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International Tiger Day: #FOURPAWSgowild draws attention to the plight of big cats

Wild tigers seriously depleted while their conspecifics suffer in captivity


JULY, 28 2015 - BOSTON, MA. Tomorrow, July 29th, is the International Day of the Tiger, and FOUR PAWS calls attention to the poor conditions these highly endangered species endure in private hands. Although tigers are strictly protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in the last 100 years, the populations of wild tigers have been drastically reduced from the 100,000s to just yet 3,000 - 3,500 animals. Meanwhile, a much larger number of tigers live in captivity, many of them in poor and neglectful conditions. FOUR PAWS gives these big cats a voice with the current campaign #FOURPAWSgowild.


Thomas Pietsch, wildlife expert at FOUR PAWS: "The natural habitat of the tiger is increasingly reduced by men. Another big threat is the illegal trade with tiger body parts and products. Three tiger subspecies are already extinct. And the tigers living in captivity often have a very miserable existence in confined space behind bars. In South Africa, tigers are even killed by trophy hunters."


Canned hunting – also tigers are target
Canned hunting in South Africa is widely understood as the hunting of captive bred, hand-raised lions in a small enclosure. This method of hunting severely limits the lions’ options for escape and steeps the advantage to the hunter. A point that is less understood or known is that lions are not the only target, many hand raised tigers find themselves being hunted in this manner. This means that the African hunting fraternity offers the opportunity to acquire trophies of Asian and African species at one location. FOUR PAWS started a petition against the Canned Hunting industry in South Africa.


The complex way of life and biological characteristics of the Asian big cats place great demands on their habitat. Yet countless tigers worldwide have to live under completely inadequate conditions.  Kept only for profit or for entertainment in circuses and zoos with low standards or even for private enjoyment as a pet. More than estimated 2,000 tigers, lions and other big cats are living under inappropriate conditions in Europe.


Appropriate home for tigers at LIONSROCK
A six-member family of tigers that were rescued from bad housing conditions, now look to a better future. FOUR PAWS has recently transferred them from the Dutch Big Cat Centre FELIDA to LIONSROCK in South Africa. There, in the near-natural enclosures they can mostly meet their ecological needs. A short while ago, three of them explored their new permanent enclosure for the first time. "The initial mistrust has dissolved after a short time. Mirza, Rafik and Zita were delighted to have that much space to move and play properly and to take a bath in a pond," said Hildegard Pirker, chief zookeeper at LIONSROCK and Head of the Animal Welfare Division. Mother Juno had the opportunity to inspect the new big enclosure in advance. Very soon the whole tiger family will live together.


Around the world, not only tigers but countless numbers of other big cats are forced to live and suffer in circuses, badly-run zoos, or in private keeping. Many are kept in extremely cramped conditions, are incorrectly or insufficiently fed, suffer from illness, or exhibit behavioural disorders. FOUR PAWS aims to improve the situation for these fascinating wild animals that are not only beautiful, but also dangerous, making it even more important that they are not kept in unsuitable conditions or handled incorrectly. One of the facilities run by FOUR PAWS is the unique big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa, which now offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers, rescued from poor keeping conditions.



FOUR PAWS also runs far-reaching campaigns for big cats in human care, including campaigning for a ban on wild animals in circuses, and the closure of zoos with unsuitable facilities. With its new initiative, #FOURPAWSgowild, FOUR PAWS is raising awareness internationally about both the suffering of big cats in captivity, and the positive solutions that can end this suffering. Under the guise of entertainment (circuses), education (zoos), medicine/tradition (healing substances made from tiger bones), and sport (trophy hunting in Africa) thousands of big cats around the world lead miserable lives in appalling conditions. The international #FOURPAWSgowild campaign gives them a voice.