Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI secures future for tigers, worth more dead than alive

Posted: 5 August 2005


Two Bengal tigers, whose plight forced new rules to be passed in over 160 countries, have been moved to safety to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre after spending the past eight years on a game sanctuary in northern KwaZulu-Natal. International animal campaigners, Animal Defenders International (ADI), organised their move in South Africa this week for their protection. Tigers are worth more dead than alive, as trophy hunters can pay up to £30,000 for the thrill of stalking and shooting them, or they are sold for traditional Chinese medicine and their skins.

This is the second time that the animals have been at the Hoedspruit Centre, having spent a quarantine period there in 1997. The two tigers were initially rescued from Mozambique in 1996 by ADI after being abandoned by the Akef Egyptian Circus. Altogether there were six lions, an African python, five dogs and three horses with the tigers. After spending a month in quarantine at the Centre, the tigers were relocated to the Milimani Game Sanctuary in KwaZulu-Natal.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI, who oversaw the move, said: “After rescuing the tigers and other animals from the Akef Egyptian Circus a decade ago, ADI began a campaign to tighten the rules for endangered animals with travelling circuses under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2003, new legislation was introduced in the 160+ countries that are signatories to CITES. So these tigers helped make history.”

For the past eight years the tigers have been in the care of Lois Kuhle of the Milimani Game Sanctuary. However, a land claim through the South African Government on the property meant that the animals had to vacate their home at the beginning of August.

ADI secured a new home for the tigers with Lente Roode, owner of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, who had provided quarantine accommodation for the tigers in 1997. The now ageing big cats will spend their remaining years at the Endangered Species Centre with their care funded by ADI.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI, was in South Africa for the move, which was funded by ADI, and for an emotional reunion with the tigers. Tim had been part of the original team that secured the release of all the animals from the circus and had cared for them on the journey from Mozambique.

Permits to move the animals were only granted at the last minute, so the team swung straight into action and flew to South Africa to move the tigers before the rapidly approaching land claim deadline of this week.

In the early hours the tigers were anaesthetised by vet for the move, Dr David Meltzer, and loaded into crates. They were immediately given an antidote so that they were regaining consciousness before the journey started. They then travelled for eight hours to Hoedspruit where, as the sun set, the still groggy animals were released into their new home.

Tim Phillips: “It was wonderful, and quite moving, to see these tigers, who have been through so much, again. However, they seem to have a guardian angel, first being rescued by ADI from the circus in Mozambique, then enjoying the care and attention of Lois Kuhle at Milimani, and having Lente Roode and ADI step in to save them once more. On the morning after the rescue, I left them at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, eating, blinking in the early sunshine, and surveying their new surroundings, about to start another remarkable chapter in their lives.”

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre - The Centre has established itself as one of the leading private research and breeding facilities for endangered species in South Africa. Governed by a progressive and modern management approach, it concerns itself with the breeding and maintenance of several endangered indigenous wildlife species in South Africa. It is now a refuge for many animals that have been abandoned or otherwise misplaced in the wild. The centre works closely with the advisory committees of the Pretoria Zoo as well as the University of Pretoria.

Milimani Game Sanctuary – For the last few years the tigers have been in the care of Ken and Lois Kuhle at the Milimani Game Sanctuary near Pongola in KwaZulu Natal. Milimani released over 270 indigenous animals back into the wild. Milimani was also the first official release site of tortoises in South Africa in November 2001. It was then the target of a successful land claim by the South African government, effective beginning August. Lois Kuhle has overseen the relocation of many of the rescued animals and it is hoped that the new owners will maintain the land as a sanctuary with no hunting.

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