Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Sad News

Photo - Tony Wiles/BFF

We have received the distressing news that Zeudy died on 13th June, despite the best efforts of the vets.  So, sadly, both brother and sister have died within a few months of each other. 

Harak and Zeudy didn’t live together – feisty Zeudy lived alone having decided eight years ago that she no longer wanted to share with her mate, the magnificent Royale.  Harak and Zeudy were only about 15-16 years old, not that old for a captive tiger but, as mentioned in the report above, they were always rather poor specimens, and we suspected they were in-bred.  They didn’t know they were poor examples of the Siberian tiger subspecies though.  They seemed to really enjoy their lives in India and had 10 happy years after their rescue from the Italian Circus in 1997, first at our sanctuary in Kent and then, two years later, they were rehomed to Bannerghatta Wildlife Park.  In our sanctuary they each had three acres to roam in – part jungle with deep pools; part grassy night areas, also with a pool. It was in this grassy night area that Zeudy chose to spend most of her time in the months before her death.

It was a world away from the cramped, rusty, dirty circus beast wagon they had shared.  The circus had financial and legal problems and had stopped touring, and its doubtful whether the tigers had been out of their trailer in the last 18 months prior to their rescue.  We are very sad to lose Harak and Zeudy, but glad they didn’t merely live and die in the circus. 

With Zeudy, her death comes as no great surprise, in view of her slowly deteriorating condition we had been observing.  She will be very much missed though.

March 2010

Tony Wiles visit to the Born Free Foundation tiger facility in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, 12th - 26th March 2010

I arrived in India in a sombre mood. On 24th February we had received the sad and totally unexpected news that Harak had died.  Although most of the animals we rescue have not had a good start in life and many would have suffered up until the time we rescued them, it still comes as a shock when one dies suddenly without any warning signs. We were not sure of his age, but estimated him at between 14 and 16 years old.  A post mortem was immediately carried out, but the exact cause of his death could not be ascertained.

He was never a magnificent specimen.  I always thought he and his sister Zeudy were in-bred.  When we were looking after the tigers at the Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, after their rescue from the Italian Circus in 1997, I always thought Harak moved strangely – as if his hind quarters were following his front end like an articulated lorry!  With his curved, ‘roached’ spine, he never looked the classic, powerful Siberian tiger.  However, his spine looked less curved after spending time in India.  Perhaps the undulating terrain and much larger territory he had to patrol, developed his muscles which made the bony changes less noticeable.

Harak had eight contented years in India, enjoying the space and relative freedom of his forest enclosure, rather than living and dying in his dirty cramped circus trailer.  He was cremated as is the custom in India, and his ashes scattered at the sanctuary.

Zeudy – On this visit Zeudy was looking quite old and frail.  She seemed comfortable though, enjoying basking in the sunshine. On several occasions that I have visited India the vets have discussed with me what they could do to improve Zeudy’s condition and I have had to explain to them that even when she was in the UK, over eight years ago, it was an ongoing battle to keep her in condition and her weight up. In fact we have never managed to get her anywhere near to the normal weight of a Siberian tiger.   She remains a feisty character nonetheless.  She never had a problem keeping her erstwhile mate, the massive Royale, in his place.

MASTI  - Masti and Harak seemed to enjoy a strange companionship.  This was less of a puzzle with Harak, who had been closely confined with other male tigers in the circus, but it seemed strange that a wild tiger should accept the presence of an entire male anywhere near his territory.  Yet these two had been observed lying next to each other, on either side of the fence that separated them.  It is not possible to tell if Masti is missing Harak.  If he sees or senses you looking at him, he immediately charges the fence in a very aggressive manner.  I next visit our tigers in July and I hope then he can be released into an extended area of his enclosure.  There appears to be a genuine fear that this animal could escape and cause some major problems for the local population. To satisfy the authorities and make the park staff feel more secure I have had some of the forest fences raised and strengthened.

The fact is that although he is potentially extremely dangerous, he is also disabled and now at the end of his wild tiger life. As long as he is given respect and allowed to have a reasonable distance between him and any human presence, I believe he will take the easy option and live quite happily in the area given to him.

What can I say about Roque?! In all the years I have been coming here he has never failed to come and greet me, always with the same relaxed, totally trusting manner which was part of the bond we formed when he was a cub and has never wavered for one second even after all the time he has been in India.

This visit was no exception and as soon as he heard my voice he appeared from out of his forest area with the same enthusiasm as always and more than ready for our now regular game of hide and seek, with me as usual being the pursued (on the other side of the fence of course!).

As the temperature was not so high, he was a lot more active and would have spent all day with me if I had not had to leave after an hour or so to attend a pre-arranged meeting. It is usually only when I first arrive on each trip that he spends much time with me. After that he will on occasion come and greet me, but generally, especially if it is hot, he will stay in his forest area away from the sun and biting insects that abound in the forest.

KING – King is the last of the male tigers rescued from the Italian Circus in 1997 and although 19-20 years old, he is still looking in great shape and is very active.  He does not tend to be particularly drawn towards humans and will disappear very quickly when released into his day kraal. As long as the monsoons are good his vast water tank will fill quite quickly as it is the run off lake for the surrounding area. When this happens, he spends a great deal of time, especially in the hottest part of the day, swimming or lazing about in the cool water. Of all the tigers he is the one who spends by far the most time in the pool. 

STOP PRESSWe have received the distressing news that Zeudy died on 13th June, despite the best efforts of the vets.  So, sadly, both brother and sister have died within a few months of each other. 

Harak and Zeudy didn’t live together – feisty Zeudy lived alone having decided eight years ago that she no longer wanted to share with her mate, the magnificent Royale.  Harak and Zeudy were only about 15-16 years old, not that old for a captive tiger but, as mentioned in the report above, they were always rather poor specimens, and we suspected they were in-bred.  They didn’t know they were poor examples of the Siberian tiger subspecies though.  They seemed to really enjoy their lives in India and had 10 happy years after their rescue from the Italian Circus in 1997, first at our sanctuary in Kent and then, two years later, they were rehomed to Bannerghatta Wildlife Park.  In our sanctuary they each had three acres to roam in – part jungle with deep pools; part grassy night areas, also with a pool. It was in this grassy night area that Zeudy chose to spend most of her time in the months before her death. 

It was a world away from the cramped, rusty, dirty circus beast wagon they had shared.  The circus had financial and legal problems and had stopped touring, and its doubtful whether the tigers had been out of their trailer in the last 18 months prior to their rescue.  We are very sad to lose Harak and Zeudy, but glad they didn’t merely live and die in the circus. 

With Zeudy, her death comes as no great surprise, in view of her slowly deteriorating condition we had been observing.  She will be very much missed though.

August 09

Photo Chris Wright

Tony Wiles visit to the Born Free tiger facility in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Karnataka, South India from 30th July to 12th August 2009.

The theme for this trip was rain and then more rain. Almost every evening we had a quite heavy downpour of monsoon rain, which is very good news for the forest and its inhabitants.

Unfortunately the monsoon, which is a little early this year, has created a massive surge in plant growth in the tiger forest areas, making it impossible to see more than a couple of metres into their domain.

Although the forest areas are very overgrown, the night kraals and den areas are looking very good with the reception area looking particularly smart. The staff has spent a considerable time planting shrubs and trees to create a very colourful and pleasing first view as one arrives at the facility.

Regarding the animals, the wild Masti tiger has settled down and is now given access to a much larger night kraal without the retaining bars we had to put up when we first had him. Although much calmer with the four staff who look after him, he will still try to attack anyone who dares walk near his fence line.

He has slimmed down a lot and is looking in very good shape, far less nervous and more interested in all around him.

In fact we have now decided the time has come to allow him into the forest area.

The first stage is to fence off a small part of the forest kraal and remove all the thorny undergrowth, just leaving the ever green and soft bushes plus all the trees. We have to do this as he would be always getting nasty thorns in his solitary front foot as he hopped along.

We will give him a small area of forest first as we want to be sure he will come back to the night kraal or den for feeding and any medical attention if required. Once he is comfortable with that we will look at moving the fence to enlarge the area.

Roque was again very happy in my company and spent a lot of time just hanging around me always keen to interact. We spent loads of time playing hunter and hunted, with me being the hunted of course, we also spent time just sitting next to each other just passing the time of day.

As the undergrowth in his forest area was over six feet high, one bound off his raised forest pool and he was gone in absolute silence.

As with Roque, I felt that Zeudy was a little under weight, so I arranged to increase their feed by 3 and 2 kgs respectively. As Roque is naturally slim by sub species and Zeudy has always been on the slim side it can be difficult to judge how much they will eat.

I only got to see Zeudy in her night kraal as, with all the other cats, her forest area was thick with undergrowth. Although she was not particularly active, she is 14 years old now which is more or less the full lifespan of a wild tiger, she appeared happy, very relaxed and hopefully has many more years ahead of her.

Since the arrival of the Masti tiger, Harak has made it his mission to befriend him even to the point of coming out of the forest area and staying in his night kraal to be near Masti. My initial thought was Harak was patrolling his territory and making sure Masti does not intrude, but as there does not appear to be any animosity or stress with either of the cats I am beginning to think there could possibly be some sort of strange bond between them.

King also seems to be getting in on the act and on occasion comes out of the forest to his night kraal to be in company with the other two. He is probably the most nervous of the BFF tigers and although not frightened by people would rather be away from humanity deep in his forest area.

May 09

Report on Zeudy and Roque during my visit from 29th April to 08th May 2009.

This visit coincided with the Indian general elections so everyone was wondering if a change would mark the beginning of the end of the endemic corruption that filters into virtually every aspect of people’s lives. I think probably not which is bad news for wildlife in India as the natural areas are the ones that suffer the illegal activities most, from mining granite and marble to logging, poaching, grazing and building. Nothing is spared, not even the national parks.

Our tigers blissfully unaware of all that’s going on are in superb condition and continuing to enjoy the natural areas available to each of them. Within the next few weeks the dry season will get very intense with many of the trees losing their leaves and the grass turning yellow making it extremely difficult to see the cats as they lay in whatever shade they can find.

Roque was in a friendly,  am enjoying your company, mood on this visit, so I was privileged to have his undivided attention for at least half and hour on several of my visits to the facility. We even had some play time together both at the top end of his territory where the man made pool is, where he spent time going into his pool and then getting out and coming to show me what he was doing. I often wonder whether he would like me to join him. Unfortunately that is out of the question as the unpredictability of a mature tiger is very real and probably fatal.

We also had a good time down in the bottom end of his kamp. It is a long walk around the tiger facility to get to the bottom of his territory, but once there it soon became apparent that it was well worth it. This area is low lying and not so hilly, with much undergrowth to hide an animal in. Here is where we played catch; I creep along the outside of the fence while he stalked me through the undergrowth on the inside. Each time I looked at him he froze blending perfectly with his surrounding, when I looked away and moved forward he quickly and silently closed the gap until he felt close enough to attack, then rushed out of the bushes with such speed he was on the fence in a flash right beside me. Great fun was had by both of us, especially in my case knowing the fence stopped me from being flattened although he never ever draws his claws on me even when pouncing.

Zeudy is a totally different animal to Roque, although she came to the fence to greet me, she would if given the slightest chance bite not only people but other tigers as well. This means her interaction with me was brief, just a cursory acknowledgement of my presence then straight away into the deep bush in her area where there is a large rocky outcrop for her to explore and hide in until the next feed day or the weather gets so hot she comes down to her pool near the fence line to cool off.

Whilst I was there she emerged from her den where she had been feeding and immediately went to her main pool and lay in there for a while before disappearing into the bush to sleep away from all human interference... What is so nice is the fact that this is exactly what wild tigers would do so we have given her the opportunity to act in a near normal fashion

Tony Wiles.

Bannerghatta update - Winter 08/09

Tony Wiles visit to the Born Free tiger facility in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Karnataka, South India from 10th to 21st November 2008.

Incredibly another year has almost passed since the tigers came here from the UK.  This visit included the tiger facility AGM where we have an annual review of all that has gone on during the previous twelve months. We also have to decide whether we need to make any more modifications or do any major maintenance work and lastly work out a budget for the forthcoming year.

The major project for 2008 was taking in the Masti tiger. This beautiful wild tiger has for the last year been living in our rescue facility and although he still and always will remain very wild he has taken to his area remarkably well, making good use of his grass area for sleeping and rolling on and his pool in which he spends long periods during the heat of the day.

Our wish is to give him an area of forest to go into but with his attitude towards humans and his lack of one front leg, it is difficult at present to devise a solution that will enable him to move around comfortably and also satisfy the Indian authorities that he will not break out and endanger human lives.

Zeudy - enjoying life at Bannerghatta

Zeudy is once again her old self, looking and moving much better than she did during my visit in June. Being a Siberian tiger her coat never looks as sleek and shiny as the other cats, hers is always a little longer and more of a matt appearance. Apart from that she is very comfortable in her area taking great interest in all that goes on, spending a lot of time exploring and investigating every little happening on her patch.

Roque
Good natured Roque

On this visit Roque decided to spend a great deal of time in our company and Chris Wright my colleague from BFF, HQ in the UK, who came out to meet me for the AGM, managed to take some very good photos.

This tiger always looks in beautiful condition with his coat shining like burnished gold as he comes through the trees to greet us. He looks quite thin compared to the other cats but as he is a Sumatran tiger who would be normally living in a very hot thick jungle, the lack of body bulk and big surface area of skin help to dissipate the heat.

Owing to a lot of time being taken up in meetings with the authorities, I was unable to spend as much time with the cats as usual, the result being I did not get to see much of King and Harak although the glimpses I did get showed them both to be in very good condition and competely at one with their environment.

In fact we have a cross section of tiger subspecies at the BFF facility. Roque is Sumatran, Zeudy and Harak are Siberian, the Masti tiger is Indian (Bengal) and King is a hybrid mostly Siberian with some Indian in him. It is interesting to observe the physical differences between them all.

king - happy
King

Bannerghatta Update July 2008

Tony Wiles reporting on visit to the BFF tiger facility in the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Karnataka, South India. 24th June to 04th July 2008.

Although the monsoons were not due for another month it rained in the evenings on most of the days I was at the park. After several years of poor rains the tables have now completely turned and everything is looking fresh and bright with much water in the tanks (lakes and ponds) dotted around the park.

One of the downsides to the early rains is the fact that the repainting of our day kraals has taken longer than anticipated, which in turn means the tigers spend more time shut in their night kraals whilst the workforce painting the inside of the perimeter fence and the internal dividing fences are having to work between the downpours.

Over the years the staff have put a lot of time into planting shrubs, trees and bushes around the BFF facility and with the warm climate and the unusual rainfall the place is looking absolutely fantastic.

The Masti tiger – this is the wild tiger that was brought to Bannerghatta after losing a paw while escaping from a trap.  He had to have the lower part of his front leg amputated and with no other space available, he was homed in a small cage at the forestry rescue centre for two years, until he was rehomed to our more spacious surroundings in November 2007.  He has settled in really well and is enjoying being outside in his specially modified area. He is still extremely aggressive towards humans and will not hesitate to charge the fence if anyone goes too near his enclosure, but when he is on his own he loves rolling in or lying on the grass under the trees and spends long periods in his pool.

masti - photo T.Wiles/BFF

Unfortunately it is almost impossible to get any good pictures of him as he does not even allow the staff to get near enough to take a good photo. Before we took the tiger from the forestry rescue centre, to help relieve the pressure on their resources, he was being sick every few days or so, but since last November he has been in the BFF facility under our care and has not been sick once.

He has put on a lot of weight and with only three legs it has made it more difficult for him to move around. Fortunately we have just got a new young woman vet in charge of the day to day welfare of our animals and between us we have implemented a diet that will make him fitter, healthier and more able to move with ease.

By giving our tigers as near natural environment to live in as possible it can be quite difficult to write a detailed account of their lifestyle. Apart from coming out of their forest area for food every other day one very rarely sees them.

This is because their home ranges at present have a thick cover of undergrowth comprising of very long grasses and masses of thick shrubs, in fact the visibility into each area is no more than 10 to 20 metres before the animal disappears altogether.

On this trip, as we have a new vet, we decided to hold the cats in the night kraals  when they came in to feed so that we could assess each one the following morning. This gave me the opportunity to see how well the tigers were doing and if necessary make modifications to their diet or deal with any other aspects of their welfare that might have arisen during their time in the forest.

Roque had slightly damaged his hind foot some time ago and it appeared to have slightly flared up again, but with a little TLC, an antibiotic and a dollop of ointment he was on his way still as friendly as ever with the staff and myself. As it is wet and cooler he has taken to lying on top of a wall, all that remains of some hut or building, long disused, in his forest area. He did come and find me on two occasions this trip but as I have mentioned in the recent past, he only stayed for about five minutes before disappearing into the forest.

roque - photo Wiles/BFF

I was luckier with Zeudy as her day kraal was being painted so for a day and a half she was confined to her night kraal. The problem with observing her under these conditions was as soon as she saw me she kept going to the gate in her night kraal and asking to be released into the forest area. As soon as I moved away she settled down and lay under the trees and slept.

Harak and King were as usual completely laid back and looking in really good condition in spite of being a shade overweight. Whereas King disappeared off into the forest and stayed there for a couple of days until the next feed day, Harak came and went on a regular basis and he could quite often be seen in his night kraal sleeping near the Masti tiger. I don’t know whether they have struck up a friendship, or he is just protecting his territory. I suspect the latter.

Archive

Bannerghatta Updates Nov 2007

Tony Wiles reporting on visit to the BFF tiger facility at the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Karnataka, South India, 19th to 30th November 2007.

It is with great sadness that I have to start this report with news of the death of Dr G.K.Vishwanath, the assistant director and veterinarian to the Bannerghatta Biological Park.

On 10th November last year whilst going about his duties at the park he encountered a wild elephant which charged him. He was unable to reach safety before the animal caught and seriously injured him.

He was rushed to hospital where he survived for 50 days before succumbing to his injuries.

He was a charming man who went out of his way to make sure the BFF cats were looked after in the best possible way. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him especially me.

Now for the good news “the Masti tiger” is now in the Born Free Foundation facility in Bannerghatta and enjoying his especially modified night kraal with a pool, trees and grass to walk and sleep on.

This poor tiger had been living in the Nagarhole National Park, a huge area of tiger, habitat in the Western Ghats in South India when one fateful day he put his foot in a poachers trap set to catch wild boar.

He managed to escape but in the process received massive injuries to his left foreleg, losing his paw.

He struggled to a cave near the Mastigudi area of the Balle forest range, where he was found and duly rescued. The injury was so severe that he had to have the lower part of his leg amputated.

He has recovered well, but it does mean he will never be able to hunt again. So we have supplied him with the next best thing at the BFF centre.

As he is a totally different animal to the captive bred ones we rescue, being far more wild and aggressive towards humans (rightly so after what they have done to him).  We have had to strengthen his enclosure for his and the staff’s well being.

ROQUE

Roque as always came to find me on my return to India, but took a considerable time to come and greet me as he was laying in a tree covered gully beside a pool and seemed to be agitated by the flying insects which tend to congregate during and immediately after the monsoons.

When he did come he spent a couple of minutes in my company then decided that he would rather be in the thick bushes avoiding the insects. He returned to the forest obviously in a bad mood growling and biting at the annoying little beasts.

ZEUDY

Zeudy like Roque hides deep in the bushes during the heat of the day as that is the most comfortable place to be. In the morning and again in the evening she is much more active and will spend a great deal of time checking out all the comings and goings in her area of forest. She seems to have settled down again now and has got over the initial impact of losing Royale.

Her condition has improved and she has got her old zest for life back. Of course the arrival of a new male on the block (Masti) is always a reason to for a female tiger to take interest.

KING AND HARAK

The other two cats King and Harak are looking particularly good and do spend more time out in the open than Roque and Zeudy. King’s huge natural pool is full and he spends a lot of time laying in or wading and swimming around it again this is a good way to keep the insects off.

Harak does similar but has to use his man-made pool, he also spends more time sleeping out in the sun than all the others.

Bannerghatta Updates Jan - March 2007

Tony Wiles reporting on visits to BFF tiger facility at the Bannerghatta Biological Park, Karnataka, South India, 28th January to 8th February and 11th to 19th March 2007.

Yet again another year has gone by and our tigers have been in Bannerghatta for almost five years.

This is the latter part of the cooler season and although the water holes are getting low by now, there is usually a reasonable amount of water still left in the tanks. Unfortunately the last monsoon was very poor and so things are already looking quite dry. King’s magnificent large natural pool, which we had spent considerable time and effort in de-silting and restructuring the sides, had no water at all. However, Kings still has his small man-made pool which is topped up by the staff.

Two of the tigers were receiving treatment during the course of this trip. King had a slight stomach upset which was dealt with very quickly and he is now back to his old self. He had to stay in his night kraal for a few days; this was for observation and ease of treatment. He still had grass to lie on and trees for shade, the only facility we denied him was his night kraal pool which we emptied in case of infection and to force him to drink from the bowls provided, in which we added medication to the water.

Royale has been limping very badly for a few days and initial investigations were not able to pin point the cause. At first we thought it might be arthritis and treated him accordingly, but he did not respond to this and continued to deteriorate. Other tests showed that he had renal failure and he was immediately given treatment. This seemed to work and the limp became much less noticeable and he became his old self again. Although still under observation in his night kraal he started to patrol his territory and let everybody know he was still king of the jungle by roaring loudly toward each side of the enclosure.

Zeudy - For some time the two males in Zeudy’s life had not been at their best, poor Greenwich passed away on the 28th May last year and with Royale now unwell and confined to his night kraal life, Zeudy is spending more time in her night kraal to be close to him. Zeudy  has always been in the company or vicinity of much older males and so sadly, it was inevitable that this time would come.    

Harak is at long last becoming more amenable with the staff and even stayed around when I visited him which is most unusual. He still generally keeps himself to himself and providing no other males are in close proximity, with the exception of King whom he tolerates, he will remain fairly deep in his day kraal away from prying eyes.

Roque - To find Roque I have to walk right around the perimeter of the BFF tiger facility as his favourite area is the furthest from the main entrance and dens. It takes some time to get to where he lays up during the day, but the walk is worth it as he is usually happy to see me and makes a point of coming to greet me. Even though he will be eight years old on the 17th May he still likes us to play chase if the weather is not too hot. As he gets older he spends more time hidden away deep in his day kraal.

14.3.07 – ROYALE UPDATE

Five weeks after my return to the UK we received news that Royale was again deteriorating and that the treatment he was receiving was not making any improvement to his condition. He was not eating and seemed generally very unhappy.

We immediately decided that I should fly out to India and see if there was anything more we could do for him. I had discussed his chronic renal failure with Born Free’s veterinary consultant, Johan Knight and now I had further discussions with leading Indian animal veterinarian Professor Shetty and with Bannerghatta Biological Park vet Dr. Vishwanath. With Royale no longer responding to treatment for his kidney disease it was decided to end his suffering and he was euthanased on the 14th March.  Royale was cremated and his ashes scattered over the land where he had enjoyed the last five years.

Tony Wiles

8th May 2007

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


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