The Performing Animal Welfare Society reports that Winston, a beloved rescue tiger, has died.
Founded by the late former Hollywood animal trainer Pat Derby in 1984, PAWS rehabilitates and cares for exotic animals at three maintained sanctuaries throughout California, with headquarters in Galt.
Jackie Gai, director of veterinary services for PAWS, said Winston was housed and cared for at the “ARK 2000” sanctuary in San Andreas after being rescued from a life in captivity.
In April 2003, authorities raided a rescue organization called Tiger Rescue in Colton. It was littered with rotting tiger carcasses and dead cubs stashed in freezers. Dozens of malnourished and sick adult cats were patrolling the grounds, including Winston. Gai was in charge of transporting 39 tigers to PAWS facilities.
“It was really horrifying conditions that they lived in. The enclosures were really small and there was no grass,” Gai said. “My first impression was that they were stressed beyond belief.”
Gai said she has fond memories of seeing the big cats step on grass for the first time after being rescued. “It was really moving because they would put one paw down and shake their paw, looking at it,” Gai said.
“I think people don’t realize … they have different personalities,” Gai said.
“Winston, from the beginning, was always a really calm tiger. He never fought with the other tigers. As his personality blossomed, he learned to trust,” Gai said. “He was just a gentle soul.”
Winston always greeted keepers with a “chuff”– a soft and friendly vocalization, much like a purr.
As he got older, Winston began to suffer from arthritis and kidney disease, common in elderly tigers, Gai said.
In 2014, Winston began to have nosebleeds and was diagnosed with a nasal polyp. After a surgical removal of the polyp that same year, he received care from veterinarians.
Gai says she estimated Winston was at least 19 years old.
“Always to be remembered in our hearts for his gentle nature, Winston passed from this life on September 28th, surrounded by those who loved and cared for him,” an October PAWS newsletter said.
To learn more about the tigers, go to www.pawsweb.org or call 209-745-2606. A documentary, “39 Tigers,” can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANu0WCNF6xI.