Many of our members joined us on the 3rd November to celebrate the arrival of Softi and Toph six months on; we were humbled and surprised with how quickly these tickets sold out! Our aim is to do another event next year as a 1-year anniversary celebration, so please watch this space for news.

Kicking off the evening, Lawrence Bates (COO) updated us on the story behind Softi and Tophs arrival and followed on with an update on the illegal trade in animal species and exotic animal parts.

During this talk Lawrence used excerpts from two key online videos (links below) along with the One Show video that can be viewed using the link above.

Warning: These videos contain confronting images that some viewers may find difficult to view

Tigers’ Economy: video-investigation on the tigers’ business in Italy – YouTube

Tigers saved in Poland. Report on animal ordeal caused by human greed – TVN24 

Key facts to point out here are that:

  • As tigers become scarce in the wild – we have seen a concurrent increase in trafficked animals from captive bred populations as organised crime groups exploit loop holes in international animal transfer legislation.
  • Statistics show that Italy has been a hotspot for such practices in the past.
  • It is still legal in many EU countries to own and breed tigers privately – Including the UK!!
  • Trafficking of captive born animals is exacerbated by many countries having a poor handle on actual numbers of tigers in their countries, due to loopholes that enable licensing to be exploited.

Next up was Marc (Animal Manager) and Sandra (Big Cat animal carer) – who updated the guests on the girls progress since arriving. Sandra noted how confronting it had been when the girls first arrived as the animals hissed and spat and generally tried to kill them through the bars. Whilst acknowledging that this was true tiger behaviour Sandra noted that due to the training the previous rescues, Natasha and Zoppa, had had in their circus days this simply wasn’t something that she had encountered before and she found it incredibly intimidating. She went on to state how humbled they were as a team that within a few short months these cats trusted them and how important hearing that first ‘chuff’ had been.

Marc talked about the health of the tigers and how Softi had recently needed an investigation in order to check a lump on her leg. The lump turned out to be a fatty cyst, but investigations also showed some unusual morphing of the cats genitalia. It had long been questioned within the team as to whether Softi was, in fact, a female, and with the opportunity to investigate the vets were able to ascertain that she was indeed female, but does have unusual genitalia that appears male to the untrained (and in our case trained) eye.

After a quick interlude, fundraiser and volunteer Sarah provided the group with an inspirational talk on fundraising for the sanctuary. Over the years Sarah has raised many thousands for The Charity but this year she went that extra mile! Sarah combined two themes with her fundraising, “loss of habitat” and “loss of identity” as she sold her possessions and shaved her hair. The later as you can imagine was an emotional moment and Sarah shared her range of emotions whilst encouraging us all to dig deep and raise money for causes we feel strongly about. Her leaving message was “If I can do it anyone can!”

Our evening concluded with a Softi & Toph slideshow from Sancutary photographer Chris Boyce. He took the members on a journey from arrival to relaxation and everything in between. At points almost spiritual, Chris described how the tigers were first aggressive and allusive, with almost no sightings of the cats in those fearly days and then that magical moment when a fleeting glimpse was caught. He referred to the cats behaviours around visitors and how they reacted when they recognised the colour of a staff uniform. With a beautiful moment captured when first Toph, then Softi, approached the windows in the cave, followed by a series of images capturing a playful Toph concluding the slideshow. There were a lot of oohs and ahhs to be heard! Chris’s slideshow is available to view here.