Finding balance between the rescue of abused circus lions and the fascinating cause and effect of a ban that led to the rescue of said lions proves too much for the creators of Lion Ark.
For two years, investigators working undercover for Animal Defenders International (ADI) documented the atrocious living conditions and treatment of circus animals in Bolivia. This investigation led to a ban on animal circuses. Many circuses complied, but a handful defied the ban, forcing ADI to track and rescue the animals, primarily lions.
Tim Phillips’s Lion Ark details ADI’s attempt to save and transport 25 lions from Bolivian circuses to a wild life habitat in the US. The film emphasizes the rescue, but neglects the fascinating story that came before: the two years of undercover investigation that preceded the ban, or how the ban spread to other South American countries.
The scales are instead tipped in favor of pulling animal lovers’ heartstrings by showing 25 lions sitting in horrible cages, then being transported in less horrible cages, nursed back to health, and at last released in a refuge. Heartwarming as that is for any animal lover, what was presented as the point of the movie was blurred.