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Circus tigers are finally living in a natural habitat


FOUR PAWS transfers six German circus tigers to its refuge LIONSROCK in South Africa

Last Monday, the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS transferred six tigers from the German Zirkus ‘Starlight Fischer’ in Hessen, Weilburg, to its wildlife sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. On arrival, the six cats were released into a large familiarisation enclosure. The animals were coping well during the long flight from Frankfurt/Main to Johannesburg and are now exploring their new home, a natural habitat without bars and under blue sky.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

All of the six tigers were born in German circuses and came to Zirkus Starlight as cubs. Four of the cats were performing in the circus arena until they became mature tigers. Since then, they have been split into groups of two and four and have been transported into 25 m² circus wagons where they occasionally had access to a water basin.  When the circus was stationed in a town, the animals were taking turns using an outside enclosure. “These conditions were unsuitable for the animal’s needs and completely below the standard requirements,”  explains wild life expert Thomas Pietsch from FOUR PAWS, who accompanied the transfer of the tigers. Tigers in captivity require huge, structured enclosures, with space to withdraw and hide for each of the animals in the enclosure. Furthermore, they need sufficient-sized water basins, and raised platforms or trunks for climbing, laying and scratching.  Travelling circuses cannot offer these conditions, they change location frequently and the conditions in the wagons and pens are extremely cramped.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

After months of discussion, FOUR PAWS wild life specialists and the responsible veterinary authority of Gross-Gerau were able to convince the circus to hand their tigers over to the care of FOUR PAWS. “We are very happy about the circus decision,” states Thomas Pietsch, “and we ask other circuses to follow Starlight’s example.” One small regret remains however, as Zirkus Starlight is keeping their seventh tiger; two-year old Zaila. Pietsch continues, “She was raised being bottle fed and is still performing in the arena. Unfortunately we were unable to convince the circus to also let her go. We hope they will change their mind in the future and release her too.”

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

In a few weeks, the six tigers from Zirkus Starlight will move from their familiarisation enclosure to their final home.


The new arrivals mean a total of eighty-two lions and fourteen tigers as well as zebras, gnus, horses and antelopes now live in the 1.250 hectare large wildlife sanctuary  LIONSROCK  near Bethlehem.

© FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile