Thai wildlife sanctuary rescues 11 abandoned tigers

The Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand has rescued 11 abandoned tigers in a months-long complex move from a private zoo that closed down during the pandemic. The foundation and is now providing the tigers with care and a large enclosed green space where they can roam freely.

“The zoo went bankrupt, there was no food to feed the animals any longer and they were looking for an option to solve this problem and they came to us,” said Edwin Wiek, Founder and Director of the Wildlife Friends Foundation.

When the pandemic struck, Thailand closed its borders due to public health measures. Some businesses, especially those that relied on the tourism business were forced to close. Among those were private zoos and other tourist attractions, which were struggling just to feed their animals. Among them was this zoo that housed the 11 tigers along with several other animals.

“They were kept in cages for almost two years during the COVID-19 crisis. And also there was little budget for food, so many of them were given the minimum amount of food to survive,” Wiek said.

Located in Petchaburi province about two hours south of Bangkok, The Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand (WFFT) is one of the largest wildlife rescue centers in Southeast Asia. It has given homes and a new lease on life to about 850 animals on its 212 acres including elephants, gibbons, orangutans, chimpanzees, rare birds, monkeys, bears, banteng and other mistreated creatures.

Transporting the tigers was complex and challenging. A team of 20 people made several trips over 4 months. Their ages range from 2 years through 19. They were closely monitored during each 8-hour drive.

“You do not want to harm them during transportation. It is a very complicated operation with that number so we decided to do it in three turns, taking three or four tigers at the time,” Wiek said.

Today, the tigers have been rehabilitated among trees, grass, ponds and flowers. And healthy diets and veterinary care.

“Now they have large enclosures, they are running around, playing. They run around, they climb in the trees, in their sleeping area, they go swimming in their ponds. For them it is of course a completely new life,” said Wiek.

“We try to give them life as close to nature as possible as that is what we do here,” he said.

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