Sandro – three years of bliss

In April 2021, thanks to your kind donations, a rescued tiger arrived at his lifetime home at Animanatura Wild Sanctuary in Italy. Rescue & Care Officer Dr Andrea Donaldson brings us the latest news, three years on.

A tiger standing in between two trees looking up at the camera

Sandro at his sanctuary home © Animanatura Wild Sanctuary

Dr Andrea Donaldson

Dr Andrea Donaldson

There’s no mistaking Sandro. Instantly recognisable by the worn patch of fur on his nose, the magnificent tiger was born in captivity and forced to endure many years in Ayamonte Zoo, Spain. At the notorious zoo, Sandro used to pace his small, barren enclosure with no environmental enrichment, little shade from the hot Andalusian sun and little privacy. But, thanks to some remarkable teamwork, his life has been truly transformed. 

Following many years of campaigning by Born Free and Spanish animal welfare groups, Ayamonte Zoo was finally closed down in 2019 and the animals relocated. This included Sandro, who began his rehabilitation in a temporary wildlife rescue facility with our friends at Natuurhulpcentrum (NHC), in Belgium, before Born Free was able to secure him a lifetime home with our partners at Animanatura Wild Sanctuary, in Italy’s Tuscan hills.

At 18 years old, today Sandro has reached his ‘mature’ years. Despite his poor start in life and now being an older tiger, Sandro is in reasonably good health and some sympathetic design features in his enclosure help support him in his golden years.

A tiger in a zoo enclosure with children looking at him through glass

Sandro at Ayamonte Zoo

His specially created enclosure, funded thanks to your donations to our ‘Real Tiger King’ appeal, is designed to be as close to his natural habitat as possible. The grass throughout his space is allowed to grow long and wild. Combined with thick bushy areas and tall trees, it gives Sandro plenty of privacy with easily accessible hiding areas and places to shelter.

In some areas, the grass does not naturally grow high but, is rich in wild orchids and fresh mint. Sandro appears to enjoy this area and seems attracted to the strong smell when the mint is disturbed. He also has a water pool that gives him somewhere to cool off on hot sunny days and to generally relax in. Just like tigers living in the wild, Sandro can spend whole days either in or near his water hole.

At night time, Sandro tends to sleep in his night shelter. This has been furnished with a wooden platform so he can rest in an elevated location. However, the platform is not positioned too high as, due to his aging years, Sandro finds transitioning between elevated spaces and the ground a little more difficult than he used to.

A tiger relaxing in a pool of water

Sandro in his pool

Sandro is usually one of the first sanctuary residents to wake up and can often be seen stretching in the long grass at sunrise, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the new day. He loves his food and seems to get most excited by a watermelon stuffed with meat – a special form of ‘enrichment’. Sandro will spend long periods playing with the melon, before eventually smashing it open to reach the tasty treat hidden inside.

Born Free would like to thank the whole team at Animanatura Wild Sanctuary for the exceptional care they give to Sandro every day, not least for paying extra attention to his age-related changing needs.

If you share our passion for tigers, we’re currently raising money for our Tigers in Crisis Green Match Fund appeal. Incredibly, your donation will be DOUBLED, until midday 25th April. So, your donation to support tiger conservation will be worth twice as much, thanks to match-funding. What are you waiting for?!