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Rescued Ex-Circus Tigers Now Thriving in LIONSROCK Sanctuary

© FOUR PAWS | Monika Girardi

By Hildegard Pirker -  Head of Animal Welfare department  LIONSROCK


Meet Khan, Radja, Douglas, Shir-Khan, Prinz and Pascha. Since their arrival at Lionsrock in November 2013 all 6 tigers are thriving in their new home. They love to spend time in the water and it is amazing to see them playing and swimming.


The four brothers also discovered the joy of climbing up trees and they are surprisingly agile for their size and weight. Except some minor issues, their health is very good.


Living directly next to each other the two groups also interact quite a lot. Shir-Khan is the most dominant one of the four brothers and spends a lot of time stalking Khan on the other side of the fence. Radja is very playful and always friendly towards humans. On feeding days, she will jump playfully with excitement and is always the first one to get to the food. 


Large balls, ice blocks and hessian bags filled with hay and spices are offered to the tigers to provide behavioural enrichment. 


The pictures were taken by our volunteers Katrin Vosatka and Monika Girardi. 

© FOUR PAWS | Monika Girardi

History of the Starlight Tigers


One group consist of four male tigers (Douglas, Shir-Khan, Prinz, and Pascha). They are brothers and where all born on 30.07.2005. They were bought by the Starlight Circus in Germany.

The second group consists of one male (Khan), born 21.09.1999 and one female tiger (Radja), born 26.02.2004.


The six tigers were born in other German circus companies and sold to the Starlight Circus.

The previous home of the tigers was a small travelling circus run as a family business. The tiger groups lived more or less under ‘normal’ circus conditions. Most of the time each of the groups was kept in one wagon, (approximately 20m² and 25m² in size). When travelling to the next venue they were kept in the wagon only. We estimate that the circus probably visited 30 to 40 different venues per year.


During performance stops, one outdoor enclosure (approximately 100m²) with a low platform was provided for the six tigers. As the groups are incompatible they could not access the enclosure at the same time.

The six tigers did not perform in the ring and were not trained. The German animal welfare standards require permanent access to outdoor enclosures of specific size, which could not be provided by the circus.

The Veterinary Authority was no longer willing to accept the conditions and searched for alternative accommodation. The Veterinary Authority and FOUR PAWS convinced the owner to hand over the six animals to be brought to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary. This happened in a cooperative manner and was not a confiscation.


It is the first time that FOUR PAWS has rescued big cats directly from a circus. It is part of the FOUR PAWS rescue policy that former owners of wild animals do not replace them. The circus has agreed not to take new tigers/big cats and this has been regulated clearly in the contract between the circus and FOUR PAWS concerning the tigers.

© FOUR PAWS | Monika Girardi