Update privacy choices
News

A big-cat rescue operation for war's other refugees

Yahoo News
Sultan walks inside his enclosure at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre on Feb. 6, 2018, in Nijeberkoop, Netherlands. Sultan was born in 2016 in Magic World, a zoo and theme park in war-torn Aleppo, Syria. In July 2017, Four Paws International rescued Sultan, along with Sayeeda, from the zoo and transferred them first to a rescue center in Turkey and then to the Al Ma’wa sanctuary in Jordan. Sayeeda and Sultan arrived in October 2017 to Felida for specialized care to help them recover mentally and physically from their traumatic experience in Aleppo. Sultan and Sayeeda are thought to be siblings. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)

In 2017, near Aleppo, Syria, 13 animals were left alive of the hundreds who had once lived in the Magic World zoo. With war raging all through the city, the rest had succumbed to starvation and lack of care.

Among the survivors were two tigers, Sultan and Sayeeda. Rescuing and caring for neglected captive big cats is the mission of Four Paws International, which operates a shelter in an old farmhouse in a small town in the Netherlands. On a mission to rescue a lion and a bear from Mosul, Iraq, staffers learned about the plight of the tigers and realized they had to intervene.

“When our team found Sultan and Sayeeda, they were in very bad condition,” says Barbara van Genne, head of Four Paws’ big-cat operations an international animal-welfare organization that was established in Austria in 1988. “We had to put them under anesthesia to microchip them and do the necessary medical checks. Sultan went into cardiac arrest, and our team acted quickly and was able to save his life, but we were very worried about them.”

Sayeeda is carried by Four Paws staff to the veterinary room for a medical check on March 28, 2018, in the FELIDA Big Cat Centre in Nijeberkoop, Netherlands. She was born in 2016 in Aleppo, Syria. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)

Sayeeda and Sultan were very skinny and dehydrated, with very poor fur. Veterinary checks revealed damage to their kidneys, most likely due to the lack of good food and water; Sultan showed signs of extreme stress. More than a year later, Sultan and Sayeeda are living a life far from the trauma of war at the Big Cat Centre, where after months of intensive care they have just been socialized. “The tigers were kept separately when we rescued them. Since their arrival at FELIDA, we worked hard to make sure that their health and welfare increased. Last Tuesday was a special day, as for the first time we opened the gate that separates them to give them the chance to enjoy a life together. This is a huge step in their lives and will help them to deal better with the stress and trauma of war. It is a promising development and hopefully one day soon we can bring them to our sanctuary in South Africa, Lionsrock,” says van Genne.

Sayeeda lays on a bed during a veterinarian check, March 28, 2018, in the FELIDA Big Cat Centre. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)

There are five tigers at the center altogether, and three lions. Two cubs are lying in a customized bed enjoying the sunshine while resting their heads on each other. Terez and Masoud were born in Bulgaria in an illegal breeding station owned by the municipality. They were discovered by a volunteer in Bulgaria only one or two days after they were born and were handraised.

Terez and Masoud are seen playing inside their enclosure at their new home at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre after being rescued from Razgrad Zoo in Bulgaria on March 27, 2018. Terez and Masoud were inbred, sick and malnourished. Now Terez and Masoud have a new home and a future thanks to the efforts of Four Paws International, which fought hard when their transfer to the Netherlands was blocked by Bulgarian authorities. Thanks to the efforts of many supporters and the action of Bulgaria’s prime minister, Terez and Masoud are today in a safe place being well cared for. (Photo: Omar Havana / Four Paws)

Getting them to the Big Cat Centre required an online campaign, which led to public demonstrations in Bulgaria and, ultimately, the intervention of the prime minister. They arrived in the Netherlands weighing only about 45 pounds each; now, six months later, they are up to about 150 pounds. But the fight continues; there are still many other animals kept in captivity in similar places, not only in Bulgaria but throughout the world.

Sultan and Sayeeda

Sayeeda is seen inside her enclosure at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Dr. Frank Göritz from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, right, checks Sultan’s breathing after he has been injected with anesthesia in his enclosure while Dr. Marc Gölkell stands by, at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre, March 28, 2018. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Dr. Göritz, center, uses an ultrasound on Sultan’s heart while Four Paws veterinarian in training, Dr. Christine Steyer, left, and Dr. Gölkel, right, assist him during a veterinarian check. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Dr. Göritz cleans an abscess from Sultan’s mouth while Dr. Steyer assists him during a veterinarian check. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Sayeeda is seen resting inside her enclosure at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)

Terez and Masoud

Four Paws staff members carry Terez and Masoud to the FELIDA Big Cat Centre, where the lions cubs will live after being rescued from Razgrad Zoo in Bulgaria. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Despite the Four Paws hands-off policy for wild animals, volunteer Marina is allowed a goodbye hug with Terez and Masoud inside their enclosure at their new home at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre. Marina is a volunteer for a Bulgarian organization and took care of the cubs for months and handraised them in Bulgaria after they were rescued from Razgrad Zoo. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Dr. Steyer darts Masoud with anesthesia in his enclosure before he is transported to a veterinary room for a medical check. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Terez lays on a bed during a veterinarian check. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
Masoud lays on a bed for a veterinarian check. More than one month after their arrival at FELIDA, Masoud and Terez are doing well, gaining weight while under the constant care of Four Paws staff members. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)
A view of a door where animals had scratched due to the poor conditions in which animals were kept under the previous management team at the FELIDA Big Cat Centre. Before Four Paws took over this animal shelter in May 2014, over 20 wild animals were sharing tiny spaces in this animal shelter called Pantera. Four Paws International was called in to help in 2013, which led to a complete renovation of the center. Since then, several new enclosures have been built, and new facilities are planned for the future. (Photo: Omar Havana/Four Paws)

_____

Read more from Yahoo News:

 

Reactions

What to read next