Ringling Brothers tigers retire to Roane County’s Tiger Haven

Former Ringling Bros. tiger trainer Taba Maluenda performs with tigers owned by the circus. (Feld Entertainment)

KINGSTON (WATE) — After the greatest show on earth is over, some of the tigers from the show have retired to Tennessee.

Tiger Haven confirmed the rescue received 16 tigers after Ringling Brothers shut down. The rescue said they have taken cats before and this latest group is thriving.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed their last show in May. Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse.

During the last show, the Providence Journal reports that animal trainer Taba Maluenda gave an emotional goodbye to each tiger, tearfully thanking each tiger individually as they left their cage. When the last performance was over he knelt down and kissed the center of the ring.

Days after the last performance, the cats arrived at their new home in Roane County. The Washington Post reports that Tennessee state documents obtained by Delcianna Winders, a vice president with the PETA Foundation, show that the 15 cats were received by Tiger Haven on May 10. They joined a 16th Ringling tiger, a 19-year-old female named Mariah, who was sent there in February.

Tiger Haven is located about 30 miles southwest of Knoxville. The 80-acre property is home to 270 tigers, lions and various cats.

Fourteen people currently work at the rescue. The staff says they go through 3,000 pounds of food a day.

“Most of us live on site because it is not a 9 to 5, it is a 24-hour job,” said Mary Lynn Haven the Executive Director of Tiger Haven.

The American Sanctuary Association, which accredited Tiger Haven one year ago, says it is normal to have that many large cats on an 80 acre property. They come out to do inspections every three years. TWRA also inspects the property.

“Most of the time the zoos in the state have averaged one time a year, we have averaged 5 times a year,” said Haven.

Haven says the rescue follows the same guidelines as any zoo when it comes to enclosures and dens. There are also two barrier fences that go the entire 80-acre perimeter. They are 12 feet tall with a four foot overhang.

University of Tennessee Veterinary Hospital serves as the large cats’ primary car physician. The rescue says they depend solely on donations and receive no funding from local, state or federal governments.

“They come out here when we need ‘em or just to do a walk through on a pretty regular basis to see if we’ve missed anything, see if they see anything we haven’t, just to catch up on what’s going on. Because when you have that many animals, you always have something going on,” said Haven.

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