Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Bannerghatta Diaries

November 2010 Update

Masti (l) and Roque at the sanctuary

Visit to the Born Free Foundation tiger facility in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, by Tony Wiles, BFF Animal Care Consultant, 2nd - 12th November 2010.

There were only two tigers for me to check this time, following the sad death of 21 year old King in September last year, as a result of age-related problems.    However, it was good to see Masti and Roque again.


“The Masti Tiger” is the wild disabled male Bengal tiger rescued from a poachers trap in 2005 in the Nagarahole National Park, and transferred to our sanctuary in 2007.  He now has permanent access to his specially adapted forest area.

One interesting point is that although his new area is considerably further away from any public thoroughfare, which I thought would allow him to relax when people were about, he still comes back to his den area, crouches and growls menacingly, as soon as he sees or hears any strangers in the vicinity.

At present he seems to have put on a lot of weight again which makes it more uncomfortable for him to move around. We will be putting him back on a diet which will make his life more physically comfortable, but he will become even less friendly as he still has the wild instinct of feast and famine and not balanced diet.


Our 13 year old tiger, rescued from a Spanish pet shop and transferred to Bannerghatta in 2002.

For our tigers in India, a potential problem is the ease with which they can get an infection. Just about everything has the potential to cause it from food to thorns, insects, and reptiles. Usually indigenous animals have some in built immunity from the less virulent diseases, but where we have to be more vigilant is because most of the tigers we place here come from generations of breeding in Europe, have had poor living conditions and abysmal diets and have not been able to build any resistance to vectors of infection they may encounter in India.

In Roque’s case he had stood on a particularly nasty thorn and although it was removed it left him with a very unpleasant infection, which required antibiotics and regular treatment to the wound with various ointments and potions.

He is very good and sits in his squeeze cage patiently whilst one carer puts on the ointment whilst the other one strokes his back and quietly reassures him that things are okay. Most tigers get very stressed during these treatments but because he was rescued as a young cub he has had less bad human interaction than any of the others we have saved and consequently is far less nervous, not happy, but less stressed.

He also had a slight reoccurrence of the stomach bug that had recently made him very ill. This was rapidly brought under control and he has since fully recovered. 

Owing to the injury to his paw he was confined to his night kraal for the duration of my visit so we did not get chance to interact through the fence in his forest area and play games as we have in the past.  However, with the pool, platform and trees in his night kraal, he will be comfortable there until he is allowed out in the forest again.

July 2010

Tony Wiles visit to the Born Free Foundation tiger sanctuary in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, from 11th to 21st July 2010

I make three trips a year to oversee our tigers’ welfare in Bannerghatta, India, and one of the visits always coincides with the monsoon season.

This was one such trip and the heat and dust were once again replaced with fresh growth and pleasant temperatures helped by sporadic heavy downpours of cooling rain.

When I arrived at the BFF sanctuary it was abundantly clear that the monsoon was working its magic once again as the shrubs, bushes and flowers were all radiant with blossom.

At present we have three tigers in the facility and owing to the heavy rain I was able to see all of them. Sometimes during the monsoon the vegetation grows so fast that seeing them in the forest becomes impossible as they can disappear within feet of entering their individual areas.

If the rain becomes too heavy they will scuttle back to their dens and only appear again when the weather improves, which usually happens within a few minutes.

Photo Tony Wiles/BFF
Masti in his new enclosure


12th July - Today I visited Masti, the wild-born tiger who had to have the lower part of his leg amputated after being caught in a trap.    The authorities were waiting for me to release him into his new area.  Before the release I inspected the enclosure which has been created in the forest behind his present outside kraal. As Masti is disabled some modifications had to be made to the normal jungle type areas the other tigers have. Owing to the fact that Masti only has one lower front leg, when he walks he cannot place his foot down gently thus avoiding any thorns or stones in the ground, as he hops on the front foot it comes down fairly heavily and would cause him discomfort or even injury should he step on one. I was very pleased to see the work that had been done: two different types of grass had been planted, on one side it was similar in texture to our lawns in the UK and on the other there was elephant grass with very broad leaves that acted like a very thin cooling mattress when laid on. Dotted about were non-thorny shrubs and various flowering bushes all looking very fresh and healthy.  A group of shade producing trees will give him somewhere to relax away from the sun.  Another pool has also been added.

As this area is away from any human access I hoped that he would be more able to relax undisturbed by all the comings and goings of the forest officials during the day.

Having checked that everything was in order I decided that we should release the tiger into his new domain.

It took very few minutes for him to find his way through and as he stepped through the opening the transformation in him was amazing. Even though he only has three and a half legs he immediately reverted to being a wild tiger, his senses became razor sharp reacting instantly to each and every rustle of a leaf.  Within two minutes he was spraying bushes to mark his territory and as soon as he reached the pool he went straight in, even with people looking on from afar, and lay there looking totally majestic and completely at ease.

For the first time since he has been in captivity he was relaxed and not cowering at the side of his den when people are around. This is solely to do with the fact that he is now a considerable distance from prying eyes and can only be viewed from afar. His natural instincts that will never totally forsake him are to get away from human beings who, lets face it, have not exactly endeared themselves to him.


King is around 19 years old now, and is the last surviving tiger of those we rescued from the Italian circus in 1997.  This more elderly tiger is choosing to spend all his time in and around his night kraal where the more level, short grassed areas are easier to walk on.  He is keeping well though.


When I arrived, Roque was confined to his night kraal so that some of the heavy undergrowth could be cleared from his forest area before the rains set in.  Owing to the success of the new Masti enclosure we have decided try pull up all the very thorny bushes and replace with grass  to make some more open areas for Roque to move around in. We will keep all the trees and evergreen bushes as well as the huge bamboos spread around the forest.  Roque has a pool and trees and grassy areas in his night kraal but I am sure he is impatient to be roaming his forest area once again.

Photo - Tony Wiles/bff
Roque - looking good
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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