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Bengal tigers rescued from Guatemalan circus land at MIA

Next stop, the good life at Tampa nature sanctuary

A cargo plane carrying three male Bengal tigers landed at Miami International Airport on Monday at 7 a.m.

Animal rights advocates said two 9-year-old tigers named Simba and Max, and a 2-year-old tiger named Kimba, were routinely beaten by trainers and kept in small cages. The animals were rescued from a circus in Guatemala after the country banned wild animals from performing in circuses and shows.

The tigers were loaded into the back of a trailer and taken to Big Cat Rescue’s sanctuary in Tampa.

“In fact, the day we rescued Simba, Kimba and Max, poor Kimba had some trouble or was afraid to leave his cage. He had never been out of his cage before," Christina Scaringe, general counsel for California-based Animal Defenders International, said.

The cats have been in a temporary Guatemalan holding station set up by ADI for 18 months, waiting for proper paperwork so they could board a plane bound for the United States. and eventually, the 65-acre Tampa sanctuary that specializes in the care and advocacy for wild cats.

Once the tigers arrive, veterinarians will evaluate the tigers before they are introduced to their new dwellings.

According to Susan Bass, a spokeswoman for Big Cat Rescue, each tiger will get its own 4,000 square-foot enclosure and its own freshwater swimming pool.

“We’re just over the moon," Bass said. "Everyone back at the sanctuary in Tampa is eagerly anticipating their arrival this afternoon and we’re going to have a big party.”

Guatemala banned animals from performing in circuses in April 2018. They are one of 46 countries worldwide that have placed a ban on wild animal live performances.

In the United States, 32 out of 50 states have full or partial bans on performing animals of some kind, while California, New Jersey and Hawaii are the only to have imposed statewide bans.

About the Authors:

Madeleine Wright is a general assignment reporter for Local 10 News. She joined the team in March 2017.