Train tigers at LIONSROCK

FOUR PAWS Rescueversary: #TrainTigers from Argentina another year of tranquil living 

FOUR PAWS Rapid Response Rescue team visits LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary to witness their progress two years after their rescue 


CAPE TOWN – 12 March 2024 – Two years ago FOUR PAWS embarked on its first rescue mission in South America to rescue four Bengal tigers that had endured a life of unimaginable suffering. Known as the #TrainTigers, they had spent their entire lives confined to a cramped train carriage in Argentina. Deprived of the space, freedom and care, they deserved. Today some of the team members who led the rescue effort returned to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa to witness the incredible transformation of the #TrainTigers.

In the past two years Mafalda, Gustavo, Sandro and Messi have undergone extensive rehabilitation at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary. Thanks to all the efforts of the full-time onsite vet. Dr Christine Steyrer, who takes care of the tigers, updates us: “The tigers are doing well, despite their minor chronic illnesses. When they arrived, we didn’t know anything about them. We were mostly worried for Sandro, since he is also the oldest and does not see well. In the beginning he was quite aggressive because he was scared but over time, he improved a lot. Today he enjoys his enclosure and is probably the happiest that he’s ever been.”

For numerous years, these tigers resided in a train carriage nestled in San Luis, a region in the heart of Argentina. Sandro (born in 2004) and Mafalda (born in 2007) spent 15 years there alongside their 10-year-old sons, Messi and Gustavo, who were born in the same carriage in 2011. Abandoned by a circus and cared for by the landowner, they lived their lives within the confines of this carriage until their rescue and subsequent transfer to LIONSROCK in March 2022.

Due to it being a time sensitive mission, the tigers were initially placed in a temporary enclosure at LIONSROCK with plans to relocate them to different enclosures later. Recently, these four tigers have been transferred to larger species appropriate enclosures and Sandro has been moved to the sanctuary’s new Tiger Special Care Unit consisting of a series of enclosures specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of the older tigers at LIONSROCK, requiring special attention.

FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who led the rescue and transfer of the tigers, says: “They were released exactly two years ago here at LIONSROCK. They are called the Train Tigers because of the train carriage they lived in when they were rescued. I was fortunate to see them released into their new enclosure back then. Today we celebrate their transformation from living in that train carriage to having a more species appropriate living space at LIONSROCK. Tigers like all big cats need larger spaces for movement and interactions with other tigers.”

“There are hundreds of animals like lions and tigers in captivity in Argentina and there is no species-appropriate space for them where they can be accommodated permanently. This is a huge animal welfare problem in the country and other parts of the world. This is just one example of this cruelty because the Train Tigers lived for 15 years in a train carriage. Today they are free to be wild!” says Dr.Marina Ivanova, International Mission Coordinator – Reveal Rescue Response. FOUR PAWS cares for rescued big cats in a species-appropriate environment at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary from all over the world, yet many other big cats around the world face a tragic fate. Dr. Ivanova continues, "The exploitation of big cats for commercial gain fuels an industry that could lead to the future of the species being behind bars.”

LIONSROCK: A home for over 100 rescued big cats in South Africa

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, one of eleven wild animal sanctuaries established by FOUR PAWS, near Bethlehem, South Africa is home to over 100 animals, most of which are big cats rescued by FOUR PAWS from war-ravaged zoos, circuses, private ownership, and the canned hunting industry. The sanctuary provides a species-appropriate, lifelong home for the mistreated big cats.

The habitat offers highest standards including large areas for family groups, facilitation of natural behaviour through specific enclosure design and furniture as well as enrichment and highest standards of medical care as well as highest security standards of enclosures. In LIONSROCK hunting, trading, breeding of big cats and any interaction between wild animals and humans is strictly prohibited.


Public Relations Officer ZA

Deidre Daniels

Public Relations Officer

+27 (0)21 702 4277

+27 (0)78 675 8220

9B Bell Crescent, Westlake Business Park, 
Green Building, Cape Town, 7945

A Public Relations professional with over eight years’ experience in fostering positive relationships between organisations and media.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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