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

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


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 October 16.

In the care of FOUR PAWS, 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 programme is to prepare the two big cats for an eventual, 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.”

Jeroen van Kernebeek, FOUR PAWS Australia Country Director

After the tigers – presumed to be siblings – were evacuated from the zoo at the 'Magic World' amusement park near the city of Aleppo on July 21, FOUR PAWS brought them to Jordan, along with eleven other animals. However, 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.

"It was always the plan 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." 

Barbara Van Genne, FOUR PAWS big cat expert 

In order to avoid having to anaesthetise the two wild animals, experts trained them to voluntarily walk into their transport crates. 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," said big cat expert Van Genne. 

In addition to regular monitoring and enrichment, physical and behavioural training are also part of the daily routine. This is to build trust and to allow the animals to process the traumas of the war. The goal is to finally be able to move the two tigers 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 FELIDA Big Cat Centre, located in the Dutch town of Nijeberkoop. In 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 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 in 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 July 21 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 of Bursa. There, the wounds of the injured and traumatised animals were treated and they received medical attention before their departure to Jordan was approved on August 11. 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.

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FOUR PAWS press contact

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

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, animals in fashion, 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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