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FOUR PAWS transfers tiger family of six from the Netherlands to South Africa

FOUR PAWS transfers tiger family of six from the Netherlands to South Africa

 May 13, 2015 - Nijeberkoop, Netherlands - 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 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.”


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.

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.


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.


“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.”


FOUR PAWS Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK, a project by FOUR PAWS, provides an appropriate, lifelong home for big cats that were kept in inadequate conditions in zoos, circuses or private captivity. The facility, founded for the big cats in 2007 in South Africa (Free State province, 18 km from the town of Bethlehem) offers the highest standards, including large areas for family groups; facilitation of natural behaviour through enrichment; and the highest standards of medical care and enclosures. In LIONSROCK hunting, trading or breeding of wild animals is strictly prohibited. The park encompasses a total area of ​​1,250 hectares. The enclosures for the big cats cover an area of ​​56 hectares. In the rest of the park, other typical South African species live freely (e.g. zebras, wildebeests and other antelopes, etc.).



FOUR PAWS Big Cat Centre FELIDA is situated in the Dutch village of Nijeberkoop. The centre was founded approximately 20 years ago as “Stichting Pantera”, but for various reasons the centre lacked maintenance for several years. In October 2013, FOUR PAWS took over the centre and started implementing necessary changes to improve the animal welfare situation. In the future FELIDA will become a transit station for big cats as well as a permanent centre – meeting the FOUR PAWS standards for animal welfare and safety – for those animals that cannot be transferred anymore.