The subject of wild animals working in circuses is a contentious one, one that often sparks heated debate among animal advocates and protection groups. Among those groups working to create better lives for animals who have previously been exploited is AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP).
Last fall, the AAP rescued five tigers named Antonella, Natasha, Zoppa, Girona and Mondo, who had been working for years at the UK-based Circus Wonderland. After the circus decided to stop using wild animals as a part of their entertainment programming, the AAP successfully relocated them and worked with veterinarians, zoologists and other specialists to rehabilitate them to full strength at their rescue center, AAP Primadomus, in Spain.
Last Thursday, these big cats’ final journey to their permanent home began. This arduous journey would take the cats from the rescue center in Spain to the Isle of Wight Zoo in the English Channel, which is no easy feat.
“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,” said AAP’s CEO David van Gennep in a recent press release. “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.”
Despite the difficult journey that must be endured, the final destination will be more than worth it. The sad truth is that the majority of ex-circus animals possess a variety of physical and behavioral problems that result from a life of performing for crowds. A new life at the Isle of Wight Zoo will mean healthy living conditions, a balanced diet and the ability for each cat to live in peace.
The Isle of Wight Zoo is unlike most zoos in that it’s a part of The Wildheart Trust, a charity that works to meet its “global ambitions to make a really meaningful impact on the health of the natural world while improving the well-being of animals in human care.” Moreover, it specifically caters to providing lifelong homes to rescued big cats, ensuring the rest of their lives are lived to their fullest.
Those at the zoo are excited to welcome these cats as they continue the last-minute preparations for their arrival.
“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,” says Charlotte Corney, manager of The Wildheart Foundation/ IOW Zoo. “Their long journey has finally come to an end: this is home.”