Abandoned circus tigers to be relocated to South Africa

The tigers were kept in an abandoned train carriage in Argentina for 15 years.

 One of the tigers being kept in a train carriage in Argentinia. Photo: Four Paws | Hristo Vladev

After 15 years of living in an abandoned train carriage in the San Luis province in the northwest of Argentina, a family of four tigers will finally get a second chance at a better life in South Africa.

Global animal welfare organisation Four Paws is preparing to rescue the big cats from their confinement.

According to Four Paws, a travelling circus abandoned the now 18-year-old male and a 15-year-old female tiger in 2007, asking a local farmer to take care of them temporarily only to never return.

“The tigers have since become a family of four. In 2021, the authorities became aware of the inferior living conditions of the tigers and began looking for long-overdue solutions for the animals.

“A Four Paws team will travel to San Luis in the upcoming weeks upon the invitation of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development to examine the tigers and transfer them to Lions Rock Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa,” said Four Paws CEO Josef Pfabigan.

He said the private keeping of wild animals is illegal in Argentina; therefore, the farmer, who kept taking care of the tigers to his best knowledge, did not inform the authorities immediately.

“The animals were never sterilised and a series of cubs were born over the years.”

Four Paws veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who will lead the rescue mission, said: “The train carriage was filthy and strewn with excrement and rotten meat and bones, but fortunately this is not the case anymore. Tigers need to move, run, play and bathe.

“Being locked in a 75m² train carriage and only pacing back and forth for 15 years is not a tiger-worthy life. All those years in such a small space has affected their mental and physical well-being. We have a window of opportunity now to rescue them, and we will.”

When representatives of the responsible wildlife authority, Fauna San Luis, encountered the inferior living conditions of the big cats during an inspection visit last year, they began looking for solutions, knowing they could not rehome the tigers locally.

As soon as Four Paws learned about the case, they offered their support and expertise in wild animal rescues and relocations to the authorities.

Suffering across the world

According to Pfabigan, the three verbs that define how they operate are reveal, rescue and protect.

“We rescue animals such as these tigers, and in doing so, we reveal systemic problems and legal shortcomings.

We also raise awareness for why these issues matter.

“An example of such a link is our Break the Vicious Cycle campaign, which reveals that illegal farming of big cats is a reality and a problem. Such actions are crucial to protecting these vulnerable species, and in our highly connected world, all of this has an impact on the future of the planet,” said Pfabigan.

He added there are only around 3 900 tigers left in the wild worldwide.

“Due to a lack of worldwide regulations, the commercial trade of big cats is flourishing. Live tigers are shipped across the world to be kept as pets and abused for human entertainment in circuses, zoos or for paid interactions.

“Tigers and other big cat species are killed for their skin, fur, bones and teeth.

“By rescuing these four tigers in Argentina, we provide a better life for them individually and create awareness for all animals globally to be treated with respect, empathy and understanding,” said Pfabigan.

Read original story on benonicitytimes.co.za