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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 16:55 GMT
Tiger-at-home plea is rejected
Siberian tiger cub Prince is licked by his foster mother, a stray dog nicknamed Klava, at the Zoo in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Friday, Nov. 30, 2001
In Uzbekistan, a dog adopted this Siberian tiger cub
A Siberian tiger is facing an uncertain future after his former keeper was refused permission to house him in her village back garden.

Liz Hamer applied for a licence to keep 15 month old Torrick after owners at his current Longleat Safari Park threatened to put him down.

Liz Hamer, prospective tiger owner
Liz Hamer has promised she will house Torrick securely in the garden
There, his blood line is already well stocked and Torrick is surplus to requirements.

But after several weeks of speculation, Carmarthenshire County Council threw out the plea Tuesday afternoon after police earlier stepped in to raise safety fears.

While other possibilities for Torrick's future are being explored, Ms Hamer is concerned he will be destroyed if an alternative home is not found soon.

Ms Hamer, 30, who worked as a keeper at Dartmoor Wildlife Park for seven years, had asked council officials if she could keep Torrick on her small farm in the village of Hebron.

She had to comply with strict guidelines to ensure close supervision and had promised to erect electric fencing, video cameras, infra-red night lights and an alarm in a backyard enclosure.

Torrick is a real character. If people watched me play with him they'd realise he's just a big pussy cat rather than some giant beast

Former wildlife keeper Liz Hamer
She consulted her neighbours and even pledged to buy a shotgun in the event she was unable to control the animal.

The council's director of social care and housing deferred a decision at a 27 February meeting when Dyfed-Powys Police stepped in to lodge safety concerns.

Those concerns, over response times should Torrick escape and become a public danger, have now led to the rejection.

Nearby farmers had also complained that re-locating one of nature's most elegant yet fiercest creatures in west Wales could lead to trouble.

Siberian Tiger
Estimated 360 to 406 in wild
490 are in zoo programmes
Eastern Russia, China, North Korea
Grows to 10ft 9ins long
Up to 300kg
Brown stripes
White chest and neck hair
309 to 390 square mile territory

Ms Hamer said: "I am completely devastated. This would have been a very good home for the tiger and the public would have been completely safe.

"This decision means that one of the most beautiful creatures on earth is going to end up in a grave in just a few weeks time. It is so sad.

"The security precautions we had put in place were stronger than in any wildlife park in the country."

The big cat keeper, fell in love with Torrick when he was born at Dartmoor.

Siberian tiger cub at Berlin Zoo
Siberian tigers usually roam eastern Russia, not Wales
"I took pity on him because he was always being bullied by his two sisters," she added. "He used to hide in my coat.

"Torrick is a real character. If people watched me play with him they'd realise he's just a big pussy cat rather than some giant beast."

But the committee threw out the plea after an hour-long deliberation.

The big cat's current landlords at Longleat have said Torrick will not necessarily be put down as other avenues on a resident are being explored.

Cat facts

Torrick's fellow Siberian tigers are the biggest of big cats.

But there are thought to be only around 406 left in the wild around the world, according to the Tiger Information Centre, while hundreds more are bred in captivity.

They live primarily in the woodlands of eastern Russia, where males can grow to 10ft 9ins long and 300kg in weight and where their diet consists of elk and wild boar.

They roam up to 390 square miles of natural territory across that terrain.

A positive decision for Ms Hamer would not have been unprecedented.

In November 2001, a stray dog named Klava was allowed to foster a Siberian tiger cub called Prince at a zoo in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Liz Hamer
"Torrick's enclosure is going to be one of the largest in the country"
BBC Wales's Anna Owen
"Torrick the tiger was born in Dartmoor wildlife park 16 months ago"
Should Torrick be housed on a farm?

Why not?

No way

316 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

26 Feb 02 | Wales
Objection to tiger on farm
12 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
New hope for Siberia's big cats
24 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Dying species 'endangering' Earth
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