As a global animal welfare organization, FOUR PAWS International has played a key role in rescuing animals from all kinds of horrible situations. Still, even this life-saving nonprofit was shocked to discover the poor living conditions that four Bengal tigers had been enduring for 15 years.
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It all started when two circus tigers, a now 18-year-old male and 15-year old female, were abandoned. Their caretaker convinced a local farmer to temporarily take care of them, but they never followed through on their promise to return.
Instead, the local farmer continued to take care of them despite the fact that it’s illegal in Argentina to have wild animals. This would go on for 15 years and, by the time FOUR PAWS intervened, the two tigers had two cubs.
“The train carriage was filthy with excrements and leftover meat and bones for a long time but fortunately this is not the case anymore,” said Dr. Amir Khalil, veterinarian and leader of the rescue mission. “All those years in such a small space have affected their mental and physical wellbeing for sure. We have a window of opportunity now to rescue them, and we will.”
Relocating wild animals like tigers is always tricky, especially when they’re being moved to a different continent. Even though FOUR PAWS has eleven sanctuaries around the world, their LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary is all the way in South Africa — that’s quite a long journey for four tigers, especially during a pandemic.
Still, FOUR PAWS worked hard to obtain all the permits needed to make this relocation mission a reality, even when there were countless hurdles in their way.
“They asked me why it is so urgent to move the tigers, why it is so important to move the tigers now,” Amir recalled. “And my answer was: ‘If you are an innocent person and you have to go to prison for a week and someone asks you why you have to get out of jail the next day… Well, this is exactly what happened, these animals are innocent and they were imprisoned for 15 years.'”
The 70-hour journey from Argentina to South Africa was cumbersome, but it was all worth it for the moment when these precious tigers, Mafalda (the 15-year-old female), Sandro (the 18-year-old male), Messi, and Gustavo were finally able to step foot on grass for the first time.
Mafalda was especially hesitant at first and needed to be enticed with meat, but once she was able to find the courage to step outside of the life she’s always known, everything changed.
“I’m very happy. Very emotional. Very, very emotional, to be honest,” Amir said. “This is the reason why I like to do this. It’s exactly this moment. I feel proud to be part of this team.”
Although being locked in small cages for so long has affected their mental and physical well-being, with time, these precious creatures are expected to live long, happy lives in their new homes.
“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,” FOUR PAWS CEO Josef Pfabigan said.
Watch Mafalda, Sandro, Messi, and Gustavo take their first steps on grass below and don’t forget to share.
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