Five Rescued Circus Tigers Get a New Lease on Life as Retirees at U.K.'s Isle of Wight Zoo

On Wednesday, five tigers used for entertainment for nearly their entire lives finally got the chance to safely retire from show business. The big cats’ rescue and transportation away from circus life in Spain was made possible by AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP).

Though the tigers — Antonella, Natasha, Zoppa, Girona and Mondo — have quite the road trip ahead of them, from Southeast Spain to the Isle of Wight Zoo in the English Channel, the journey will hopefully be their last as traveling circus animals.

In a release from AAP, CEO David van Gennep explains, “Moving five big cats from Alicante to the Isle of Wight is a massive logistical operation, and one that has to be done with the highest animal welfare and security standards. Our trucks will cross Spain and France, transfer to the Eurostar in Calais to pass the Eurotunnel, drive along the English South coast and, for the last leg of the trip, take the ferry to Isle of Wight. Not something for the faint of heart.”

Last fall, the tigers’ former employer, Circus Wonderland, decided to end all its wild animal shows. From there, AAP was on the scene, helping rescue the cats and professionally care for and rehabilitate them with a team of veterinarians, zoologists, ethologists and caretakers. As ex-circus animals, they suffered from a number of afflictions, including physical and behavioral problems as a result of previously poor care and living conditions. Antonella the tiger, for instance, was in bad shape with a weight problem and broken leg. The AAP vets operated on her tibia and, as a result, have massively improved her quality of life.

These beautiful animals will soon see a much brighter, more peaceful future at their new permanent home, a high-quality facility in England.

“When we put out the call to our extensive European network, Isle of Wight immediately was one of the first to answer positively. We were thrilled, as that would mean five new places for other animals in dire need of help. Moreover, we cannot easily think of a better destination for these tigers,” says van Gennep.

“[AAP is] solving a European problem, but rescue centers and animal welfare organizations cannot do this alone: We need good zoos to pitch in and make room for these animals in their collections. And we also need authorities to facilitate and, where possible, help finance our work.”

The cost associated with these five tigers’ (and other wild animals’) rescue, rehab and transport is daunting, and currently being covered by generous donors.

Meanwhile, the Isle of Wight Zoo staff anxiously awaits the new wards, making last-minute preparations to comfortably welcome them.

“We know that the tigers have been cared for in the magnificent facilities of AAP after a life of hardship at the circus, and we are looking forward to their arrival. Their long journey has finally come to an end: this is home,” says Charlotte Corney, manager of the Wildheart Foundation and Isle of Wight Zoo.

Currently, 23 European Union Member States, including Ireland, Scotland and England in the U.K., “have introduced or announced a ban or severe restriction of wild animals in circuses,” according to the AAP’s press release. Although this is a victory for the animals and welfare activists, it also generates short-term issues related to the shortage of rescue care facilities and space. The AAP and its European partners hope for a EU-wide ban on all performing animals, which will prompt an improvement in exotic animal welfare, as well as the betterment of public health and safety across the continent.

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