Former Circus Lion Gets Her First Toy Ever, Her Reaction Is Incredible

Nena the lioness spent the first 10 years of her life in a tiny rusty cage. She was living a rough life and she would constantly be performing for the circus that kept her locked up. Then one day, she was finally rescued. You won’t believe the look on her face when she got her first toy ever!

20. Nena

Image: The Dodo

Xena the lioness started off the first ten years of her life living inside of a tiny, rusty cage. She shared the cage with two other lions as well, Kimba and Sasha. The three of them had barely any room inside of the packed cage.

19. Circus

Image: The Dodo

Nena was being held by a Guatemalan circus called Circo Navarro. The circus expected the lions to perform tricks and entertain tons of crowds. However, the lions were so packed in that they could barely do anything.

18. Declawed

Image: Mulpix

The only time the lions got to get out of the cage was when they were expected to perform. In order to prevent Nena from attacking the circus trainers, she was declawed. This caused permanent damage to her paws.

17. Years

Image: The Dodo

Nena spent year after year performing for crowds of people. She was absolutely miserable and the circus trainers would punish the lioness if she didn’t perform the way they expected. It was a sad existence for poor Nena.

16. New Law

Image: Facebook/Animal Defenders International

Then in April 2017, Guatemala passed a new law that stated that live animals could no longer be used in circus acts. While this was the start of something good, things unfortunately didn’t improve for Nena and the two others lions.

15. Loopholes

Image: The Dodo

Even though the law was passed, the circus found a loophole around it. Instead of including the lions in the circus act, they just kept the three of them outside of the circus on display in their tiny cage. They used them as a way to attract more people.

14. ADI

Image: The Dodo

However, help would soon find its way to the three lions. Sure enough, the Animal Defenders International (ADI) heard about the terrible conditions that the lions were living in. They knew that they had to step in and help the lions.

13. Helping Out

Image: Facebook/Animal Defenders International

So the ADI negotiated with the circus for months. It wasn’t easy, but after a ton of negotiations the circus agreed to release the lions into their care. It was great news for ADI and the lions!

12. Released

Image: Facebook/Animal Defenders International

In May 2018, the three lions were released from Circo Navarro forever. ADI brought the lions over to their Temporary Custody Center in Guatemala. The lions couldn’t contain their happiness at being removed from their small cage.

11. Happiness

Image: The Dodo

The happiness of the lion’s faces was undeniable. Nena especially couldn’t contain how happy and relieved she was to be brought out of captivity and a cruel existence.

 “It was absolutely magical when Nena stepped carefully out of her circus cage and into the ADI unit,” Tim Phillips, vice president of ADI, told The Dodo.

10. New Toy

Image: The Dodo

Nena was so happy but things got even better when the rescuers brought her an amazing toy. She had never had a toy before and when the rescuers brought it to her she was stunned. So what was the toy?!

9. A Log

Image: The Dodo

The toy that the rescuers brought over was just a log. They had placed them inside of the lion’s living space so that they could have something to entertain themselves with. However, they had no idea how happy it would make Nena.

8. Excitement

Image: Animal Channel

“She had soft hay beneath her feet and we had put logs inside for the lions to play with. There was a look of wide-eyed awe and excitement on her face and then she began to roll around and play, grabbing the log with her paws and throwing it up into the air.”

7. Treats

Image: The Dodo

The lions are also given some wonderful treats as well! One of their personal favorites is meat wrapped up in banana leaves. After being subjected to such cruelty these small treats make a huge difference for these lions.

6. Large Space


Nena and the other lions will continue living at the Temporary Rescue Center until later this year. At the rescue center the lions live in humongous crates that give them access to the attached outdoor yards. They can roam in the yard as much and as often as they’d like.

5. South Africa

Image: Trip Advisor

The lions will continue living at the temporary rescue center until they are cleared to head to South Africa. In South Africa they will live in ADI’s lion sanctuary. The sanctuary will have the natural habitat that will best serve the lions.

4. Beautiful Conditions

Image: The Independent

The lions will be living in beautiful African savannah-type grassland with a scattering of trees for shade,” Phillips said. “We hope Kimba, Nena and Sasha will be sharing a lovely habitat of about 4 acres. They will be able to run at full speed for the first time in their lives. That will be quite a sight.”

3. Freedom

Image: Facebook/Animal Defenders International

Even though they haven’t been moved to the sanctuary yet, the lions are already happier than they have been in years. They have finally had a small taste of freedom and they can’t get enough of it!

2. Smiling

Image: Animal Channel

“When Nena gets fresh hay, she buries her head deep into it and then looks up smiling!” Phillips said. “Kimba and Sasha have been the same. Kimba strode around carrying a log like it was his most prized possession.”

1. True Nature

Image: The Dodo

“Their true nature is still there waiting to burst out,” Phillips added. “During the journey, when we removed them from the circus, a truckload of horses drove past us and Kimba and Nena were on their feet in a split second. There was no doubt these were two of the world’s top predators, regardless of how bored they had been for the past years.”

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    Jessica Aguero

    Jessica Aguero is a content marketing professional at, a lifestyle and pop culture community that helps people stay in touch with trends. Previously, Jessica wrote content for several magazines and websites. She graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.

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