Five Ex-Circus Tigers En Route to New Future in the UK

David next to Mondo's transport crate
David next to Mondo's transport crate

AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP) is transporting the animals from their rescue centre in Alicante (Spain) to the Isle of Wight Zoo, the new forever home for the five big cats. The majority of EU countries have banned wild animals in circuses due to health, safety and welfare reasons. Rescue centers and zoos around Europe are joining forces to give former circus animals a new home.

Villena, Spain, June 21 2018 - A major animal transport operation is taking place across Europe: five tigers are being transferred from the rescue centre AAP Primadomus in the small town of Villena, in South-East Spain, to Isle of Wight Zoo, in the English Channel. This long journey will thankfully be the last for a group of animals with too many miles on their backs; before being rescued by AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP), they had been part of a traveling circus show.

Logistic operation

AAP’s CEO David van Gennep explains: “Moving five big cats from Alicante to the Isle of Wight is a massive logistical operation, and one that has to be done with the highest animals welfare and security standards. Our trucks will cross Spain and France, transfer to the Eurorail in Calais to pass the Eurotunnel, drive along the English South coast and, for the last leg of the trip, take the ferry to Isle of Wight. Not something for the faint of heart.”

Tijger Zoppa, nog in Primadomus
Zoppa's enclosure (photo) will soon be available to other animals in need!

Circus Wonderland, where tigers Antonella, Natasha, Zoppa, Girona and Mondo performed for many years, decided to put an end to their entertainment with wild animals for good. AAP stepped in to rescue the big cats last fall, deploying a whole team of veterinarians, zoologists, ethologists and caretakers to ensure a prompt rehabilitation. Ex-circus animals often present a wide range of physical and behavioral problems due to poor keeping conditions and care by their owners. For example, Antonella arrived in very bad conditions, with weight problems and a broken leg. The AAP veterinary team performed a tibia operation and it has improved her quality of life substantially.

Room for animals in need

AAP is a rescue center which operates according to a half-way-house principle: once the animals have completed their rehabilitation process, a new, permanent home is found for them at a high-quality facility, often a zoo. “When we put out the call to our extensive European network, Isle of Wight immediately was one of the first to answer positively. We were thrilled, as that would mean five new places for other animals in dire need of help. Moreover, we cannot easily think of a better destination for these tigers”, Van Gennep explains.

Already 23 European Union Member States, including Ireland, and Scotland and England in the UK, have introduced or announced a ban or severe restriction of wild animals in circuses. A victory for animal welfare, but one that also generates some issues which need to be dealt with in the short term; most pressingly, a severe shortage of rescue capacity for the ex-animal performers.

De tijgers bij circus Wonderland
The tiger enclosure in circus Wonderland was far too small.

According to Van Gennep, “we are solving a European problem, but rescue centres and animal welfare organizations cannot do this alone: we need good zoos to pitch in and make room for these animals in their collections. And we also need authorities to facilitate and, where possible, help finance our work.” There is a hefty price tag for the rescue, rehabilitation and transport of these five tigers. “Right now these costs are being fully born by the generosity of our donors,” he adds.

Petition for circus animals

AAP and its European partners are aiming for a EU-wide ban which will ensure not only animal welfare, but also public health and safety, throughout the continent. A petition launched after a road accident in Spain involving five circus elephants, which left one dead and two severely injured, has already collected over 550.000 signatures demanding the European Commission to introduce the prohibition.

In the meantime, the team at Isle of Wight Zoo makes last-minute preparations to welcome their new inhabitants. Charlotte Corney, manager of The Wildheart Foundation/ IOW Zoo: “We know that the tigers have been cared for in the magnificent facilities of AAP after a life of hardship at the circus, and we are looking forward to their arrival. Their long journey has finally come to an end: this is home.”

See all updates of this outplacement

About AAP

AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection is an international animal welfare organization giving exotic, non-domesticated mammals a better future. AAP operates two rescue and rehabilitation facilities, one in the Netherlands (Stichting AAP) and one in Spain (AAP Primadomus), and is engaged in advocacy and campaigning for better legislation at regional, national and European level.