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Popcorn Park Rescues Alabama Big Cats

A couple of weeks ago Popcorn Park received a call from Tammy Theis, director of The Wildcat Sanctuary, regarding a desperate situation at an animal facility in Alabama. This facility housed several tigers, lions, a cougar, wolves and a bear. It seems that the facility’s owner had fallen ill and the care of the animals was becoming a daunting and overwhelming task to be carried out. A decision by Tigers in America was made to organize a rescue. Tammy explained that placement for two lions, four tigers and one cougar was necessary. Of course Popcorn Park was willing and ready to help in any way possible.

Preparing to sedate, vaccinate and move them to their new homes.

Tammy spearheaded a coordinated effort through phone calls and emails between Popcorn Park, Tigers in America, The Wildcat Sanctuary, Carolina Tiger Rescue, Big Cat Rescue and Loving Friends Transport. Soon a plan of action was underway. Originally, three big cats (two lions and one tiger) were going to be transported to Popcorn Park by Loving Friends Transport. After learning that placement for Tara, a 12 year old tiger, had not yet been found, the thought of leaving her behind was unbearable. Arrangements were then made to have four big cats transported to us. Loving Friends Transport scrambled to find another transport cage and to make room on their trailer for a 4th animal. We started shuffling around our original plans and were able to make an area to take in Tara as well.

Simba, getting exam, vaccinations.

We immediately started making plans for their arrival. Renovations to our big cat dens were already in progress, and included radiant floor heating. The timetable for completion needed to be expedited. Popcorn Park’s contractor went above and beyond to make this deadline. His quick work made it possible for us to get all of our cats back to their original dens, making space for our soon-to-be newest residents.

Porsche getting x-rays before moving into her new home.

Loving Friends Transport (LFT) made the 18 hour journey from Alabama to New Jersey arriving late in the afternoon on Monday August 18. LFT did a phenomenal job getting the cats to us safely and in a climate-controlled trailer holding the cats’ large and comfortable crates.

X-rays of Tara's leg.

Earlier on Monday, a meeting was held between Popcorn Park staff and our veterinarians to review the plans for the cats’ arrival. The plan included sedation, transport to their new dens, health exams, weighing in, blood collection, and x-rays. Rancocas Veterinary Associates graciously provided a portable digital x-ray unit that made the exams much easier.

It was a smooth and successful transition for Tara, Porsche, Simba and Odin from the transport vehicle to their new homes and lives at Popcorn Park.

Last but not least, Odin moving into his new home.

Upon examination by Popcorn Park’s veterinarians, Dr. Bert Paluch and Dr. Jonathan Bergmann, we found that Tara has severe arthritis in her knee, she will be treated via medication at this time. Porsche, a 12 year old lioness, suffers from chronic pain in her front paw due to an improper declaw procedure at a young age and will also be treated with medications for pain. After Porsche has adjusted to her new home, surgery will be scheduled to correct this condition. It’s only been 4 days but Porsche is at times very settled, but at other times prefers her privacy and lets us know that!

Porsche waking up.

Simba, the 9 year old male lion, has lived alone since the death of his brother in 2012. After waking up from sedation, Simba was up and around looking for some attention from his new caretakers and later in the day he met Popcorn Park’s 17 year old lioness, Nyla. They will be rooming next to each other in separate dens for a while. After the initial “hey, who are you?” they both became interested in each other. He has adjusted quite well, especially having Nyla close by. Simba, although severely underweight, is enjoying his new diet and with his increased appetite will put those lost pounds back on quickly. Odin is a 10 year old male tiger. He and Tara are taking a little bit longer to acclimate to their surroundings. Lounging under their benches suits them just fine at the moment. We have no doubt they’ll come around shortly.

Simba's first steps onto Jersey soil.

Tara, Porsche, Simba and Odin’s behaviors are very common in big cats when their environment changes, they each have a different way of dealing with what they went through the last couple days, being sedated, transported and waking up in a completely new home. I wish they could understand us when we tell them everything's going to be alright, and it will be soon. They each have their own distinct timetable as to when they’ll adjust and trust us, becoming comfortable in their new homes, with their new caretakers and beginning their new life at Popcorn Park.

For more photos, visit Popcorn Park Refuge on Facebook.


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