There are many things we can learn from animals, but one thing that never fails to move me to my core is their resilience. Whether it’s witnessing the dogs learn to play after being saved from dog meat farms in South Korea or seeing my own rescue dog Lilly frolicking in the grass, I’ve always admired the extraordinary ability of animals to overcome hardship and experience joy.
Two tigers who we rescued this year and brought to live at Black Beauty Ranch, our 1,400-acre animal sanctuary in Murchison, Texas, epitomize such resilience.
Elsa and India were both victims of the exotic pet trade. When they were first rescued by local authorities, these tigers bore the signs of living in completely unnatural conditions. Elsa, who was just 6 months old when she was heard crying in San Antonio during the Texas freeze in February, was wearing a dog harness. India, who was 9 months old when found, was understandably skittish after being chased by police in a suburban Houston neighborhood where he’d gotten loose in May.
Local authorities and the staff at Black Beauty Ranch worked in collaboration to bring the two tigers to the sanctuary, where they could enjoy the safety and joy of sanctuary life. This collaborative relationship between local law enforcement and the sanctuary has helped to bring about the best possible outcome for animals who would otherwise have no place to go.
Just a few months later, as they enjoy their first summer at the sanctuary, it’s amazing to witness just how far they’ve come.
Elsa was recently spotted lounging in a tub of cooling water, surrounded by fresh grass. And our cameras caught India playing with the waterspout in his very own pool. “India is fascinated with the waterspout,” Black Beauty senior director Noelle Almrud observed.
Elsa and India are following in the positive footsteps of Loki, a tiger found caged up in a garage in Houston in 2019, who was seen recently in an iconic image of summer laziness, lounging in his hammock, a comfy resting spot made from a donated firehose.
Even though the nearly 800 animals at the sanctuary aren’t generally equipped to return to the wild, the staff at Black Beauty Ranch goes to incredible lengths to give them the settings that feel most natural to them and that stimulate their minds and bodies— something that, had India and Elsa remained in the tiger pet trade, they never would have experienced.
These images of India and Elsa’s first summer at Black Beauty Ranch go beyond being utterly adorable—which, of course, they are. These pictures of joy show the kinds of lives that all animals victimized by the exotic pet trade truly deserve.
You can help tigers like Elsa and India by advocating for a law against owning big cats as pets. You can also donate to Black Beauty Ranch or send the sanctuary something from its wish list.