Cricket Hollow Zoo lions relocated to wildlife sanctuary after settlement of federal lawsuit

The two remaining endangered animals kept at Cricket Hollow Zoo – African lionesses named Jonwah and Njjarra – have been relocated to a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado after settlement of a federal court lawsuit filed against the zoo by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and five Iowa residents.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, with veterinary support from the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, took custody of the two lions after the settlement was reached with zoo owners Pam and Tom Sellner of Manchester, Iowa, according to a news release issued by the ALDF today (Aug. 3).

The ADLF and Iowa residents filed suit against the zoo to remove the endangered lions from the zoo and then sought an emergency court order to permit immediate examination of the lions because of health concerns for the animals.

"The lionesses, Jonwah and Njjarra, are 16 years old and 18 years old," the ALDF stated in its news release. "Visitors to the zoo in June and July had reported both lionesses in distress, the evidence of which the ALDF presented to an Iowa judge on July 21. The judge agreed with the ALDF's grave concern about the lionesses' condition and ordered the Sellners to permit a qualified veterinarian to examine them. The parties settled soon after the examination," according to the ALDF statement.

“The success of these lawsuits set a new standard for the way endangered species can be treated in captivity — and we will continue to fight for other animals’ release to reputable sanctuaries,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells stated.

“Their condition is being assessed and treated,” according to Wild Animal Sanctuary Executive Director Pat Craig. "Granting their health allows, after rehabilitation they will join an existing lion pride and live out their days in social groups with access to the quality veterinary care that is so necessary for their health and well-being.”

Five tigers and three lemurs were removed from the zoo earlier this year after a federal court judge ruled the poor care provided at the facility harmed the animals, in violation of standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Act for endangered animals.

After African lions were added to the list of endangered animals by the USDA, the ALDF and the same Iowa residents filed suit against the zoo seeking removal and relocation of the lions because of similar care issues.

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