- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MEXICO CITY (AP) - A malnourished lion cub named Leonardo was sent by Mexican officials Tuesday on a flight to an animal sanctuary in Colorado, the first in what is to be a transfer of two dozen big cats and other animals.

Leonardo was rescued from a private owner who had prematurely separated him from his mother so he could given as a gift to a young girl.

All of the animals are being sent over the course of this year to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection. They will include a total of six lions, eight tigers, two leopards, a jaguar, a lynx and a puma.

Two spider monkeys, a bear, a coyote and a peccary will also be taken to the Colorado sanctuary.

Most were mistreated, crowded or abandoned by their owners in Mexico.

Mexico recently passed laws forbidding animal acts in circuses, and authorities have seized 136 circus animals because of concerns over conditions and mistreatment, or the lack of proper paperwork. Circuses can still own non-domestic animals, just not display them.

The office was not immediately able to confirm whether any of the animals being sent north had been seized from circuses.

The sanctuary did not reply to requests for comment on how the animals will be cared for there.

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