FOUR PAWS transfers family of six tigers to a new life in South African sanctuary
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International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has successfully transferred a family of six Siberian tigers from its Big Cat Centre FELIDA in the Netherlands to the vast plains of it big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK, in South Africa. 

At LIONSROCK, the six tigers –  two parents and their four offspring – will have the opportunity to live a life fit for a tiger in huge enclosures under the South African sun, feeling grass under their paws, having the opportunity to run, to play and to swim in the specially built pools.

Heli Dungler, founder and president of FOUR PAWS, was there to witness the happy moment as the tigers made their first steps into their new home. “The animals arrived safely at LIONSROCK,” Dungler said. “They originally come from very bad keeping conditions. The long trip from the Netherlands to South Africa was more than worth it. Here in LIONSROCK these tigers can start a second life appropriate to their needs.”

The story of the parents, Cromwell and Juno, began in 2000 in Britain, at Dartmoor Wildlife Park, where the two tigers, along with four other tigers and two jaguars, were bred to be sold. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the sale of the animals was no longer possible, and as the animals were kept in enclosures that were no longer safe, they were moved to a shelter in the Netherlands named Pantera (later taken over by FOUR PAWS and renamed FELIDA).

For the two jaguars a new home was quickly found, and the six tigers were supposed to move to a safari park in China. Then, with the outbreak of bird flu, the animals could not be transported. Finally in 2004 four tigers were allowed to leave for China. Cromwell and Juno stayed in the Netherlands and together they had two litters, three sons and a daughter, who also lived with them in the shelter.

The big journey to South Africa started last Wednesday in the Big Cat Centre FELIDA with a medical check-up. For this, an international vet team anaesthetised the tigers one at a time. Then they took blood to be checked in the mobile laboratory on site. The FOUR PAWS team then placed the big cats into transport crates, where they recovered from the light anaesthesia.

The animals travelled by truck to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, from where a cargo aircraft took them to Johannesburg. A final journey by truck then brought the tiger family to LIONSROCK in the Free State province, near the town of Bethlehem, where they will live for the rest of their lives.

Although tigers originally do not live in South Africa, LIONSROCK offers everything a tiger needs: space, play areas, sun and shade, and the ability to swim. LIONSROCK offers the best living conditions for tigers that have been kept in captivity. LIONSROCK currently houses 106 big cats, including tigers, lions, and leopards as well as other wild animals like cheetahs, caracals and servals.

In Europe many tigers and lions are still kept in very bad conditions, especially in substandard zoos or circuses,” explained Heli Dungler. “However, zoos or circuses are not a place for big cats. They need huge areas and in fact they should live in the wild, where they are able to live according to their species. Big cats that are born in captivity can never be released into the wild. Therefore we can take over some of them, but only on the condition that at the same time laws and the awareness of the humans regarding the needs of big cats are changing.”

FOUR PAWS Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK, provides an appropriate, lifelong home for big cats that were kept in inadequate conditions in zoos, circuses or private captivity. The facility, founded for the big cats in 2007 in South Africa (Free State province, 18 km from the town of Bethlehem) offers the highest standards, including large areas for family groups; facilitation of natural behaviour through enrichment; and the highest standards of medical care and enclosures.

In LIONSROCK hunting, trading or breeding of wild animals is strictly prohibited. The park encompasses a total area of 1,250 hectares. The enclosures for the big cats cover an area of 56 hectares. In the rest of the park, other typical South African species live freely (e.g. zebras, wildebeests and other antelopes, etc.).

Adam Rahman is from FOUR PAWS UK which is an international animal welfare organisation that strives for improvements in animal welfare through sustainable campaigns & projects.