On International Tiger Day on Friday 29th of July, FOUR PAWS will be celebrating the rescue and recovery of the 23 tigers in their care at the big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in the Eastern Free State, that have come from war zones, circuses, and zoos.
The spotlight falls on their rescueversaries, of which one is coming up in August for male tiger Laziz, the LIONSROCK tiger freed from what was known at the time as the ‘worst zoo in the world.’ He will soon have his sixth rescueversary, a celebration of the day he was released into his enclosure as big as two rugby fields at the big cat sanctuary.
In the zoo in Khan Younis, a town in war-torn Gaza, all Laziz knew for nine years was life inside a cage he could barely turn around in, until the Bengal tiger and 15 other animals were abandoned by the zoo-owner during a three-week air strike. Laziz was the only big cat that could be saved after negotiations took place between FOUR PAWS and the authorities for a rescue in April 2015. The animals were transferred, and the zoo closed.
Dr Amir Khalil, who leads FOUR PAWS rescue missions, said at the time that being in a war zone and experiencing nearby bombings must have been especially traumatic for a tiger, because they can hear and see better than humans.
He remarked: “All these animals survived unbearable conditions. We have been fortunate enough to witness their remarkable recoveries to the point where they really are behaving as the animals they are meant to be.”
Though his rehabilitation over the past six years has been challenging, for tiger Laziz, there is finally a happy conclusion to his struggles. He was settling in well at LIONSROCK, until the first thunderstorm struck. Months of rehabilitation were compromised in an instant as he associated the storm sounds with that of bomb attacks.
It has taken him a long time to cope with thunderstorms. A team of caretakers had to put a lot of adaptive measures in place to make him feel at ease in his surroundings, like a net to block the other animals out. After these measures were taken, step by step Laziz felt comfortable enough to go back into certain areas of his enclosure. Besides that, special care and attention was given to him through which the team gained his trust again.
The site manager at LIONSROCK, Hildegard Pirker, says LIONSROCK is an ideal sanctuary for Laziz and the other 22 tigers “because as a true Big Cat Sanctuary, it offers species-appropriate conditions in a natural environment.”
The director of FOUR PAWS, Fiona Miles, says it is however important on a celebratory day like International Tiger Day to recognise that these wild animals belong in the wild in their natural range, states, and habitats.
Says Miles: “Globally we need better protection for them. South Africa for example is the biggest trader of tigers, yet this is not their natural habitat. We should not be intensively breeding them, nor should we wish to see them in zoos or performing in circuses.”
In recent years, FOUR PAWS has undertaken several successful missions to rescue other big cats from war-torn countries such as Iraq, Gaza, and Syria. Motan and Pisa are the newest members from such zones to join the LIONSROCK family. The two lions were transferred from the Gaza Strip. Simba was born at the Montazah Al-Morour Zoo during the ongoing war in Iraq, where many of the animals died of starvation or were killed by bomb attacks. He is now happily settled in at LIONSROCK.
In the beginning of April 2022, FOUR PAWS was also able to organise the first food delivery to zoos in Ukraine. In May, FOUR PAWS doubled its help for these zoos delivering another 20 tons of food for animals. With this second delivery FOUR PAWS aimed to bring relief to the animals and people who are caring for them in the zoos under the most difficult circumstances. / End.
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. www.four-paws.org.za