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Successful transfer of six tigers to LIONSROCK


Last week the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS transferred a Siberian tiger family of six from the FOUR PAWS Big Cat Centre FELIDA located in the Frisian village of Nijeberkoop (Netherlands) to LIONSROCK, the big cat sanctuary in South Africa, also run by FOUR PAWS. There the six Siberian tigers – the two parents and their four children - get the opportunity to live a life fit for a tiger in huge enclosures under the South African sun, feeling for the first time in their lives 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, and his team were very happy to see the tigers making their first steps into their new home. “The animals arrived well at LIONSROCK”, said Heli Dungler. “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.”

Finally a species-appropriate home in FOUR PAWS' big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK.
© FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin

The story of the parents, Cromwell and Juno, began in 2000 in Britain. In the Dartmoor Wildlife Park near the village of Sparkwell, the two animals, along with four other tigers and two jaguars, were bred to be sold. As this was no longer possible, and as the animals were kept in enclosures that were not safe anymore, they were moved to the shelter in Friesland named Pantera (today’s 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 the bird flu broke out and the animals could not be transported. Finally in 2004 four tigers were allowed to leave for China. Cromwell and Juno stayed in Nijeberkoop and together they had two litters, from which three sons and a daughter also lived in the shelter.

Six to eight people are necessary to carry one anasethized tiger.
© FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin

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. Then, the FOUR PAWS team placed the big cats into the 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.

Juno acts more cautious when leaving her crate for the very first time.
© FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin

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 like tigers, lions, and leopards as well as other wild animals like cheetahs, caracals and servals.

Raspoetin is obviously looking forward to explore his new home.
© FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin

“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.”