By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

BEFORE his rescue from an illegal circus this tiger had never wetted his paws - now he swims in his own lake every day

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Videographer / director: Big Cat Rescue
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Sonia Estal

ADI and Peruvian law enforcement initially tried to rescue Hoover and several other tigers in 2014

Animal Defenders International (ADI) were on track to rescue Hoover and one other tiger from a Peruvian circus during a nationwide law enforcement operation in 2014, but the circus went underground and Hoover was lost for almost a year until a member of the public tipped off ADI to the location of the circus.

Unfortunately the circus was tipped off and went into hiding

Together with Peruvian wildlife officials, ADI seized Hoover from the circus - he was the sole survivor of up to 12 tigers who were kept by Circo Africano - and took the emaciated, parasite infested tiger to their temporary holding facility.

ADI then contacted Tampa, Florida’s Big Cat Rescue (BCR) about giving Hoover his forever home - they instantly agreed but were waylaid by a year long administrative mountain.

Hoover was ultimately the only surviving tiger out of approximately 12 tigers held captive by the circus

Finally, in April 2016 BCR received the green light from United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for Hoover to fly to Miami, Florida, just in time for Hoover to arrive at his new one-acre enclosure on his twelfth birthday.

CEO of Big Cat Rescue, Carole Baskin said: “He lived the first ten years of his life in a tiny circus wagon and then one year at ADI's temporary holding pen.

Once Hoover was rescued ADI asked Big Cat Rescue if they could give him a forever home - they quickly said yes

“So we don't believe he had ever seen a pond or lake or been in any body of water. His huge one-acre enclosure at Big Cat Rescue has access to our lake.

“The first day he arrived, Hoover didn't quite know what to make of the lake. He put his paw in the water and shook it and slowly got into the lake.

After a lot of administrative red tape Hoover finally arrived at BCR in time for his twelfth birthday

“Now he loves his lake. He swims just about every day - and even at night in the rain. He is a happy, laid back tiger and chuffs happily to his keepers.”

Chuffing is a non-threatening noise big cats use to greet each other - sometimes during courting or by a mother comforting her cubs - and tigers and snow leopards commonly exchange chuffs with their keepers when excited or simply saying hello.

Although hesitant at first Hoover eventually explored his new home with vigour

When Hoover was rescued he had to undergo months of intensive veterinary care, rehabilitation and exercise, which allowed him to gain 50 pounds while living at ADI’s holding facility.

After spending years touring with the circus, Hoover was emaciated when ADI found him but the tiger is now happy and healthy and spends his time patrolling his vast new home and checking out his tiger neighbour TJ.

When he arrived at ADI's holding facility Hoover was emaciated and was suffering from parasites

Big Cat Rescue hope that the success of Hoover’s rescue will inspire others to wake up to the immorality of animal circuses.

Carole said: “We hope that Hoover's story will further educate the public as to why big cats do not belong in circuses.

The magnificent tiger quickly gained weight and is now a healthy and happy big cat

“Living in a cramped cage and being forced to perform against their will is no life for these magnificent animals.

Hoover spends most days swimming in his little pool and checking out his tiger neighbours

“We hope people are inspired by Hoover. We know he has millions of fans who faithfully follow his story at Big Cat Rescue.”

Find out more about BCR’s work at: http://bigcatrescue.org

Information on ADI can be found at: http://www.ad-international.org