/ 9 July 2021

Sanctuary for sister tigers saved from circus

Sombra And Lupe On Platform
Burning bright: Sombra and Lupe have been given a new home in a wildlife sanctuary in the Free State after their rescue from Guatemala

Two sister tigers rescued by Animal Defenders International (ADI) from a small circus cage in Guatemala have found a new home after the country outlawed animal acts. 

The two tigers, Sombra and Lupe, were airlifted last year, along with 15 other circus lions and tigers. The sisters now live safely in a wildlife sanctuary in the Free State. 

In a new video from the ADI the sisters can be seen showing affection and hugging each other. They greet each other from separate areas before being reunited in one room. To show their communication and appreciation, they rub against each other, nuzzle and exchange scents. Towards the end of the video, the pair bask in the sunshine.

Commenting on the video, the president of the ADI, Jean Creamer, said: “This video leaves you in no doubt of the feeling between these family members, and at a time when the [United Kingdom] is considering important legislation to acknowledge the sentience of other species in the government’s animal welfare (sentience) bill, everyone needs to see this expression of tiger joy and pleasure.”

Creamer added that there is a great need for legislation to acknowledge sentience, emotions of joy, pleasure, pain and fear to protect animals in captivity. 

Last year’s rescue and journey to freedom of these animals marked the successful conclusion of the 18-month Operation Liberty. ADI assisted authorities with enforcing Guatemala’s animal circus ban, which involved removing animals and ending their suffering in circuses in that country.

After a seizure scare and being unwell last month, Sombra was taken to hospital at Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic in Pretoria and was put under the care of veterinarian Peter Caldwell, the ADI said. 

Her brain was scanned and no damage from a seizure was detected. But she remains on medication to prevent such attacks. 

“Sombra’s hospital stay is a reminder of the deprivation and suffering animals endure in circuses, now banned in the UK, and with pressure in the European Union to end circus suffering across all member states,” the ADI said in a statement. 

“Malnourished in the circus, the tigers did not get the vitamins their bodies needed as cubs and several of the tiger family carry a deformity which affects their neurological system.” 

The ADI sanctuary also provides large natural habitats to nearly 40 lions and tigers. It has a feeding area and a house with separate rooms to treat or observe the resident felines. Sombra and Lupe are given their medicine there twice a day.

Chris Gilili is an Adamela Trust climate and economic justice reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa