Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Guidelines: Transport to rehabilitation facilities

Tigers that cannot be effectively treated at the site of capture will generally need moving to a rehabilitation facility or centre for care before releasing back to the wild.

  • If possible, a veterinarian should supervise the process of transportation and have all the equipment and medications that may be needed for general anaesthesia and emergency care procedures during the transport.
  • In the case of weak or severely injured tigers, participation of a veterinarian in the transportation is essential. If even this is not possible, such animals should be urgently transported to the rehabilitation centre with a veterinarian at the rehabilitation centre being consulted by telephone during transportation.
  • If the tiger has to be tranquilised or sedated for travel, a veterinarian must travel with the animal. 
  • Transportation and associated procedures are significant stress factors for tigers being transported, and these animals pose a potential threat to people. The main requirements for transport crates are that they are sufficiently strong, of an appropriate size, and keep the animal in the dark to reduce stress. See below for crate design details.
  • Each individual animal should be transported alone in a separate transport crate.
  • Tigers can endure even long-distance transportation.
  • Travelling at night helps to reduce stress.
  • Depending on weather conditions, specific measures should be taken to protect the animal against overcooling or overheating. Tiger cubs under six months of age and older cubs in serious condition should be kept warm during transportation if ambient temperatures are below 100
  • For healthy tigers that required an anaesthetic for crating, food & water may be withheld during the first 12 hrs after arrival at the rehabilitation centre, after which water (or milk substitute in the case of un-weaned individuals) should be given every 5-6hrs.
  • It is not usually necessary to provide food during transport, but allowing access to water if the journey exceeds 12 hours is appropriate in hot conditions. This should be given during a short stop in the journey.
  • A medically equipped vehicle fitted with a simple clinic and a secure section for a crate is invaluable in providing first aid at the site of capture and transport to a rehabilitation facility. Such a vehicle has been developed and thoroughly tested at the Alexeevka tiger rehabilitation facility in the Russian Far East. However, road and field conditions in tropical countries may exclude this option.

Crate design principles:

  • The main requirements for transport crates are that they are sufficiently strong, of an appropriate size, and keep the animal in the dark.
  • Solid floors, roofs and sides are advised, and small inspection hatches through which the tiger cannot reach out should be included in the design.
  • Crates must have good ventilation to avoid overheating. They should not be covered with plastic sheets or tarpaulins which may interfere with ventilation.
  • A crate should provide adequate space for a tiger to lie down comfortably, but not turn around. The height should be sufficient to allow the cat to stand with 10 cms clearance around it on all aspects.
  • Slatted floors over a waterproof tray to allow excreta to drain away from the tiger are preferable for long distance transport. Where this is not possible, a bed of straw should be provided within the crate.
  • Commercially available carry crates for large dogs can be used for the transportation of tiger cubs under 6 months of age. Suggested size of crate for tiger cubs aged between 6 and 12 months are 1 to 1.2 metres long x 0.7 metres wide x 0.7 metres high; for animals aged over 1.5 years, the crate should be 2 metres long, 0.7 metres wide and 1 metre high. All dimensions refer to the internal space.
  • All doors should be closed with bolts which are locked in position while in use.
  • At least two handles should be fitted on each side to allow lifting manually or by crane. Alternatively an external bar can be fitted to each side running the length of the side.
  • Crates must have features that allow safe darting of the animal if this becomes necessary. A small hatch covering a strong mesh inside can be used.
  • For ease of loading a large tiger it is best if both ends of the crate can be opened.
  • A means of safely providing water to the tiger whilst it is securely locked in the crate should be incorporated in the design. 
  • Crates and transport vehicles should be sanitised before and after each journey.

Detailed design specifications for crates can be found in: