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Online app launches to raise awareness of lions and tigers in captivity

BOSTON, MA July 23, 2015. This year, 2015, was the year of the big cats for FOUR PAWS International, a global animal protection organization. After three successful rescue missions into conflict-ridden Gaza and countless large cat transfers, FOUR PAWS is leading the way for a better future for big cats. The latest initiative, “#FOURPAWSgowild,” calls attention to the suffering of thousands of lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards kept in bad conditions.


”Around the world, countless numbers of big cats are forced to live and suffer in circuses, badly-run zoos, or in private keeping,” says Heli Dungler, founder and president of FOUR PAWS. “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 but also dangerous animals. The unique Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa now offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers, rescued from poor conditions. FOUR PAWS also runs international 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.


Animal ambassadors in action

With its new initiative, #FOURPAWSgowild, FOUR PAWS is raising international awareness about the suffering of big cats in captivity, and positive solutions that can end this suffering. For every animal welfare issue – big cats in private keeping, circuses, zoos and canned hunting (an especially cruel form of trophy hunting) – one animal with a touching history, who will be rescued by FOUR PAWS this year, was selected as an example for the respective issue. Varvara, for example, is the last circus tigress kept in Bulgaria and also one of FOUR PAWS’ ambassador cats. She currently lives in a desolate circus wagon, but soon she will be transferred to a big cat centre in Germany by FOUR PAWS.


Facebook-app raises awareness of bad keeping conditions

From July 20th  to August 30th all supporters are asked to get active: Under the slogan “FOUR LINES for FOUR PAWS”, FOUR PAWS calls upon creative hobby poets to set their wits to write a short, catchy text about one of the key issues in big cat keeping – zoo, circus, private keeping or canned hunting. Anything goes: No matter if it is a rhyme, poem, rap or short message, there is no limit to creativity. Via a Facebook application, the community is able to simply upload their expressive four-liners, add a photo and display them in the online gallery. Then, the community can vote their top ten four-liners via the “like” button. The top ten participants with the most “likes” are going to win a FOUR PAWS fan package. As the campaign is taking place on an international level, the Facebook app was also implemented on the other Facebook fan pages in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Romania in the respective country language.

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FOUR PAWS solution: A species-appropriate home for lions

The organisation has set up several big cat centres, offering species-appropriate homes to over a hundred big cats all rescued from poor keeping conditions. They are the Big Cat Sanctuary LIONROCK in South Africa, the Big Cat Centre FELIDA in the Netherlands and, since shortly, another big cat centre in Germany.


This new Big Cat Centre at “TIERART” offers immediate help for animals in need and will support an international network for the rescue of big cats worldwide. FOUR PAWS has financially supported the construction of the facilities and has also provided experience and consultancy in order to guarantee the highest animal welfare standards. The first three enclosures were recently completed and a total of four tigers from private captivity, circuses and zoos will then find a safe home in the centre.


Canned Hunting

#FOURPAWSgowild also gives a voice to about thousand lions who fall as easy prey to ruthless trophy hunters every year. In this form of hunting, the animals are captive bred, kept in fenced areas and shot for trophies. Those lions are bred on farms and raised by hand. They hardly demonstrate any fear of humans and can easily be killed in their fenced areas – even by hobby hunters. Today, around 6.000 captive animals in about 200 farms are threatened with this gruesome fate. FOUR PAWS is campaigning for a ban on canned hunting and commercial lion breeding farms in South Africa.


Successful animal rescues worldwide

Only recently, FOUR PAWS was active with a mission in the Gaza Strip, concerning a rather special case of big cats in private keeping: a father of six, who lives in a refuge camp, bought two lion cubs from a zoo as a treat for his grandchildren. There, the cubs lived together with the family – which includes small children – under one roof. The FOUR PAWS’ emergency response team negotiated with the owner and was finally able to transfer the two animals to New Hope Centre in Jordan.

The next lion rescue is already pending for October: five former Romanian zoo lions, who are leading a miserable life behind bars. FOUR PAWS will then transfer them to their final destination, South Africa.