tigers simba



tigers simbaFemale Siberian Tiger

DOB 6/8/94 – 11/24/11 (Thanksgiving Day)


Simba was owned by a woman in Ohio who had declawed Simba and had the cat’s large canine teeth pulled. Supposedly this made Simba “safer” to be with people.

The woman would chain Simba to the ground with short chains so the tied down cat could not stand or turn to bite people.  Then the woman would charge visitors to go in with Simba and straddle her to take photos.

After years of people getting hurt, the woman finally lost her USDA license. But she kept operating without a license because there was no enforcement.  When the woman was finally evicted from the property some years later for not paying rent, she just left, abandoning Simba.

Thanks to the supporters like you Simba now has a safe, peaceful permanent home at Big Cat Rescue.   She has a very warm personality and will approach the side of her enclosure and greet passers by with an enthusiastic “chuff”.

A beautiful tiger, with a rich cinnamon colored coat, she is probably one of the friendliest tigers at the sanctuary. Simba loves to spend the heat of the afternoon in the cool shade of her den and just before dark she lounges peacefully in the grasses looking out over the lake.


The Saddest Thanksgiving Day Ever!


Simba the tigress died on Thanksgiving Day.  She was 17 and had been in renal failure for a while but in the end it was her precious little heart that gave out.

Thanks to Big Cat Rescuers who were on site tonight we were able to remove her from her cat-a-tat.  Thank you Jamie, Gale, Chris, Willow, Regina and Chelsea for being with her when she died and helping with her afterward.  I know that Simba was thankful for all of you who helped her ease from this life to the next over the past few months.

A Lion Pride of a Different Stripe


Joseph the lion and Nikita the tiger, his best friendIt took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt (aka Cziraky) and her Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords, Donnalynn and Christian Laver were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats who had been used for years as props in Diana McCourt’s “tiger training” scheme.

By the end of the ordeal eye witnesses said that the cats were starving and they still have inadequate shelter from the elements.

Even though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she still continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers.

The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats.

To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. (Joseph still has his canine teeth) Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.



In May of 2007 Diana McCourt emailed Carole Baskin asking if she could move her operation to Tampa and bring her cats to Big Cat Rescue.  Our response was that her cats were welcome here but her brand of animal abuse was not.  By August McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions.  Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats increases our annual budget by $45,000.00.

Sasha the lioness was used as a prop by the Siberian Tiger FoundationWhen Sarabi, our lioness died, her half acre enclosure was opened up so that Nikita our only other lioness could have the run of both half acre enclosures.  This large enclosure has an open roof and is only suitable for lions because they don’t climb, or very old, declawed tigers, who would be unable to climb.  Taking on two lions, age 9 and 13, who have a 20 year life expectancy means a cost of $15,000.00 annually and $150,000.00 in the long run.  Lions often end up in canned hunts, especially males who are coveted as wall trophies, so we felt certain our donors would help us rescue these two cats.  Our board convened and agreed that the lions would be rescued as soon as we could make travel arrangements for them.

Nikita and Simba the tigers who make up Joseph's prideCalling with the good news, that at least the lions would be spared, we were told by the landlord, who has been caring for the cats since evicting Diana McCourt, that the male tiger, Nikita, would be heartbroken that his best friend in the world, Joseph the lion, would be leaving.  As the conversation unfolded it appears that for the last 13 years, two tigers and two lions have shared a cage.  (Joseph only coming along in the past 9 yrs)  Instead of being elated for the lions, we now felt sick that they would be separated from the only pride (albeit tigers) they had ever known.  And thinking about how they would feel, of course, led to thinking about how the tigers left behind would feel.

We appealed to our supporters, asking if they would be willing to help us rescue all four cats who have lived together and the response was an overwhelming, “YES!”

Joseph the lion shares his dinner with Nikita the male tigerOn Oct. 19th Big Cat Rescue’s President Jamie Veronica, VP Cathy Neumann, Operations Manager Scott Lope and Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM flew to Columbus, OH to rendezvous with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) staff and a driver and vet tech from the Animal Sanctuary of the United States (ASUS) at the Columbus Zoo at 6 am on the morning of the 20th.  From there the entourage drove an hour to the Gambier, OH facility and met with the property owner and the Knox County Animal Control Officer, Rich Reed who had been granted possession of the six cats.

Within just a few hours all of the cats were safely loaded and on the way to Florida where they arrived at 6 am the morning of the 21st.  While the weary drivers slept, the Big Cat Rescue team unloaded Nikita, Simba, Sasha and Joseph into their new enclosure, which is a little more than half an acre of lakeside living with high grass, cave like dens and hills from which they can survey their new kingdom.

Joseph the lion sucks his thumb because of emotional scars from being taken from his mother too youngWe let you know that the rescue would cost us $34,000.00* and 294 of you responded.  As of 11/16/07 $29,435.00 has been raised to save these four cats. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue the last two cats and IFAW paid to transport all six cats to their final destinations. That saved us $4,000.00! We are now only $565.00 short of what this rescue will cost us in the first year. Thank you everyone who has helped so far!  If you haven’t helped yet, keep in mind that your donations are tax deductible and that these cats rely entirely on your generosity.

See slideshow of photos taken 9/26/07 in Ohio: Siberian Tiger Foundation

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue and place the last two cats, Sierra and Ekaterina who are now at Wildcat Sanctuary.

Sierra the white tiger lives with Ekaterina and still needs a home too! Ekaterina the tigress lives with Sierra the white tiger and still needs a home too!
Sierra the white tigress Ekaterina the tigress

Should there be any surplus in the donations made to this rescue they will be used for the continued care of the cats.


Carole Baskin
Jan 3, 2012
Simba the tigress died on Thanksgiving Day. She was 17 and had been in renal failure for a while but in the end it was her precious little heart that gave out.

Thanks to Big Cat Rescuers who were on site tonight we were able to remove her from her cat-a-tat. Thank you Jamie, Gale, Chris, Willow, Regina and Chelsea for being with her when she died and helping with her afterward. I know that Simba was thankful for all of you who helped her ease from this life to the next over the past few months.

Dec 21, 2011
Dear Chuffers I was honored to care for you, especially near the end of your journey here on earth. As Julie says, you were always sweet and generous with your chuffs whether it be keepers or visitors. One of my favorite memories is when you got your water trough and how you so enjoyed lounging and rolling in it even though you barely fit! You do have some wonderful tiger company to roam in the jungles beyond the rainbow bridge, be happy, run free and be at peace. I love and miss you.

Nov 27, 2011
I remember the day Simba arrived with Nikita, Joseph and Sasha. Joseph and Sasha were pretty terrifying and Nikita’s size alone was scary. But Simba, well she was another story. She was always such a sweetheart. The thing I will always remember about her is how, no matter when I was trying to fill up her water trough, she would saunter over and stick her tongue out and lap up the water straight from the hose stream with such gusto. It was one of those moments I always looked forward to with her, knowing that I made her day just a bit better. She appreciated every little thing we ever did for her and let us know it with her constant chuffs and rubbing her cagewire affectionately whenever we were nearby. Another tiger soul I’ll always miss but am eternally grateful that I got to know….

Regina Rinaldi
Nov 26, 2011
Thanksgiving Day will be a bittersweet day for the rest of my life. Bitter because our beloved Simba has passed, and sweet because Chuffers was finally free of pain and suffering and the confines of cage wire. I was honored to be asked by staff to feed her, care for her and provide some sort of comfort for her in her last few days with us. I know she felt our unconditional love for her, but on Tuesday when I fed her she had a look about her and I knew it wouldn’t be long. But her spirit never faltered. Weak and fragile, she would get up, no matter how painful, walk over to you, and do what she did best….CHUFF. I am grateful to Jamie and Carole for the moment alone with her to say good-bye. It truly means alot to me to be able to do that. As we were carrying her out of her enclosure, everyone present was fighting back tears, and I understand the barrage of instructions was a coping mechanism as well as safety for us.

Simba has alot of great company where she is now….I know India, Nala, King, NINI, Auroara, Buffy, and Trucha will show her the way to eternal freedom and peace.

Marie Schoubert
Nov 25, 2011
Thanksgiving Day and our “Chuffers” decided to leave us! This morning was a very sad morning. Arriving at the parking lot in front of her habitat and not seeing her was just heartbreaking! She was the very first love I would see and talk to every day and also the one who would make me not want to leave BCR as she would look at you with such a sad face… Thank you Simba for all the love and joy you gave us. I hope you have a safe trip to Freedom. Don’t ever forget us, your friends, because we will never forget YOU! Bye “Chuffers” and R.I.P.

Carole Baskin
Nov 25, 2011
“Maybe you should have given everyone a pep talk,” Jamie said as the last of the sad faces left Food Prep. “It was an awful way to end Thanksgiving Day.” I was fighting back the tears as I was trying to post on the important updates the awful news that Simba the tiger had just died. Gale, Chris, Willow, Regina and Chelsea had left their Thanksgiving dinner to come to help us carry out her body. I countered incredulous that Jamie could think me even capable of a “pep talk” at a time like that but she stood firm. “They don’t know how we deal with such pain. What they hear is us talking about watching your step, don’t back into Shere Khan, duck your head, make sure the duct tape secures the bags, and get a sheet to make it easier to carry her…They may not know that we talk about mundane stuff to keep from breaking down and weeping when a cool head is needed to be in charge.” I am guessing that you do know that it is just a coping mechanism. We all deal with grief. We all lose pets, loved ones and the cats here who have come to depend on us. I hope that you all know that when we are dealing with a loss, such as Simba, that we are doing so with the only tools in our emotional toolbox to do so. That said, I though Jeff said it so well this morning when he said that he thinks it is no coincidence that she chose Thanksgiving Day as her day to leave because we will ever remember how thankful she and the other 100+ cats here are for all that we do for them.

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