MURCHISON, Texas—Five years ago, Humane Society International rescued over 200 wild exotic animals from decrepit, barren and disturbing conditions at St. Edouard Zoo, an unaccredited facility in Canada. The animals were taken to sanctuaries and qualified facilities throughout North America, including the 1,400-acre Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison where tigers Serenity and Theodora, Doula the lioness, a zebra named Zuko, and Wolfgang the wildebeest—along with kangaroos Ross, Rachel and Joey—are now living happily-ever-after.

At the zoo, rescuers saw failing fences and cages, chewed stalls holding malnourished, anxious and lonely animals, dead animals just below the soil, and a dilapidated and dank barn with rows of stalls housing isolated animals including Zuko, Wolfgang, Rachel, Ross, Joey and many others. The big cat “house” was a shed over a filthy cement floor with enclosures that had unsafe and weakened spots from the cats’ chewing on them.

Sue Tygielski, senior director of Black Beauty Ranch, part of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Five years ago these animals were rescued from deplorable conditions, some in chewed up, dark, dungeon-like stalls where they could barely move, while others were trying to dig out of their habitats. Here at Black Beauty, their lives changed in every way. They are receiving exceptional care, having their needs met and are given the freedom to exhibit their natural behaviors and be the animals they deserve to be. They have become confident individuals able to flourish under our care. They will never face cruelty again.”

The animals include:

  • Kangaroo family Rachel, Ross and Joey, who were found in a tiny indoor pen huddled together with no sunlight. Rachel and Ross are now very relaxed, often lounging in a dirt wallow. Joey is more cautious and has come a long way since first arriving at Black Beauty. At first, she did not allow care staff near her, hopping away when approached. Now she is calm and even accepts treats from caregivers. 
  • Douala the lioness who before arriving at Black Beauty was found showing signs of stress like pacing. In her habitat, rescuers saw evidence of her digging along the fence line, getting very close to creating an opportunity for escape. Now at the sanctuary, she comfortably observes her surroundings from her high perch during cool mornings and evenings. During hot days she relaxes in her lush forest.
  • Tigers Serenity and Theodora, who were housed together and were the last big cats to leave the shuttered zoo. They now share their expansive habitat at Black Beauty, complete with a pool and waterspout, playing with the water rushing out of the spout, splashing and swimming without a care in the world.
  • Zuko the zebra, who lived in a small dark stall, standing in urine and feces, which caused his hooves to grow painfully long. He had chewed on the walls of his stall out of boredom and frustration, pacing circles into the filthy ground. Now he is a healthy, happy and very proud zebra living his best life in the sunshine in his 10-acre pasture, watching other residents and forging friendships through the fence with fellow St. Edouard Zoo survivor Wolfgang the wildebeest.
  • Wolfgang the wildebeest, who was one of the most stressed animals in the zoo barn according to the rescue team. As a prey species accustomed to being part of massive herds, he was trapped in a small, dark stall. Unable to tell if he was safe from predators and unable to flee, his stress level was high and he would charge the gate of his stall. Now at Black Beauty he jumps and leaps when he gets excited, but now has the freedom and room to express these natural behaviors. He seems to enjoy the company of Zuko on the other side of his fence and they are often seen lying along their shared fence line next to each other.

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