Tiger rescue mission in Thailand saves 15 big cats from illegal farm

PHOTO: via WFFT/Amy Jones

A landmark rescue operation unfolded in northern Thailand, where a dozen tigers and three leopards were liberated from a hidden tiger farm. This covert operation, conducted on December 16, was the result of legal proceedings against the farm over suspected illicit wildlife trade.

The rescue mission involved wildlife experts and veterinary teams, marking the commencement of the most extensive tiger rescue endeavour by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Thai history. It is projected that the operation will ultimately save 35 tigers from this farm’s clutches.

The initial rescue phase was fraught with difficulties and intense moments. The team selected the first fifteen animals based on their immediate medical needs. The chosen ones included twelve old tigers and three sick leopards. The animals were then sedated, subjected to preliminary health examinations, and carefully transferred into transport cages before being loaded onto wildlife ambulances.

Among the first to be rescued was an emaciated, old tiger named Salamas. Unlike the other tigers, Salamas’ frail condition made it risky for her to be sedated. After hours of gentle coaxing with food, the 20 year old tiger mustered the strength to walk from her concrete enclosure into the transport cage.

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Tiger rescue mission in Thailand saves 15 big cats from illegal farm | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: via WFFT/Amy Jones

This allowed her to be transported to a wildlife rescue sanctuary in a specialist wildlife ambulance, a journey that lasted twelve hours through the night. Despite her alarming state of health and large patches of missing fur, rescuers remain optimistic about Salama’s chances of recovery.

Other rescued big cats included a shy female tiger known merely as A-1 and a 20 year old male tiger, Rambo, who suffers from respiratory issues. All these animals had been confined to small concrete enclosures their entire lives, with many enduring captivity for over twenty years. As such, the sanctuary will likely be the first time many of these animals will experience the feeling of grass under their paws and the warmth of sunlight on their fur.

The rescue operation

The Tiger Rescue Centre at the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) sanctuary in Phetchaburi will be the new home for these rescued animals. The sanctuary, which currently cares for nine other tigers that were rescued when a notorious Thai zoo closed during the pandemic, offers over seventeen acres of near-natural habitat for the animals. Here, they can run, swim in the lake, and interact with other tigers. To accommodate the new arrivals, WFFT secured additional land at the Centre and spent several months building more habitat space.

The undisclosed tiger facility, whose location remains a secret by WFFT, has been embroiled in legal disputes with government wildlife officials for many years. The farm, located in northern Thailand, near the border of Lao PDR, has long been suspected of serving as a holding facility for wildlife before being smuggled across the border.

Tiger rescue mission in Thailand saves 15 big cats from illegal farm | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: via WFFT/Amy Jones

In 2020, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) conducted a raid on the facility, unearthing evidence of wildlife trafficking, including a severed tiger’s head and other tiger parts. The facility was reported to house 46 tigers and cubs as of 2021, reported Pattaya News.

Edwin Wiek, founder and director of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), expressed his delight and gratitude for the success of the rescue operation.

“We are thrilled to now finally give these magnificent animals a new life at WFFT’s Tiger Rescue Centre. Sadly, they will never be able to return to the wild, but we can offer them the next best thing: a safe, sanctuary home where they can roam forested land, socialise with other tigers, and even swim in the lake.”

The first twelve tigers and three leopards have been rescued, but there are many more who remain at the farm still waiting to be saved. We are desperate to return as soon as possible to rescue them, but as an NGO without government funding, we rely solely on donations to make these rescue missions a reality.

Central Thailand NewsThailand News


Top is a multifaceted news writer with a keen interest in real estate and travel. Top currently covers local Thai news at Thaiger. As a travel buff, Top blogs about his travels- around the world and Thailand- during his free time.

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