Tiger behind bars in the train wagon

Stuck in an Abandoned Train Carriage in Argentina for 15 Years

FOUR PAWS to rescue and relocate ‘train tigers’ to its LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary


16 February 2022 – After 15 years of living in an abandoned train carriage in San Luis province in the Northwest of Argentina, a family of four tigers will finally get a second chance at a better life: Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is currently preparing to rescue the big cats from their confinement.

A travelling circus abandoned the now 18-year old male and 15-year-old female tiger in 2007, asking a local farmer to take care of them temporarily – only to never return again. The tigers have since become a family of four. In 2021 the authorities became aware of the inferior living conditions of the tigers and began looking for long overdue solutions for the animals.

A FOUR PAWS team will travel to San Luis in the upcoming weeks upon the invitation of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development to examine the tigers and transfer them to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

The private keeping of wild animals is illegal in Argentina, therefore the farmer, who kept taking care of the tigers to his best knowledge, did not inform the authorities immediately. The animals were never sterilised and a series of cubs were born over the years. Therefore, there are four tigers now.

“The train carriage was filthy with excrements and leftover meat and bones for a long time but fortunately this is not the case anymore. Tigers need to move, run, play, and bathe. Being locked in a 75m² train carriage and only pacing back and forth for 15 years is not a tiger-worthy life. All those years in such a small space have affected their mental and physical wellbeing for sure. We have a window of opportunity now to rescue them, and we will,” 

FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who leads the rescue mission

When representatives of the responsible wildlife authority, Fauna San Luis, encountered the inferior living conditions of the big cats during an inspection visit last year, they began looking for solutions, knowing they could not rehome the tigers locally. As soon as FOUR PAWS learned about the case, they offered their support and expertise in wild animal rescues and relocations to the authorities.

Wild animals are suffering all across the world

“Reveal, rescue, protect – these three verbs define how we operate. We rescue animals such as these tigers, and in doing so and talking about it we reveal systemic problems and legal shortcomings and raise awareness for why these issues matter. An example of such a link is our current ‘Break the Vicious Cycle’ campaign, which reveals that legal farming of big cats is a reality and a problem. Such actions are crucial to protecting these vulnerable species, and in our highly connected world all of this has an impact on the future of the planet,” says Pfabigan.

There are only around 3,900 tigers left in the wild worldwide. Due to a lack of worldwide regulations, the commercial trade of big cats is flourishing. Live tigers are shipped across the world to be kept as pets and abused for human entertainment in circuses, zoos or for paid interactions. Tigers and other big cat species are killed for their skin, fur, bones, and teeth.

“By rescuing these four tigers in Argentina, we provide a better life for them individually and create awareness for all animals globally to be treated with respect, empathy and understanding,” says FOUR PAWS CEO Josef Pfabigan.

The first South American FOUR PAWS mission

FOUR PAWS has offices in 14 and wild animal sanctuaries in eleven countries and has been active in many more, including Syria, Gaza, Pakistan, Sudan, and Cambodia. The rescue of the four tigers in Argentina, however, marks the first time the global animal welfare organisation is active in South America.

“Every single program and project we run to reveal suffering and to protect animals is special, just as every one of our rescue missions is. All our efforts matter for animal welfare worldwide. It is fantastic that the first ever rescue mission FOUR PAWS conducts in South America takes place in Argentina. Being Argentinian myself I know that I speak for many when I say that righting the wrong that has been done to these animals is a matter close to my heart. We thank the local authorities and all partners who made this possible. We look forward to building on these links, together shaping the future of the animal welfare discourse and agenda, thereby improving the lives of as many animals as possible, today and in the future”

Luciana D’Abramo, Chief Development Officer at FOUR PAWS

LIONSROCK: A home for over 100 rescued big cats in South Africa

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.

The habitat offers highest standards including large areas for family groups, facilitation of natural behavior through enrichment and highest standards of medical care as well as highest security standards of enclosures. In LIONSROCK hunting, trading or breeding of big cats is strictly prohibited. Moreover, interactions between wild animals and visitors are prohibited as well.

Train Tigers

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Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations


+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

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1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org

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