LIMA, Peru (AP) — King was unable to chew normally because most of his teeth had been pulled by the circus owners. Simba's front claws had been removed and his fangs broken.
The lions were among 21 rescued from Peruvian circuses in 2014 by members of Los Angeles-based Animal Defenders International. Activists say the lions were kept in appalling conditions.
"In the circuses they often break their teeth and remove their claws," said Eva Chomba, a Peruvian veterinarian with Animal Defenders. "It's a painful process in which they do not use anesthesia and those doing it are not veterinarians."
On Friday, a team of veterinarians sedated King and Simba to perform dental surgery on the big cats, which weigh more than 160 kilograms (352 pounds) and are 17 and 7 years old, respectively.
U.S. veterinarian Peter Emily, founder of the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation, said a previous oral surgery on King had created a small hole between his mouth and nose that had become badly infected.
The veterinarians determined King requires more surgeries and the lion will be taken to an animal sanctuary in Denver, Colorado, in the coming months, Peruvian veterinarian Jorge Hun said.
On Saturday, the veterinarians will look at the teeth of 26 monkeys also rescued from circuses.
Peru banned the use of wild animals in circuses in 2011, but implementation of the law has been slow.
Associated Press writers Mauricio Munoz and Martin Mejia contributed to this report.