MIAMI – A tiger who was rescued from a Peruvian circus will be welcomed Friday night at Miami International Airport.
The tiger, who turns 12 on Saturday, was seized during an operation to enforce Peru's ban on wild animals in circuses.
Authorities said the circus tried to avoid the law and disappeared, but was found eight months later by Animal Defenders International and wildlife officials after ADI received a tip.
Authorities said the tiger, Hoover, was sick and emaciated, so he was taken to ADI's temporary rescue center near Lima, where he underwent extensive rehabilitation and veterinary attention. He was also able to play with toys and exercise.
"Hoover is the tiger that almost got away from us," ADI president Jan Creamer said. "The circus went underground and we had to track him down to rescue him from his sad life of pain and suffering. It is a privilege to bring Hoover, who turns 12 on Saturday, to Big Cat Rescue to begin a new chapter and the best birthday gift of all, a new life happy and safe at this wonderful sanctuary. He deserves special attention, and that is exactly the kind of care that Big Cat Rescue does so well."
Hoover was the only survivor of up to 12 tigers who were being held by Circo Africano.
He will be taken to the Big Cat Rescue center in Tampa in a custom transport trailer.
"Big Cat Rescue is forever grateful that Animal Defenders International rescued Hoover, cared for him during the long process of obtaining permits and has now transported him to America," Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin said. "We are so happy to welcome Hoover and provide him with a safe, peaceful home at our sanctuary in Tampa. He will now spend the rest of his life enjoying the warm breezes of Florida, relaxing in the shady grass, lounging on his platforms and cooling off in our lake. He will literally be a world away from the abuse he suffered most of his life. After all his suffering, we hope people will take Hoover to their hearts like we have and donate toward his lifetime care."
ADI's Operation Spirit of Freedom is credited with removing all wild animals from circuses in Peru, saving 100 animals.
ADI officials said they have built homes for native wild animals, including bears, monkeys, birds and reptiles in their Amazon habitats, and 33 lions will soon head home to Africa.
Click here to donate for Hoover's lifetime care at Big Cat Rescue.