Hoover lived the first 12 years of his life in a small cage, being forced to perform tricks for humans at a circus in Peru.
When the Peruvian government banned the use of wild animals in this kind of entertainment in 2012, they set about shutting circuses down, but it had to be done slowly because these groups are itinerant and many caravans are skilled at hiding in the mountains, uneager to give up their money-making animals.
The government enlisted the help of Animal Defenders International (ADI), a U.K.-based organization dedicated to stopping animal abuse. Co-founders Jan Creamer and Tim Philips then came up with a rescue plan called Operation Spirit of Freedom.
Their job would be to aid the government in confiscating the large and often dangerous animals that had been abused all of their lives. Then the goal was to get them to a holding facility and find them new homes at sanctuaries that could care for them properly.
ADI tracked six traveling circuses and began their raids in late August 2014. There were tense stand-offs.
According to USA Today, ADI wasn’t able to rescue the tiger named Hoover until April 2015 because the circus holding him had gone underground to evade the raids. But eventually, they were located thanks to tips from the public.
In a story about Hoover published in National Geographic, we learned that ADI and Peruvian authorities raided the circus but only found the one tiger (out of an estimated 12+) with Circo Africano.
Around the same time, they also raided Circo Koreander, rescuing a mountain lion named Mufasa who had been chained to the back of a truck for 20 years.
None of the animals were in good condition, but they described Hoover as “frail” and “not-too-healthy.”
“He’s just not had a good life,” Jan Creamer said. He would not be able to be released back into the wild and would need a home that could give him proper medical care.
Once he got to ADI’s temporary rescue shelter near the city of Lima, he spent some time healing before he was healthy enough to be transported.
They found Hoover a home with the now-notorious Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, run by Carole Baskin (who you might remember from the Netflix miniseries Tiger King).
They laid out the red carpet for the animal with a big LED display blaring “Welcome Hoover” in LED lights at the Miami airport.
“He will 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,” said Baskin.
The facility was pleased to be Hoover’s forever home and planned a party in his honor.
While it was a year-long process to get him from Lima to Tampa, he finally made it.
“ADI believes Big Cat Rescue will provide a wonderful home for Hoover,” Philips says. “We’ve seen the enclosure he’ll have and also the first class veterinary facilities they have on site. The climate will be similar to what Hoover is used to as well.”
Hoover’s days were spent relaxing in the sunshine in a huge enclosure with lots of trees, foliage, and shade.
Sadly, ADI shared some bad news in October 2019 – Hoover had passed away.
“He had suffered ongoing health issues and earlier in the year squamous cell carcinoma was removed twice from one front leg. After Hoover was observed limping, the Big Cat Rescue vet found what looked to be bone cancer in his back leg, and severe arthritis throughout all of his joints. With Hoover already being given much pain medication, they made the difficult decision to let him go.”
While he will be missed, he got to live out his final days in relative luxury.
Be sure to scroll down below to see scenes from Hoover’s daring rescue.
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