It is not a secret that I love animals. All of them, whether big or small. I am against animal cruelty, animal smuggling, research and tests on animals, breeding animals for a sole purpose of selling, and everything that you can think of when it comes to harming animals. They belong to the nature, and the nature is where they should live.
I am one of those people, who will not pass by the cat or dog without caressing one or open a can with food (there is always one or two of those in my car). I have been living in Cyprus for almost 8 years, and I have seen many starved, sick or pets thrown out to the streets because the owners had gotten bored of them. For as long I have been here, I have been rescuing cats, mainly. After all these years, and over 20 rescued cats later, there are five fur balls permanently running our household.
This post is about the latest case of rescuing cats. However I must mention that I was not the one rescuing them, and the rescued cats are tigers. I have been following this case closely, and I have decided to write about it. Please note that all the pictures used is this post were taken by staff of Poznań ZOO and Czluchow ZOO and posted on their public pages on Facebook.
For the last month and a half, Poland and many other countries across Europe, have been watching closely a case of nine tigers, called “Undead” (“Nieumarłe” in Polish): Merida, Softi, Samson, Aqua, Toph, Gogh, Kan, Maximus and Phoenix. Their story is horrifying, shocking and heart-breaking. But this is the story with a happy ending as well.
At the end of October, 22nd to be exact, a transport with 10 tigers left Italy. The final destination stated in the documents was Dagestan. After few days the transport entered Poland and attempted to enter Belarus on the Polish-Belarussian border in Koroszczyno, Poland. The Polish border vet approved and allowed the transport to leave the country,
however Belarussians rejected the entry to Belorussia due to lack of proper paperwork. As a result, the transport was stuck in Koroszczyno. My question here is: if the paper work was not correct or incomplete, how the transport managed to cross all the countries between Italy and Poland? Had no one paid attention what was in the van?
As it turned out, two Italian drivers were transporting 10 cages squeezed in a van for horse transport. Each of the cage had one inhabitant – a tiger. 10 tigers in total. The cages were small, animals were cramped in there, without ability to get up, to change their positions, or to even stretch. There were starved, dehydrated, with their faeces stuck to their bodies and furs, burned paws and muscles atrophies.
The conditions in which the tigers were transported were beyond horrific and shocking. To quote research for TV programs shown in Polish TV, based on the conditions in which the tigers were transported, they were not supposed to survive the trip. Allegedly they were supposed to be “spare parts”; their organs, skins, fangs were all required. Not their lives.
Two days later one of the tigers died at the border.
Five days after the transport remained at the border, on October 31st, two Zoological Gardens (ZOO) in Poland rescued and took over nine remaining tigers from the horrific transport. In total the tigers spent a week in Koroszczyno, and over a week in small cages.
At that moment it was not clear how many actually survived so much time being closed in cages and what their health conditions were. Poland held its breath…
Two of nine rescued tigers, who were in better health comparing to the rest, and who could still handle the longer transport, were accepted by a small ZOO in Człuchów, Canpol Odejewski. Both are males, and they are named Maximum and Phoenix now.
Seven out of nine tigers were transported to Poznań ZOO. They were three females Merida, Softi, Toph, and four males Samson, Aqua, Kan and Gogh (because his left ear had been bitten of). One cage was falling apart, the tiger inside of it was aggressive, the other tiger was barely alive, all of them were in very bad shapes, but they were alive.
On November, 1st, the fight for their lives and health has begun. Poland has mobilized itself, all the cat lovers and not only, were moved by the story and the situation. People donated any amount they could to help to feed and medicate these beautiful creatures.
However, the most important lesson from this is, that it has also publicised what is happening with animal cruelty, circus, illegal breeders, smuggling, not only in Europe, but everywhere in the world. There are still countries where it is legal to breed and enslave tigers and other animals. When one scrolls pictures form holidays on social media, one can spot “eager and happy” tourists standing next to chained monkey or a tiger. Where is the law against animal cruelty there?
In today’s world more countries decide to ban performance of animals in circus and similar “entertainment” venues. The latest country to uphold such ban is France. We all hope that more and more countries will forbid such horrors.
Going back to tigers. Maximus and Phoenix in Człuchów ZOO needed few days to start showing signs of improvement. Day by day they have been showing that there are traits of tigers coming out. A month later, both have been gaining weight, they have been playing with cartoon zebras, balls, pumpkins, and they have both been coming out to the outside world. They are discovering fresh air, snow, wind, sun and they are even picking up gardening – they make sure that all the bushes and trees in their area are bitten or marked properly. They are treated with respect and love they deserve. (if you want to learn more about both tigers, you can follow Canpol Odejewski on Facebook)
The tigers in Poznań ZOO were not in as good mental and physical conditions as the aforementioned tigers. Kan and Gogh were in the worst shapes. Gogh did not eat, had problems with breathing for days. Kan barely walked around, and when he walked, there were bloody stains on the floor. The health of Gogh was not only not improving, but it was getting worse. The vet from Poznań ZOO had taken the decision to perform an operation under a full anaesthesia. Gogh underwent an unblocking of his stomach and his digestive tract two weeks ago. Very, very slowly he has been improving. Everyone is still very cautious of claiming that Gogh is feeling and getting better, and it is still too early too say that he will be healthy and good, but every update on his health has been positive so far.
Upon arrival to Poznań ZOO, Merida and Softi were aggressive and very aware of what was happening around them, Aqua was hiding for days behind a hey and a tree in his “room”, Toph kept pacing back and forth showing signs of constant distress, and Samson was nervous, but in slightly better physical condition then the rest of his friends. He required just a few days to start acting like a cat, he was showing his belly and stretching his paws up in no time. But what all of them needed the most is the care and love from humans. The same race that had caused their suffering throughout their lives.
Unfortunately, the Poznań ZOO does not have the space to keep seven tigers forever. Therefore, by the action of the amazing director Ewa Zgrabczyńska, there were five spots found in Villena, Spain. It was decided that Merida, Toph, Aqua, Samson and Softi would be transported to animal sanctuary of AAP Primadomus in Spain. These five were chosen, because their health improvements were sufficient enough to sustain another transport. Due to bad health, Gogh and Kan are kept in Poznan, and this is where they will stay. I am more than sure that they will be very well taken care of and spoiled.
Director Zgrabczyńska and her staff from Poznan ZOO has been rescuing animals for years now. Her wish is to build a proper sanctuary in Poland for rescued animals. Poland does not have such sanctuary at all. But for this they need donations. Since the arrival of tigers, Poles and foreigners from many countries have been sending whatever the amounts they can. This is to support her idea and to help to care for the tigers. The total cost to build a sanctuary in Poland is approx. 6 million PLN (approx. 1,4 million EUR). All the donations till now amounted to 1,8 million PLN. There are 4 more to go. (if you want to learn more about Kan and Gogh, their progress or if you want to donate, please follow ZOO Poznan Official Site on Facebook)
It would take me too long time to describe the complications of organizing the
paperwork, and lack or reverse decisions made to allow, block and allow again the five tigers to leave Poland for their sanctuary in Spain. There were more cases of human stupidity, ignorance and political side-lining popping up day after day. However, with the push of director Zgrabczyńska, with a huge publicity and with an amazing support of thousands of people, five rescued tigers left for Spain on November, 30th.
Now, they are already resting in their new home in Almere, and they are under a quarantine. This is necessary after over 40-hour transport. Their quarantine will last till the end of this year, but AAP Primadomus and Stichting AAP publishes updates on their social media and their website every day. Again, Poland is holding its breath again… We are waiting for the new year to see “Undead” experiencing the outside world and getting their tiger-selves back.
It is important here to mention how this transport was organized. 20 people (employees of Poznan ZOO and local police) assisted to sedate and move the tigers from their “rooms” to the transportation cages. The entire operation took 5 hours.
Each animal was placed in a special cage, where it could move easily, stand or turn around. The van and the trailer had special camera system and the heating system installed to monitor the animals throughout the entire trip and to make the conditions as comfortable as possible. Every two hours there was a stop to allow the tigers to rest and to give water and “sandwiches” (raw meat) to the passangers. A vet from AAP Primadomus was assisting the tigers all the way from Poznan, Poland, to Villena, Spain. Judging from the posts on social media, I can honestly say that for 42 hours, hundreds of Poles were glued to their phones to track the drive. We are clearly showing signs of “tiger addiction”:)
AAP Primadomus is a Spanish location of non-profit organization called Stichting AAP (Animal Advocacy and Protection, https://www.aap.nl/nl). This Dutch foundation has over forty years of history of rescuing animals. The Spanish locations is dedicated to rescued primates and cats. As a non-profit organization, they depend on donations from the public. For example, the cost of daily care of one “Undead” is 75 EUR, and this amount includes medicine and food. There are five of fur balls, hence the total cost is 138 408 EUR for a year, to be exact. (if you want to learn about Stichting AAP and AAP Primadomus or donate, you can follow them on their social media or go to the website mentioned above)
I strongly believe it is on us to help, and it does no matter where the rescued animals are, what country, what continent. Nowadays we are facing so many wild species at the edge of extinction or already extinct. We have to prove to them that not every human is cruel… and to give all humanity the hope that there is still a goodness in the world. To do this, the laws to protect the animals from human cruelty have to be tightened, ban of using animals for any “entertainment” should be presented, and this exactly where we have to follow and support people like Ewa Zgrabczyńska from Poznań ZOO or David van Gannep from Stichting AAP. Their continuous fight for tighter laws against animal cruelty and protection of animals is what humanity is about.