Traumatised tigers receive first medical check-up since their rescue from Syria

International animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS conducts first comprehensive medical examination on two tigers rescued from Syria


In July 2017, a FOUR PAWS team evacuated the big cats Sultan and Sayeeda, along with eleven other animals, from a neglected zoo near the war-torn city of Aleppo. Three months later, the tigers were transferred to the Dutch Big Cat Centre FELIDA run by FOUR PAWS. The animals were in such bad shape that a thorough examination was only possible after months of trauma therapy, on March 28.

The hardships of the past have left their marks on Sultan and Sayeeda. Both big cats were in such a fragile state of health during and after the rescue from Syria that the first extensive check-up could only be performed now. The team of veterinarians examined the eyes, skin and fur, paws and teeth of the animals. In addition, blood tests as well as X-ray and ultrasound examinations of the skeleton and internal organs were made.

The examination was led by Dr Frank Göritz from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), who had already accompanied the tigers' rescue. 

"Both tigers have kidney problems because they did not get proper nutrition or enough water for a long time. We now have to keep an eye on the kidneys because they often cause problems for big cats. Sultan also has a weak heart – shortly after his rescue he even suffered a cardiac arrest. Overall, both animals have recovered well and their condition has improved significantly."

Dr. Frank Göritz , Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research veterinarian

Soon, first attempts will be made to socialise Sultan and Sayeeda. Therefore, it was necessary to castrate Sultan.

Scars from a painful past

FOUR PAWS rescued the tigers Sultan and Sayeeda along with other zoo animals from the neglected zoo at the 'Magic World' amusement park near Aleppo on July 21, 2017. In what was an extremely challenging mission, FOUR PAWS brought all former zoo residents across the Syrian-Turkish border to a sanctuary in Karacabey near the Turkish city of Bursa. There, the injured and traumatised animals received first aid.

In October 2017, the two tigers were transferred to the Netherlands. 

"We are satisfied with the results of the check-ups. Sultan and Sayeeda's health has not only improved physically, but their behaviour has also developed positively. However, they still need intensive care and we hope that we can bring them to a larger sanctuary at some point in the future."

Barbara van Genne, FOUR PAWS big cat expert 

FELIDA: rehabilitation for big cats

Sultan and Sayeeda will be able to continue their recovery in surroundings suited to their species at Big Cat Centre FELIDA in Nijeberkoop in the Netherlands. The team at FELIDA is specialised in caring for animals who need special attention, often due to psychological and physical trauma. This includes intensive monitoring of their behaviour and well-being. Individual enrichment, training, enclosure furnishing and medical care are adjusted to the animals' needs. FOUR PAWS plans to expand FELIDA to accommodate more rescued big cats in the future.

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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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