Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Tiger move

Posted: 5 January 2006. Updated: 16 July 2012


Tigers go to new Home

In late July, ADI once more came to the aid of two of the tigers we rescued from the Akef Egyptian Circus nine years ago. Their future became uncertain when the land on which they lived was the target of a successful land claim. ADI stepped in to secure a new home for the tigers, fund their relocation, and pay for their care for their remaining years.

The two Bengal tigers, Mowgli (or Moggy) and Shere Khan, have led a remarkable, if not charmed life – saved from a life of torment in the circus, they seem to have had someone ready to care for them each time it has counted.

Summer 1996
In the summer of 1996 we learned that the notorious Akef Egyptian Circus had ground to a halt in Mozambique and the animals had been left to starve. The circus was regarded as a front for animal trafficking. Chimpanzees, parrots and other animals passed through their hands, and they attempted to get permits to trap wild elephants. A young woman working in a local travel agency, Elena Son, bought food for the animals and put out an SOS. ADI heard this and flew to Maputo, Mozambique. We secured the seizure of every animal: Three horses, five dogs, a python, six lions, and three tigers. The lions, tigers and python were all moved to South Africa.

Summer 2005
In 1997, the three tigers had been rehomed at Pumula Game Lodge in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, to live in a large natural bush enclosure. Tragically, after several years together the male tiger died. Then Pumula closed, and the facility was taken over by Ken and Lois Kuhle who turned it into Milimani Game Sanctuary. In the following years they released over 270 indigenous animals back into the wild. Milimani also became the first official release site of tortoises in South Africa. But in 2005 it was the target of a land claim and the land was subject to compulsory purchase. Ken and Lois had to leave by August. ADI agreed to find a new home for the tigers and began arrangements for the move. Tragically in June, Ken Kuhle suddenly died of a heart attack.


The tiger move
Just weeks after Ken’s death, Lois and the tigers needed to be off the property. It was agreed that the tigers would return to the care of Lente Roode at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, where all of the big cats had been quarantined in 1996 and where three of the lions had been rehomed. A licence for exotic species was obtained to enable the tigers to stay.

Tigers are worth more dead than alive, as trophy hunters will pay up to £30,000 for the so-called ‘thrill’ of shooting them, or if they are sold for traditional Chinese medicine and their skins. So it was vital that there was no risk whatsoever of the animals falling into the wrong hands.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI, oversaw the move: “I first saw these tigers in tiny two and half by one metre cages in Mozambique. I looked after them on the journey to South Africa, and was with them when they were first delivered to this sanctuary. But I had never actually seen them free – except on video. It was incredibly moving to see them emerge out of the long dry grass, lean, beautiful and free, in the glow of the African sun.”


In the early hours of 29th July, the tigers were anaesthetised by vet David Meltzer.
First one tiger was darted and placed unconscious in a travelling crate; she was given an antidote and only after she had started to come around, was the second tiger darted. With the tigers regaining consciousness in their crates, we began the eight hour journey to Hoedspruit. We stopped every hour to check them. With the sun setting, the team arrived at the Hoedspruit Centre for Endangered Species. The groggy tigers lumbered from their crates and lay down in their new enclosure in the fading sunlight. The following day they were eating heartily in the morning sunshine, starting another remarkable chapter in their lives.

ADI will continue to fund the care of the tigers for the rest of their lives. Any contributions towards this or to enable us to help other animals are greatly appreciated. Our special thanks to Lois and Ken Kuhle for all their years of care for these and other animals.

How two tigers changed the world
After rescuing the tigers and other animals from the Akef Egyptian Circus (right inset), ADI began a campaign to tighten the rules for the cross border movements of endangered animals with travelling circuses under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This meant reports and lobbying at CITES meetings in Africa, Europe, and South America. In 2003, new rules were adopted at the CITES Conference of Parties in Santiago Chile affecting the 160+ countries that are signatories to CITES. Mowgli and Shere Khan’s story played its part in making history.

Whatever happened to the lions rescued from the Akef Circus?
We had speculated how long the lions and tigers rescued from the Akef Circus might live; they had been almost starved to death (one tiger had died before we got there) but most went on to enjoy years of freedom. Some are still with us.

Akef (later renamed Hippie), Madonna and Sharon, the lions believed to be from the extinct-listed Barbary subspecies, were released into a huge 12 hectare enclosure at the Hoedspruit Centre for Endangered Species. After about a year and a half, Madonna had a miscarriage and did not recover, sadly she died. Akef and Sharon always remained at each other’s sides, but did not breed. ADI was also involved in the rescue and relocation to the project of other Barbary type lions from Italy. Last year (2004) Sharon died of old age. Staff at the centre did not think that the elderly Akef would cope without her, and within two months, Akef passed away too.

Goldie, Blondie and Shorty went to live at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in the care of Brian and Jenny Jones. Goldie (the largest of the lions) died after about two years – abuse and starvation with the circus had taken their toll on his immune system. He is buried in Brian and Jenny’s garden. Shorty is now very old and it looked like this might be his last year, but he is a fighter and keeps on going. Blondie remains strong and in excellent health, ruling over his kingdom, where he now lives with another rescued lion called Sarah

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