Five tigers who have spent years being forced to perform in a Spanish travelling circus are settling in well at the Isle of Wight Zoo after their last ever road trip took them 1,300 miles by road, Eurotunnel and ferry to reach their new forever home.

The three female and two male tigers – Natasha, Zoppa, Antonella, Girona and Mondo – are enjoying the sanctuary and care provided by the zoo after being given up by the circus amid the growing public backlash around performing animals.

Originally taken in by Animal Advocacy and Protection (AAP), which quarantines and rehabilitates circus animals, the five tigers spent some time recovering at AAP’s Spanish centre, finally becoming well enough to make one last journey before enjoying a well- earned retirement. In turn, the complex rehoming project frees up space and resources at AAP for vital ongoing rescue efforts.

As part of The Wildheart Trust, the Isle of Wight Zoo provides the accommodation and care element of the charity’s work with big cats and exotic animals – supporting rescue projects and raising awareness of the plight of animals who become victims of the circus and pet trade.

Trust founder Charlotte Corney said: “We’re so pleased to be providing this essential lifeline to these tigers. The conditions endured by circus animals can be horrific. Things you can’t believe are still happening in this so-called enlightened age and while we continue to campaign and pursue an end to such cruelty, we know the animals we rescue will have a happy retirement.”

Charlotte and her partner, wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham, welcomed the tigers into their newly constructed facilities, partly funded by an ongoing major fundraising campaign. “Once we met the tigers, we had to get construction underway so they could find the forever home they needed as soon as possible”, said Charlotte. “There’s still a way to go with the fundraising to cover all the costs and support future rescue projects but we’re confident our visitors and the wider public will be as generous in supporting the cause as they always have been. From children’s pocket money donations to Spinnaker Tower fundraising, people are showing a lot of love for our new arrivals.”

Circus Wonderland, where tigers Antonella, Natasha, Zoppa, Girona and Mondo performed for many years, decided to end their shows with wild animals for good. AAP stepped in to rescue the big cats last Autumn, deploying a whole team of veterinarians, zoologists, ethologists and caretakers to ensure a prompt rehabilitation. Ex-circus animals often present a wide range of physical and behavioural problems due to poor keeping conditions and care by their owners. For example, Antonella arrived in very bad conditions, with weight problems and a broken leg. The AAP veterinary team performed a tibia operation and it has improved her quality of life substantially.

Anyone concerned about the plight of circus animals and wishing to help can donate at: www.justgiving.com/wildheart-f…

Established for over 40 years, the Isle of Wight Zoo aims to promote the survival of endangered species through first class educational and recreational experiences, exemplary animal management, conservation and research. The Zoo is best known for its work with exotic cats. As a centre for surplus or rescued big cats, all have come to the Zoo at different stages of their lives and from a variety of backgrounds.


Big cats, big facts

  • Tigers have fantastic night vision: They can see six times better than humans!
  • Every tiger Is unique! No two tigers share the same patterning on their fur.
  • Tigers are heavy, but by no means slow! At full speed, they can reach up to 50km/h!
  • Tigers are an endangered animal with populations plummeting an astonishing 97% in the last 100 years.
  • It costs the Isle of Wight Zoo £12k per year to look after just one of our tigers, making fundraising and donations vital for their ongoing support.