By Marybel Rodriguez

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Three big cats rescued from a circus in Guatemala arrived at Miami International Airport Monday morning, as they make their way to their safe and new forever home.

“This is a huge day for the Big Cat Rescue. We are finally taking possession of our 3 former cats from Guatemala,” said Christina Scarnige with Animal Defenders International.

Two and a half-year-old Kimba and 9-year-olds Max and Simba, all born in a Guatemalan circus, are starting their new life in the U.S.

The three Bengal tigers are among a group of lions and tigers rescued from Circo Hermanos Ponce in June of 2018 after years of torture, rescuers say.

“Part of that day Kimba was beaten right in front of our eyes. We did stop the beating. Unfortunately, he started again and we intervened and we were able to take over at that point. Kimba will never be beaten again,” said Scarnige.

Since then, Animal Defenders International or ADI rescue teams have been nursing the big cats back to health, physically and emotionally.

“Kimba, Max, and Simba have been with us since 2018 at a temporary rescue center where they touched grass for the first time, got to see the sky, feel the breeze and no one will ever beat them again,” said Scarnige.

Once on land, the three tigers were carefully removed from the plane, rolled into a massive hanger and later placed in a large trailer for their final journey to the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Their forever home.

“It’s an accredited sanctuary. There are 60 big cats in very large enclosures of about 4,000 square feet each. They will each have their own pool tigers love to swim. People don’t know that about them. They will have dens, platforms which are mentally stimulating for a captive cat,” said Susan Bass with Big Cat Rescue.

“This is the prize at the end of the rainbow. For us it takes 18 months to get animals like that out of the circus and out of the country and this is the reward. Now they are going to a wonderful home,” said Jan Creamer ADI.

Although getting them here wasn’t easy, ADI applauds the government of Guatemala who asked them for help after banning animals in circuses in 2017.

ADI, a nonprofit, has rescued a total of 15 tigers and 6 lions during Operation Liberty. Aside from the three tigers going to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, the other big cats will be relocated to their new ADI wildlife sanctuary in South Africa.

Marybel Rodriguez