A former circus tiger from Peru has finally arrived at his forever home: Big Cat Rescue in Tampa

  • Hoover was once owned by Circo Africano in Peru
  • The circus kept Hoover in a cage when he wasn't performing tricks
  • Animal Defenders International secured his release in 2015

From the day he was born, Hoover lived in a cage, traveling around with a circus named Circo Africano in Peru.

"He was originally with a group of 12 tigers in the circus and all of the others died,” said Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer.

After the Peruvian government banned the use of animals for entertainment, the circus owners went underground. Eight months went by before ADI and authorities there found Hoover.

"It turned into something of a riot, with the circus fighting back, said Creamer. "The siege lasted about 8 or 9 hours but we did eventually get him away."

The battle for Hoover's life was not over, however. ADI had to nurse Hoover back to health in Peru.

"A year later he's put on weight, we've got rid of his infections, and he's starting to build muscle and ready to come to his new home," said Creamer.

Fanfare followed Hoover's journey from Peru to Miami to Tampa. Miami International Airport even hung a banner welcoming him.

Now, from his first nap to his first swim to meeting his neighbors at Big Cat Rescue, Hoover is getting used to his new home and his new life. It's a rebirth, of sorts, which is appropriate, considering he arrived at Big Cat Rescue on his 12th birthday.

Meanwhile, the employees at Big Cat are simply in awe.

"It's profoundly a moment in our lives that changes us forever," said Big Cat rescue employee Jeff Kremar.