Ailing Tigers Get New Start in Life


The big cat growled. Surveying her new home from a bed of straw in a carrying crate, she was being jostled about by a crew of men, and not liking it one bit.

The men lugged the crate a few more feet, wrestling it into position next to her new cage. She growled again, a low rumble like a diesel engine.

The crew opened the sliding door to the crate. The tiger leaped out into the cage and rattled the back fence. She circled about. Then she clambered atop a green shed and stretched out to sniff regally at the darkness--an announcement that she had, indeed, arrived.


“She’s thinking this is paradise,” said Simon Adams, the British veterinarian who helped arrange the journey to the Wildlife Waystation, a refuge in the national forest near Lake View Terrace. “And for her--and the others--it is.”

The 8-year-old female, a 7-year-old male and two newborn cubs--Siberian tigers kept in what Adams called “the most appalling conditions” on a small farm in Ireland--had been due to be put to death Saturday.

But the Irish branch of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, acting on a tip, confiscated the animals and arranged for them to be taken to the Wildlife Waystation, home to 1,500 animals, including dozens of big cats.

There, director Martine Colette said, they will stay. “They’re going to live here a wonderful life,” said the French-born Colette, who has nursed thousands of animals back to health in her mountain sanctuary.

The adults, Colette said, were born in a circus in England and subsequently sold to a farmer living in County Limerick, Ireland, south and west of Dublin.

The farmer, Stafford Taylor, kept a small menagerie that included tigers, a black bear and two baboons. A third adult tiger was in such poor shape that he had to be destroyed, Adams said, and Irish press reports indicate that Taylor is facing criminal charges of cruelty to animals.


Adams said the tigers and the bear were kept in a shed five feet high, five feet wide and 25 feet long.

“Among the gross things they were fed,” Colette said, “were pigs heads.” Water was supplied naturally, Adams said, as rain seeped through the roof. The stench in the shed, she added, was horrible.

Since intervening, SPCA officials had been searching the world for new homes. The baboons went to England, the bear went to Canada and the tigers, including the cubs, headed west Saturday to Los Angeles.

The 7-year-old male, who should weigh 900 pounds, weighs only 450, Adams said, calling him “extremely debilitated.” Shortly after he arrived at Wildlife Waystation, Colette called out: “I need 20 pounds of red meat.”

The female, who ought to weigh 450 pounds, weighs 300, Adams said. Still, he said Sunday, she appeared to have survived the long airplane trip--Ireland to Chicago to Los Angeles--in fine shape.

That, he said, was especially important because she had been nursing the two cubs, 6 weeks old and six pounds apiece. They huddled Sunday in a crate in a warm car, mewling and wrestling and nipping at blankets.


With any luck, Adams said, the mother--who had been separated from the cubs for two days because of the long trip--will accept them back. And then, he said, the story will truly have a happy ending.

“If the mother accepts the cubs,” Adams said, “then we’ll have moved the entire bloody family of tigers from one side of the planet to the other, just in time for Christmas.”