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Two tigers rescued from abandoned Aleppo zoo move to their new home

FOUR PAWS moves the traumatised animals to Dutch Big Cat Centre FELIDA

Sydney, 17.10.2017 – Just two months ago, international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued traumatised tigers Sultan and Sayeeda from a neglected zoo near the war-torn city of Aleppo. After a short stay in Turkey and Jordan, FOUR PAWS successfully brought the tigers to its FELIDA Big Cat Centre in the Netherlands on 16th October.

Under FOUR PAWS care, the tigers will receive specialised veterinary treatment, as well as extensive monitoring and positive reinforcement training to help them overcome the trauma they have experienced. The aim of the intensive care is to prepare the two big cats for an eventual and final transfer to an even larger big cat sanctuary in the future.

“While all the animals had suffered immensely during their captivity, the tigers in particular were badly emaciated and extremely dehydrated. They also suffered the effects of extreme stress as a result of living in a war zone with frequent bombings and explosions,” said Jeroen van Kernebeek, Country Director for FOUR PAWS Australia.

After the tigers, who are presumed to be siblings, were evacuated from the zoo of the "Magic World" amusement park near the city of Aleppo on 21st July, FOUR PAWS brought them to Jordan, alongside eleven other animals. The wildlife rescue centre "Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife", located an hour away from Amman, was only a temporary home for Sultan and Sayeeda though.

"It was always planned to bring the two animals to our Dutch FELIDA Big Cat Centre, where we specialise in traumatised tigers. We wanted to give Sultan and Sayeeda enough time to recover from the exertions of the transfer from Syria to Jordan. Now they have finally been deemed fit enough to go on their next trip," FOUR PAWS big cat expert Barbara Van Genne explained.

To avoid having to anaesthetise the two wild animals, experts trained them to voluntarily walk into their transport cages. The tigers took off on a regular passenger plane to Amsterdam, accompanied by the FOUR PAWS team. Upon their arrival, the animals were taken to the FELIDA Big Cat Centre, where they could explore their new enclosures for the first time.

Health checks and intensive care

The bad times are now definitely a thing of the past. Animal caretakers from the FELIDA Big Cat Centre will now look after the two tigers around the clock.

"To assess behaviour patterns and health, we will monitor the animals intensively during the first twelve days. We need to create a specific rehabilitation plan for them," Van Genne said. 

In addition to regular monitoring, enrichment, physical and behavioural training are also a daily occurrence. This is to build trust and to allow them to process the traumas of the war. The goal is that the tigers can be finally moved into an even larger enclosure in a big cat sanctuary after two years of care.


Home to many tigers

Until then, the two tigers will remain in the FOUR PAWS owned FELIDA Big Cat Centre, which is located in the Dutch town of Nijeberkoop. By taking over the project in 2014, the international animal welfare organisation also assumed responsibility for the 26 big cats that were already housed there at the time.

As FELIDA was primarily intended to serve as a transit and rehabilitation centre, FOUR PAWS moved most of the wild animals to the FOUR PAWS Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. Aside from Sayeeda and Sultan, five other tigers – most of them are too old or weak to be transferred – live in the Dutch big cat centre. In the future, FOUR PAWS plans to relocate the facility so that even more big cats can be rescued from poor keeping conditions and placed into large natural enclosures.

A delicate rescue mission: From Syria to the Netherlands

FOUR PAWS rescued the tigers Sultan and Sayeeda together with eleven other zoo animals from Syria. The evacuation of the first nine animals from the abandoned amusement park “Magic World” near Aleppo took place on 21st July with the help of international security agencies, the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and Turkish volunteers. The four animals who remained at the zoo, were rescued a week later.

FOUR PAWS brought all thirteen animals across the Syrian-Turkish border to the wildlife rescue centre Karacabey near the Turkish city Bursa. There, the injured and traumatised animals were treated for their wounds and received medical attention before their departure to Jordan was approved on 11th August. For the two tigers, the transfer to the Netherlands meant the end of the rescue mission and the beginning of a new and safe life.