In May of 2023, FOUR PAWS sent a team to Argentina on a mission to rescue two Bengal tigers from years of mistreatment at an illegal breeding farm. The situation was urgent, highly sensitive and risky. It was uncertain how cooperative the owner would be or if law enforcement would need to intervene. To add more pressure to the situation, there are no species-appropriate facilities or solutions within the country. The tigers would need to be relocated outside of Argentina, which is why local authorities called on FOUR PAWS to carry out the rescue.
Within days of the team’s arrival, the tigers were on their way to a safe haven. Eighteen-year-old Fangio and five-year-old Charly travelled for over 60 hours to reach their new home at Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife.
Shock and dismay
When the mission team entered the illegal breeding farm, they saw the extent to which the tigers had been suffering under abusive keeping conditions. Fangio was kept in a tiny cage, barely larger than the size of an average car. The ground was covered in mud and excrement. The stench of the rotten carcasses that were fed to both tigers, filled the air – a shocked to our experienced rescue team, who has witnessed a gamut of deplorable keeping conditions and abuse of animals.
Due to the urgent nature of the rescue, the team had to perform a timely veterinary check post-rescue. The FOUR PAWS vets leading the mission, Dr Amir Khalil and Dr Marina Ivanova, examined Fangio and Charly together with Dr Frank Göritz and Dr Julia Bohner from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). The tigers would need special treatment plans in order to regain their health.
Charly suffers from abnormalities on his kidneys and liver likely due to being taken from his mother at a very young age and inappropriately cared for ever since. He requires further treatment and an adjusted diet. Our veterinary team castrated him to reduce his testosterone level and relieve some of his stress. The good news: Charly had already begun to show signs of overall improvement in the weeks following his arrival at Al Ma’wa.
When examining Fangio, the vets discovered mutilations on his tail, ears, claws, and teeth, which were likely inflicted during his time at the circus. When he arrived at Al Ma’wa, Fangio was very skinny and dehydrated, therefore the team created a tailored medical plan to accelerate his recovery.
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Life going forward
Charly and Fangio are currently adjusting to their new home at Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife and their spacious temporary enclosure while they wait for their new 5,000 m2 enclosure to be built. While the tigers have adapted well to their new species-appropriate surroundings and are finally receiving proper food and medical care, their lives have been shaped by years-long abuse, fear, and suffering. However, as Dr Khalil says, “We have laid the foundation for a better life for Fangio and Charly, now we can watch them grow into it and finally live out behaviours natural for tigers.”
Making a lasting impact
Sustainable solutions and legal change are key to improve animal welfare in Argentina. There is much more to be done for captive big cats in the country, but Fangio and Charly are symbols of hope. FOUR PAWS has offered its expertise and support to the authorities to work together on improving animal welfare for big cats and other animals in Argentina and advises the implementation of measures to stop the illegal breeding and trade with wild animals.