Argentinian Train tigers settling into their first enclosure at LIONSROCK

Former ‘Train Tigers’ Enjoy Tiger-Worthy Life in South Africa

FOUR PAWS rescued four tigers from a train carriage in Argentina in early March


1 April 2022 – It has been less than three weeks since tigers Mafalda, Gustavo, Messi and Sandro – the newest arrivals at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa – left their metal transport crates and stepped onto grass for the first time.

Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, which runs the South African big cat sanctuary, rescued the tigers in early March after they spent over 15 years in a train carriage in Argentina. Since their arrival on 12 March after an over 70-hour journey, the tigers have explored their new species-appropriate home curiously.

Now it was time for tigers Mafalda and Gustavo to move to a more spacious enclosure with even more new surroundings to explore for the first time.

The last weeks have marked a number of firsts for the tigers: For the first time in their lives, they have encountered raindrops, smelled leaves from a tree and seen the unhindered sky without looking through steel bars. This week marked another first in the tiger’s journey to rehabilitation as Mafalda and Gustavo were released into a larger enclosure and Messi and Sandro’s enclosure was opened to include the space previously occupied by the other two tigers.

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"The four have been closely monitored by our team since they've arrived at LIONSROCK and we knew that this week was the right time to open them to the bigger space,” 

says Hildegard Pirker, Head of Animal Welfare at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary.

Their new enclosure, over half an acre in size, gives the tigers plenty of space to roam, trees to hide under, a platform to rest on and take in the sights of LIONSROCK, and a swimming pool to cool off in. The tigers wasted little time exploring their new surroundings. Mafalda was the first to venture out. She cautiously explored the new sights and smells and tested her claws on the bark of a eucalyptus tree. Within minutes, Gustavo had joined her in their explorations together.

“The tigers’ new home at LIONSROCK is a stark contrast to the cramped and dark conditions they endured for over 15 years on the train so new experiences should be introduced slowly,” Pirker says, since this new freedom may be overwhelming. She continues, "We will soon get started on building an even bigger enclosure while they get used to these adaption enclosures.”

“Without the supporters and donors, these animals would have spent the rest of their lives in the train carriage. We are extremely grateful for everyone who helped to rescue these animals", continues Pirker. FOUR PAWS strives to ensure animal welfare worldwide by revealing suffering, rescuing, and protecting animals. The four tigers will now live in a species-appropriate home for the rest of their lives, far away from a life confined behind bars.

'Train tigers' before rescue

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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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