Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Hello from Roque

We’ve never forgotten Roque, the tiger Born Free rescued from a pet shop in Spain in 2000.  Since he came into our care we have, with the support of his adoptive parents, worked hard to provide him with a great home. 

First in Kent, a team managed by our Big Cat Consultant Tony Wiles, raised him from a cub into a beautiful adult tiger.  Then, in 2002, along with our other rescued tigers, Roque was moved to India into a specially constructed large sanctuary situated in the beautiful and peaceful Bannerghatta National Park.  Each year, Born Free visits to meet with the Forestry Department and project partners Wildlife SOS to agree budgets and review the care programme. Over the years, Roque and the other tigers have flourished.  Sadly though, nature has taken its course and today, the only tiger still with us from our original ‘Kent Six’ is Roque. 

Just a few weeks ago I was there with Tony for our annual meeting and we went up to the sanctuary to see if Roque was around.  He’s usually in his large forested area and like a wild tiger is rarely glimpsed; the care team just seeing him when he comes for his feed.  On this day though, they had decided to keep Roque in the day yard, so that we could see him properly.

I approached the fence first and there was Roque.  I’d not seen him in a few years and it was wonderful to see him looking so well.  He started to approach me and offered his tiger greeting.  Then he saw Tony approach.  Roque immediately changed course, completely blanking me, and going straight to his old friend Tony.  His greeting was enthusiastic and left no doubt that he instantly recognised Tony.  Roque rubbed up against the fence next to Tony for several minutes.  He then turned and walked away, through the gate into his large forest area, disappearing from view.

This was the best of both worlds. Roque giving an enthusiastic hello to an old friend; and then disappearing into the forest and out of view.  Probably off to find one of his favourite places to rest up under the trees.

We will never really know the details of Roque’s early life – how he was taken from his mother and ended up in a pet shop in Spain.  But thanks to his Adoptive Parents, Born Free has been able to offer him the opportunity of a peaceful life with wonderful carers and his own patch of jungle.

Best Wishes

Alison Hood
Director of Rescue and Care

Help us care for Roque by adopting him here

Goodbye to Masti

Photo (c)Chris Wright

We have sad news to share: Masti the tiger, living at the Born Free sanctuary in Bannerghatta, South India, died on 21st November 2013.

Shortly before his death, our Campaigns Director, Alison Hood, and BFF Wild Animal Care Consultant, Tony Wiles, were in Bangalore for meetings and visited Masti.  He was sleeping on the grass in the sunshine, appearing weak but comfortable.  We estimate he was about 17 years old.


Masti was a wild-born tiger who had been living in the Nagarhole National Park, a huge area of tiger habitat in the Western Ghats in Southern India.  Then, in 2005, he unwittingly walked into a poacher’s trap, most probably set to catch wild boar.  He managed to escape but, in what must have been a frantic, drawn-out and agonising effort, he suffered massive injuries in the process.

Once free, he struggled to a cave near the Mastigudi area of the Balle forest range, where he was found and captured by the Forest Department. The injury was so severe that he had to have the lower part of his leg amputated. Despite recovering relatively well from this traumatic event, it was clear he would never be able to hunt again. With no other space available, he was housed in a facility at the forestry rescue centre for two years.  Then, in November 2007, he was re-homed to the Born Free sanctuary. 

It must have been terrible for a wild tiger to be confined in an enclosure, and Masti was a raging ball of fury and hatred when he arrived to live alongside the BFF tigers.  However, our interconnecting ‘kraals’ and the opportunity to put some distance between himself and humans, seemed to give him a lot of comfort. With our partners Wildlife SOS, we devised environmental enrichment programmes for him which he seemed to enjoy.  He also enjoyed the man-made long concrete water tank that was in his enclosure.  He was often seen soaking in there.  Much removed from a forest pool – it still seemed to give him comfort and pleasure. 

Although he could be aggressive towards humans, in the last couple of years of his life Masti become tolerant of his carers, allowing them to tend to any little medical problems that arose with great patience and dignity.

“I feel very humbled to have been given the opportunity to help one of the world’s most iconic animals. I will never forget him and although very sad at his passing, peaceful though it was, I feel proud to have been part of his life. R.I.P.”  Tony Wiles

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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