Locked In A Train Carriage For 15 Years! 4 Tigers Rescued And Released!
Photo Cred: FOUR PAWS | Supplied

The former ‘train tigers’ that spent over 15 years stuck in a train carriage in Argentina finally arrived at their new home in South Africa on the 12th of March.


Bethlehem, South Africa (04 April 2022) – By February 2022, through the bars of their cages, the four Bengal tigers had watched the sunrise over a meadow more than 5,000 times. Freedom had always been right in front of them, yet so far away.

The cages were barely larger than the size of two parking spaces and were part of an old train carriage – unfit for any animal. In the beginning, it was only two of them. Then two cubs were born, who are 10 years old today. They were trapped behind bars in dirty conditions, with little space to move on a train wagon – which has been stood still since then.

FOUR PAWS and LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary had a very short window of opportunity to rescue them and to show these majestic big cats that they deserve better.

“We worked hard on issuing the permits with the authorities and gave our best to plan out the mission despite logistical obstacles.”

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, one of eleven wild animal sanctuaries established by FOUR PAWS, near Bethlehem, South Africa, is home to over 100 animals, most of which are big cats rescued by FOUR PAWS from war-ravaged zoos, circuses, private ownership, and the canned hunting industry. The sanctuary provides a species-appropriate, lifelong home for the mistreated big cats who cannot be released back into the wild.

After months of planning and a 70-hour trip, the former ‘train tigers’ that spent over 15 years stuck in a train carriage in Argentina finally arrived at their new home in South Africa on the 12th of March.

Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued the tigers from their long confinement after weeks of tireless efforts and close cooperation with the Argentinian and South African authorities and transferred them to its species-appropriate big cat sanctuary.

Getting the tigers out of the train carriage, into the transport crates and on a truck to the airport was a logistical challenge that the experienced team mastered without complications. Now Sandro, Mafalda, Messi and Gustavo have arrived well at their new forever home.

“These tigers had never felt grass or earth under their paws. It’s the first time they can see the sky above them, not just metal bars and a roof. Now they have hundreds of square meters full of new feelings, tastes and smells. It is overwhelming for them to be in a completely new environment, but animals are quick at adapting to better living conditions. They were already curious, exploring their temporary adaption enclosures and making careful first steps on the so far unfamiliar ground. I am proud that we have brought all four tigers safely to South Africa. Now the mission is complete, and I am handing them over into the care of my colleagues at LIONSROCK,” says FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who led the rescue mission and transfer of the tigers to South Africa.

“The road to rehabilitation for these animals now begins,” says Hildegard Pirker, who manages LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary. “In the coming days and weeks, LIONSROCK will closely monitor the four tigers’ medical needs and determine the veterinary care they need.”

FOUR PAWS care for rescued big cats in a species-appropriate environment at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, yet many other big cats around the world face a tragic fate.

Pirker continues, “The exploitation of big cats for commercial gain fuels an industry that could lead to the future of the species being behind bars.”

Watch as the tigers discover what freedom feels like:

Sources: LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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