California zoo officials said four big cats deserted at an abandoned Oklahoma roadside zoo had been rescued.
The Oakland Zoo said on Monday that with the help of animal sanctuaries Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Lions Tigers and Bears, the lion, two tigers, and a tiger hybrid were rescued at the closed roadside attraction, which the USDA had shut down in 2008 for multiple animal safety and welfare violations.
The four felines were the only ones left at the now-defunct drive-thru zoo.
The zoo said they were contacted last month by an Oklahoma resident concerned about the ailing and abandoned animals.
Earlier this month, zoo representatives and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge traveled to Oklahoma to conduct animal evaluations.
"Those tigers need help, and we can provide that help while educating the public about the dangers of animal exploitation practiced in those industries," said Oakland Zoo CEO Nik Dehejia. "When a concerned Oklahoma resident called us to help these big cats, who have endured so much suffering, there was no question that we would step in and give them the homes and care they deserve, at Oakland Zoo and our partnering sanctuaries, for the remainder of their lives."
Last Friday, all four female animals were transported to safety.
The zoo said the elderly lion was taken to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.
The tiger hybrid and one of the tigers were taken to the Oakland Zoo.
The other tiger was transported to Lions Tigers and Bears.
The zoo said the tiger hybrid was in poor condition, had a badly infected tooth that had caused facial deformity, and had bowed legs.
“There are major red flags that show these animals were victims of the cub petting industry,” said Bobbi Brink, founder and director of Lions Tigers & Bears. “These cats were declawed and in poor health and living conditions. Most likely, they were bred to be photo props, and once they grew too big and couldn’t be profitable, they were abandoned. We’re the animals’ voices, and we need to work toward education and legislation because each animal rescued makes a difference.”
Each animal will receive a proper habitat, diet, medical attention, and care in their new homes.