers and lions saved from illegal circuses.
Before arriving at the sanctuary, the big cats lived in cages without proper care as part of illegal circuses in Peru, Colombia, and Guatemala. Now, the animals enjoy large enclosures — designed to replicate life in the wild — at the sanctuary, where there is room to roam, explore, and celebrate.
On Oct. 27, ADI shared that the former circus cats started celebrating Halloween at the sanctuary this week with tasty treats. For the festivities, the lions’ and tigers’ caretakers gave the animals carved pumpkins stuffed with catnip.
Based on photos from the jack-o’-lantern delivery, the big cats were in the Halloween spirit. Shots of the animals show the tigers and lions rubbing, biting, and sniffing the gourds, much like how a house cat treats a catnip mouse.
The pumpkins are part of the enrichment program set up at the ADI sanctuary to keep animals active, curious, and content. The former circus animals enjoy catnip bags, tires, hay bales, and giant play balls throughout the year.
“These animals suffered a lifetime of cruelty and deprivation in the circus, so it is a special joy to see them having fun and living life to the full in their forever home at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa – Happy Halloween!” Jan Creamer, president of ADI, said in a statement.