Tributes to Shepreth's 'charismatic and playful' tiger Amba

PUBLISHED: 18:17 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 19:56 23 November 2018

Amba the tiger, pictured on her 20th birthday in August, has died. Picture: Amber Welch

Amba the tiger, pictured on her 20th birthday in August, has died. Picture: Amber Welch

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Tributes have been paid to Shepreth Wildlife's Park's "charismatic and playful" tiger Amba who was put to sleep on Wednesday, aged 20.

Amba had been at Shepreth since 2001. Picture: Amber WelchAmba had been at Shepreth since 2001. Picture: Amber Welch

Amba came to Shepreth in 2001 with another tiger, Rana, and the pair became firm favourites with visitors to the park in Station Road.

Rana was put to sleep in May last year, aged 18, because the pain of his chronic arthritis became too much for him – and Amba continued on as the only remaining tiger and the park.

She celebrated her 20th birthday at their annual Tiger Day in August this year.

Amba was a firm favourite with visitors and staff. Picture: Clive PorterAmba was a firm favourite with visitors and staff. Picture: Clive Porter

Rebecca Willers, who runs the wildlife park with her family, told the Crow: “Both Rana and Amba had a massive impact on the park.

“When they came that’s when the focus changed from rescue to conservation work, and both Rana and Amba were ambassadors of that.

“They were such charismatic animals, who weren’t like animals to the keepers, they were part of their family.

Visitors turned out to Shepreth Wildlife Park to see Amba on her birthday each year. Picture: Amber WelchVisitors turned out to Shepreth Wildlife Park to see Amba on her birthday each year. Picture: Amber Welch

“A lot of time was spent on the tigers’ environment, building up the vegetation so they had their privacy when they wanted it – and we were always come up with toys and safe ways of keeping them stimulated mentally and physically.”

Like Rana, Amba’s arthritis was causing considerable pain and her health was deteriorating so the decision was made that she would be put to sleep.

On Wednesday evening, after Amba had died, Rebecca broke the news on Facebook in a post which got more than 300 comments and around 250 shares.

Amba the tigerAmba the tiger

She said: “I have been on Facebook page to read comments, and it is overwhelming how many people have posted.

“We knew the tigers had a lot of sponsors already, but there’s just so much love there.

“Amba had been deteriorating for a long time and we have had the specialist vet come in every month to assess her and it was an extremely hard decision, but it wasn’t about us it was about her and it was the only right decision to make.

Amba inspects her presentAmba inspects her present

“Her welfare was our top priority, especially over our own emotions.

“It was very peaceful and she was among all her keepers who had cared for her so passionately over the years.”

“She was a huge part of the wildlife park, both tigers were. She was very playful, and a very steady cat and both tigers were quite different to each other, but they bonded near the end. It’ll be strange not having either of them around.”

Rana the tiger died at Shepreth last year aged 18.Rana the tiger died at Shepreth last year aged 18.

Rebecca said the hoped to have tigers at the park again in the future, and that now was about securing Amba and Rana’s legacy.

She said: “The impact the tigers had was extreme. They really did inspire us and our conservation work – tigers are on the brink of extinction so it was such a privilege being so close to them every day.”

Amba’s direct keeper Andy Hemmings said: “You couldn’t have a bad day when you were around Amba. She would be waiting for me and then any bad feeling would just go. It was an honour to be around her and Rana, you really get to know them and they were absolutely amazing to be around.”

Andy will continue the Tiger talks at Shepreth in Amba’s memory.

For more information on the park go to sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk.

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