Urgent Weekend Rescue Provides Two Former-Circus Tigers a ‘Retirement’

FOUR PAWS transferred Jill and Sahib to sanctuary in Germany


July 27, 2020 – After having spent most of their lives performing in the German Manuel Weisheit circus, two tigers have been brought to a species-appropriate home at the FOUR PAWS-owned Animal and Species Protection Centre TIERART in the Southwest of Germany.

Soon after their traveling circus was rendered immobile due to COVID-19 restrictions, 14-year-old Sahib and 13-year-old Jill were being temporarily kept at a horse ranch near Mannheim since early 2020. The owner contacted FOUR PAWS for help with rehoming the Siberian tigers.

He acquired the tigers in 2007 from the German Tierpark Nadermann zoo, where they were born, and began training them for the circus when they were just a year old. Instead of selling the tigers after the circus ended, the owner hoped that FOUR PAWS could give them a proper “retirement”. With just a few weeks of planning, FOUR PAWS was able to transport tigers Sahib and tigress Jill from the horse ranch to their new sanctuary home on Saturday July 25th.

Luckily, the journey took only about an hour and a half due to the close proximity between the horse ranch and TIERART. The experienced team at TIERART will now provide Sahib and Jill with the care they need to live a happy and healthy life after the circus.

"Both tigers entered the transport crates on their own, which is always preferable over anesthesia. Sahib and Jill are doing well and getting used to their new surroundings. Once they have settled in, our vet will examine them thoroughly. The team at TIERART will provide them with the care they need for their retirement after many years of performing. Now they have a large enclosure with a swimming pool and structures they can climb, play on and hide in, allowing them to spend their days however they want."

-Barbara van Genne, Head of Wild Animals Rescue and Advocacy at FOUR PAWS

While the tigers have now escaped a life in the spotlight, for many animals this is not the case. FOUR PAWS continues to urge a nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in traveling shows and an EU-wide ban on the commercial tiger trade, which further enables the abuse of big cats for entertainment purposes like circus shows.

Throughout the EU, it is legal to breed and commercially trade captive tigers both within Europe and for export around the world. Even keeping wild animals in circuses or as pets is still allowed in many countries, including Germany. The animals are often kept in poor conditions and made to endure cruel treatment. A recent FOUR PAWS report on tiger trade highlights that European authorities are unaware of the number of tigers kept in their own countries. The same problem exists for captive tigers in the United States as well. 

"While we commend the previous owner of Sahib and Jill for wanting them to have a species-appropriate retirement after many years in the circus, most captive tigers share a different fate. Without effective record-keeping of captive tiger numbers in EU Member States and control on the trade within the EU, cases of illegal trade and subsequent cruelty will continue to flourish. By introducing a comprehensive EU-wide commercial ban for captive tigers, traders can no longer exploit big cats for profit." 

-Kieran Harkin, Wild Animals in Trade at FOUR PAWS

Circuses constantly move from one location to the next. The cages must be transported and therefore need to take up as little space as possible and be assembled and disassembled quickly. Most circus animals spend the majority of their time in transport wagons and small temporary enclosures that restrict natural behaviors and often leave no room for climbing, running, or bathing – activities that are vital for the wellbeing of any animal, especially tigers.

Moreover, human handling and forced performances of unnatural behaviors are daily routines in the circus environment and these stressors are detrimental for wild animal welfare. The use of wild animals like big cats in circuses also presents a potential danger to public safety and security. Although 23 out of 27 EU Member States have adopted restrictions on the use of wild animals in circuses, Germany, France, Italy, and Lithuania have no restrictions. In the U.S., there are six states and over 150 localities (cities, towns, and counties) that have passed various restrictions or bans on wild animals in circuses.

Across the ocean, in American backyards and “wildlife parks” there remain more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. This is why FOUR PAWS continues to educate the public on the dangers of big cat exploitation and urges the U.S. government to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would end public contact with big cats and the private ownership of them as pets, along with supporting a ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses in the country.

Most relevantly, this Wednesday, July 29th, 2020, is International Tiger Day, and FOUR PAWS hopes to spread the message of support of the U.S. Big Cats and Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380/S.2561). This bill will protect the public and big cats by limiting the private ownership of big cats as pets and bringing an end to the excessive breeding, mismanagement, and inhumane treatment of thousands of tigers, lions, and other big cats in the U.S. 

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization 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 organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects 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.fourpawsusa.org 

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