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New beginnings for Boksburg tigers

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
02 March 2023 | 23:11 SAST
2 minute read

Image: Isindile B

Image: One of the Boksburg tigers in his enclosure at the Isindile Big Cat and Predator Sanctuary (Ansa Gerber/Supplied)

The Boksburg tigers did not always “burn bright in the forests of the night,” as William Blake poetically penned in 1794, and only recently escaped the concrete jungle in suburbia. On February 20, 2024, the two white Bengal tigers were liberated from captivity and transported to the Isindile Big Cat and Predator Sanctuary in Fouriesburg, Free State.

The sanctuary, which is NSPCA-accredited, was co-founded by Ansa and David Gerber.

Despite their years in captivity, the tigers exhibited remarkable adaptability, swiftly acclimating to their spacious sanctuary enclosure. Speaking to a Radio Islam International correspondent, David painted a heartwarming image of the tigers’ introduction to their enclosures at the sanctuary.

“It is absolutely remarkable to see them the first night actually sleeping outdoors, outside, under the African skies. Waking up early the next morning to the sound of jackals calling on the property and the sun rising. Very emotional and really fantastic to see that happen,” David says.

The female tiger basks in the sunlight in her enclosure at the sanctuary (Ansa Gerber/Supplied)

The tigers were kept as pets by their previous owners in a backyard since they were about 4 months old, Ansa says. In Gauteng, special permits are not required to keep exotic animals like tigers. When the tigers were reported to the Boksburg SPCA in 2021 after they were spotted by nursery school children, authorities could not take immediate legal recourse.

The owners eventually surrendered the tigers to the NSPCA due to personal circumstances, which led to their transfer to the sanctuary.

Although the tigers have acclimated well to their new surroundings, their long confinement has taken a toll on their health, particularly their weight.

“Our veterinarian, Dr Peter Caldwell, who did the sedation, he actually estimated that the male tiger might be as much as 110 kilograms overweight,” Ansa says.

This excess weight is attributed to a poor and frequent diet of chicken and beef, a lack of exercise, and confinement in cramped conditions. The sanctuary has implemented a tailored diet and a gradual reduction in food intake to prevent health complications.

In addition to the rescue of the white Bengal tigers, the sanctuary welcomed a young Bengal tiger from Pakistan after a year-long international rescue effort. The tiger, rescued from the pet trade with multiple bone fractures, arrived at the sanctuary a week before the Boksburg tigers did, and is already showing signs of rehabilitation, David says.

Young tiger from Pakistan (Ansa Gerber/Supplied)

Tygers tygers, burning bright. Under the starry African skies.

Listen to the full interview on Your World Today with Mufti Yusuf Moosagie.

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