In July of this year Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner was among the first to review the film Lion Ark, the documentary of the amazing rescue of 25 lions from Bolivia South America by Animal Defenders International (ADI) . The article was titled Lion Ark Roars and. Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner gave the film five stars.
Much has happened since Chicago Animal Advocacy last reviewed ADI co founders Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips. One of the more exciting things is Lion Ark currently being shown at film festivals from London to Hawaii This reporter recently caught up with these Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips who granted him an interview.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Jan and Tim the The story of your rescue of 25 Lions from circuses in Bolivia is amazing. If I remember correctly you had prepared a sanctuary for them in Colorado. How are they adjusting to their new surroundings?
Jan Creamer: The Lions doing really well in Colorado; ColoColo has settled and is much happier; Campeon who was the lion who was sick has really grown well and now has a large black mane like his father. His legs will always be stunted, but he is stronger than ever. His mother and sisters never left his side, throughout.
The cubs are huge, Percy and Bob are larger than their Dad! The new prides created from the singles and pairs have done really well. Pancho, Temuco, Chitara, Dalila and Kenya. Kimba's blind eye has been stabilized and he is spending his final happy years with other lions (he was 15 years old when we moved him.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: How large in size are the areas the lions have to roam, and is the refuge open to the public.
Tim Phillips: There are different areas for different groups and they have underground dens. The largest area is 25 acres. And yes it is open to the public. We have built walkways above the lions so visitors can view them. This works out really well because the humans don’t stress the lions.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Can you provide a brief overview of what led to the rescue?
Jan Creamer: ADI had a two-year undercover investigation of animal circuses in several countries in South America that led to public outrage at animal cruelty in circuses. The pubic called for action in each country, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and others.
Tim Phillips: In Bolivia, public demands for action prompted the Congress to ban animal circuses and the personal support of President Morales helped push the measure through.The circuses were given a year to dispose of their animals.Eight circuses defied the law, so the Bolivian Wildlife Department asked us to return and help with seizures and relocation of the animals. Native wildlife were returned to protected areas. Exotic wildlife, the African lions, had to be removed from the country. It needed to be one main airlift so I called it 'Operation Lion Ark'.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Do you have additional film festivals on your schedule?
Jan Phillips: Yes – we have been selected by Virginia Film Festival and Anchorage International Film Festival. These have been added to the next part of our tour – so we will be doing Ft Lauderdale, Virginia, Denver and then Anchorage in December.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: When did you decide to document these incredible rescues with film?
Tim Phillips: As we concluded the final arrangements for Operation Lion Ark, I felt strongly that we should film it properly and so we agreed that we would take Red cameras and a film crew to record events. This story was the most complete campaign we could show, from undercover investigations to public awareness and political action, to legislation and then the final rescue. We felt that a movie or a TV series would get people up close and personal with the animals and with a rescue – by following the story, they would understand why animal circuses are wrong.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: You two have been busy since we first met.
Jan Creamer: Yes, the International debut of Lion Ark was October 1 at the Raindance film festival in London,.then on October 5 the US premier was at the Valley Mill Film festival
Tim Phillips. We were positively overwhelmed by the positive response at the San Diego Film Festival where Lion Ark won won the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the San Diego Film Festival.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: I understand you have just returned from a Film Festival in Hawaii. How did Lion Ark do there?
Jan Creamer: The main Hawaiian International Film Festival ends on October 20, but many people said that everyone was talking about Lion Ark, we had quite a buzz, and the audience reaction was great. So the Lion Ark run has been extended to the islands sectiion of the festival, two extra screenings. We think that is a good sign!
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Do you have additional Festivals on your schedule?
Jan Creamer: Yes we have been selected by Virginia Film Festival and Anchorage International Film Festival. These have been added to the next part of our tour – so we will be doing Ft Lauderdale, Virginia, Denver and then Anchorage in December.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Is there a possibility for an Academy Award nomination?
Tim Phillips : We would be very honored if Lion Ark were to be nominated, of course, and we have two qualifying runs in Los Angeles and New York in the hope of showing the Academy that this film is a serious contribution. What audiences are finding is different about Lion Ark is that the audience is up close and in the thick of the action of an animal rescue and they get closer to understanding these animals and what they are experiencing than they ever could any other way.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Have any other countries followed the lead of Bolivia?
Tim Phillips: Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Greece have followed Boliva. Brazil and Great Britain are discussing a ban.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What current projects or upcoming projects are on the horizon?
Jan Creamer: The next most important project is to empty Peru of its circus animals – the Peru government has asked us to help and we are starting the arrangements now; finding out how many animals, which species, what native wildlife needs to be moved, what exotic animals need to be relocated. So far we have found lions and tigers and we are fundraising to cover this whole operation. And it looks like Colombia will allow us to help there, too.
Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Jan and Tim, thank you for your time. The work you do is truly awesome from investigation, to gaining political action, to legislation to rescue of the animals. Good luck in raising funds for your efforts in Peru.
Tim Phillips: You are welcome Keith, and thank you for your support. Chicago Animal Advocacy was one of the first to let the world know that as a film Lion Ark roars.