Published: 13:00, 03 December 2020
An urgent appeal is underway to provide a forever home in Kent for three lions and six brown bears, who were all raised in horrible conditions.
New custom built sanctuaries are being created at Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve, near Hythe, for the rescue animals, which include three bear cubs.
KMTV spoke to keepers at Port Lympne about the project
The popular tourist site launched the project to save the desperate animals before the UK went into a second national lockdown last month.
But when it had to close its doors for a second time this year, staff worried they would not be able to raise the necessary funds for the transfers.
A fundraiser has been set up to ensure the new homes can still be created, and to also help the animal parks - which also includes Howletts near Canterbury - survive post the second lockdown, which ended yesterday (Wednesday).
The new homes are being created for a family of brown bears from Andorra and three lions who were rescued from circuses in France.
Two of the lions, Mojito and Timothy, were saved from Circus Wonderland where bosses at Port Lympne say they were deliberately underfed to keep them weak and small enough to use for photoshoots.
This has left Mojito with a serious health condition for which he will require specialised care for the rest of his life.
The third lion, Anthares, was confiscated from another circus where he was forced to perform and lived in a tiny and filthy trailer.
It was only thanks to the actions of AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection that these poor lions escaped short and painful lives.
The three brown bears, Julio, Enciam and Neu, and their three young cubs are living at an adventure park in Andorra, which is soon closing its zoo.
Non-profit Bears In Mind alerted the Aspinall Foundation, which runs Port Lympne and Howletts, to their plight.
A spokesman for the foundation said: "Our expert team has designed safe, custom-built sanctuaries where these animals can live peacefully and display natural behaviours while receiving the best possible care at Port Lympne.
"However, without vital visitor and short breaks income, the future of this vitally important project has been thrown into doubt.
"We barely survived the first national Coronavirus lockdown and received no meaningful support from the UK government.
"The £100m Zoo Animals Fund was inaccessible to almost all large animal parks and we reopened with our future on a knife edge and a £2m hole in our finances.
"However, we are fighting more than a virus.
"We can not ignore the suffering of Mojito, Timothy and Anthares or Julio, Enciam and Neu and their babies.
"We have a duty to step in and write the final chapter in their rescue and rehoming story."
It costs £300,000 a week to operate both parks, including food for the 1,300 animals currently residing in them.
It will cost £269,000 to create the new sanctuaries and so far more than £47,000 of that has been raised.
But bosses are appealing for more donations.
A spokesman added: "The only way we can save these animals is with your help.
"Any donation you make, no matter how small, will help us to provide a safe forever home where Mojito, Timothy, Anthares, Julio, Enciam, Neu and their cubs can live peacefully for the rest of their lives."
To donate, visit here.