Big Cat Rescue part of largest rescue of big cats in U.S. history

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Five more tigers arrived at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Thursday morning as part of an unprecedented rescue effort in the wake of a failed Colorado facility. 

Several sanctuaries around the country, including Tampa's Big Cat Rescue, are collaborating to re-home 110 big cats and bears from the facility in Colorado.

Big Cat Rescue agreed to take in five tigers and provide them with a permanent home and lifelong care. There are two females, 19-year-old Gabrielle and 13-year-old Priya, and three males, 15-year-old Andy, 15-year-old Charaka, and 10-year-old Seth.

Rescuers say the owner of the Colorado wildlife sanctuary is in poor health and wanted to ensure the well-being of the animals, including more than 70 tigers. With winter quickly approaching, rescue groups were eager to get the cats out of Colorado as quickly as possible.

"From what I understand, the area of Colorado they were in gets exceptionally cold and the enclosures they had for the cats there didn't have a lot of protection from the elements so between the different sanctuaries, we're scrambling to get them out before it got really, really cold," said Susan Bass, Big Cat Rescue spokeswoman.

Beyond inadequate facilities, rescue groups also say the tigers' former owners were using them for breeding. 

"It was a facility that would try to breed cubs for photo opps and several of our cats were used for that themselves when they were tiny babies," said Bass.

Bass says their two new female tigers will have to be spayed. All five tigers arrived in good health, but the same can't be said for all of the animals rescued from the facility. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, the group spearheading this rescue, says they took in three tiger cubs so malnourished, they could neither walk nor stand on their own. No two months into their rescue, Turpentine Creek says the cubs have put on weight and are doing much better.

Tampa's newest tigers, meanwhile, seem perfectly happy to say goodbye to the Colorado cold.

"I'm so glad they're here and they were able to get out of colorado before it got too cold and I really think they're going to love the weather here in florida and we can't wait to spoil them rotten," said Bass.

The spoiling will begin next week when each cat at Big Cat Rescue gets its own Butterball turkey to feast on.

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