(Photo: Mara 1/CC BY 2.0)

Thirty-three lions start new lives in South Africa, after an environmental group announced that they would be flying the lions to a sanctuary there Friday, having rescued the big cats from circuses in Peru and Colombia. 

Many of them have injuries, or have been declawed, and at least one is missing an eye. But Animal Defenders International, the group behind the flight, said that, ultimately, there will be a happy ending. 

The flight will be the biggest airlift of lions ever, according to the Guardian.

“These lions have endured hell on earth and now they are heading home to paradise,” ADI’s president Jan Creamer said in a statement

The group was able to rescue the lions after both Peru and Colombia banned them from use in circuses, ADI said. They will be sent to a sanctuary north of Johannesburg, after their plane lands.  

Another ADI official told the Guardian that lions from South America had never before been taken to Africa.

“It’s like a fairytale,” he said.