A circus in Argentina that kept its four tigers locked up in a train car cage for over 15 years has finally handed them over and they will now live at a big cat sanctuary in South Africa, where they will be able to roam freely for the remainder of their days.
Sandro, Mafalda, Messi and Gustavo have arrived in South Africa from Argentina after a 70-hour trip.
The four Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) had spent over 15 years of their lives stuck in a train carriage in San Luis province in central Argentina, the animal rights organisation Four Paws said in a statement sent to Newsflash.
The organisation said that the four tigers will now be spending the remainder of their lives at the LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, which is located near the town of Bethlehem, in the east-central Free State province of South Africa.
The animal rights organisation said that it had rescued the tigers from their ordeal after weeks of “tireless efforts and close cooperation with the Argentinian and South African authorities”.
Four Paws also said that the big cats had arrived at the sanctuary in South Africa on Saturday, 12th March.
They added: “Getting the tigers out of the train carriage, into the transport crates and on a truck to the airport, was a logistical challenge that the experienced team mastered without complications. Now Sandro, Mafalda, Messi and Gustavo have arrived well at their new forever home after a journey of over 70 hours.
“The experienced team at LIONSROCK will make sure they can relax and adjust to the new surroundings. This marks the first rescue mission FOUR PAWS conducted in South America.”
The organisation said that a team of veterinarians and wildlife experts have spent weeks preparing the tigers for their journey, “so the transfer would be as safe and smooth as possible not only for the animals but also from the logistics side”.
They said that the tigers had arrived in good shape in South Africa, with Four Paws veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who led the rescue mission and oversaw the transfer of the big cats from Argentina to South Africa, saying: “These tigers have never felt grass or earth under their paws.
“It’s the first time they can see the sky above them, not just metal bars and a roof. Now they have hundreds of square metres full of new feelings, tastes and smells.
“It is overwhelming for them to be in a completely new environment but animals are quick at adapting to better living conditions.
“They were already curious, exploring their temporary adaptation enclosures and making careful first steps on the so far unfamiliar ground.
“I am proud that we have brought all four tigers safely to South Africa. Now the mission is complete and I’m handing them over into the care of my colleagues at LIONSROCK.”
Hildegard Pirker, the head of the LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, said: “The road to rehabilitation for these animals now begins.”
She added: “In the coming days and weeks, LIONSROCK will closely monitor the four tigers medical needs and determine the veterinary care they need.”
The South African sanctuary is currently home to over 100 rescued big cats, with many of them rescued by Four Paws from “war-ravaged zoos, circuses, private ownership, and the canned hunting industry.”
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