TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Bengali, known as the oldest living tiger in the world, has allegedly been dead since May 9, according to document’s released Thursday in a lawsuit against Tiger Creek Sanctuary.

Bengali’s death was announced by Tiger Creek in response to an emergency motion for preservation of evidence that the Animal Legal Defense Fund made in its on going lawsuit against Tiger Creek.

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund did not receive any notice of either Jasmine or Bengali dying — two tigers who endured the harsh conditions at Tiger Creek — despite their treatment and health being central to the claims in our case. Nor did we have an opportunity to perform a necropsy to evaluate those conditions and why they died — necropsies often tell crucial stories about the deceased animals’ lives.”

Daniel Waltz, managing attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund

The ALDF is suing Tiger Creek for allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act, claiming they harmed, harassed and killed several animals including nine lions and tigers between 2018 and the initial filling of the lawsuit in March of 2022.

Tiger Creek’s response to the latest motion said that two tigers, Bengali and Jasmine, were both humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. Tiger Creek said that Bengali was unable to walk or stand because of chronic spondylosis or arthritis and that Jasmine was euthanized because of chronic renal disease.

“ALDF’s lawsuit allegations could not be further from the truth. It is ironic to say the least that an organization that pretends to care about animals is making such an effort to destroy a sanctuary that provides a loving and nurturing home for these otherwise rejected animals and gives them exceptional care and medical treatment.”

A Tiger Creek Spokesperson

The ALDF makes many allegations in their lawsuit, including that Tiger Creek allowed animals to lay in their own waste, become immobile, lick sand, eat dirt and get stabbed with anesthetics in the chest multiple times.

“Defendants’ inadequate staffing has caused sparse and randomly-implemented enrichment, unsafe diets, and improper sanitation that has significantly disrupted each animal’s normal behavioral patterns. Several animals chewed their tails off from stress and disruptions to their species-specific behaviors that Defendants’ conditions of confinement have created,” according to ALDF’s original complaint.

Tiger Creek’s veterinary care is discussed extensively by ALDF’s lawsuit. ALDF alleges that Tiger Creek’s attending veterinarian allowed a cyst to grow and burst, creating a small wound that grew to the size of a dinner plate over the course of several weeks before the wound was stitched.

ALDF also alleges in their lawsuit that Tiger Creek’s attending veterinarian prescribed medications over text message without knowing the species of the animal.

“This is part of a concerning trend of animals dying at alarming rates at Tiger Creek and evidence of improper care at Tiger Creek because necropsies are a standard veterinary evaluation tool when animals die for unknown reasons in captivity. For example, necropsies help to ensure other animals, staff, nor the community at large are in any danger.”

Daniel Waltz, managing attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund

Tiger Creek said they get animals that were rejected by their owners, retired circus animals or surplus cats from other zoos, “and very often these animals come to Tiger Creek with pre-existing medical conditions that are chronic and can be debilitating.” According to Tiger Creek, their staff has been devoted to humanely housing and providing “the highest level of care” to their animals.

KETK is following this case as it develops and will provide relevant updates.

Both parties provided KETK with statements on the matter. See below for their comments in full:

“Bengali sadly passed in May 2022. She was a nearly 27 year old tiger and was the world’s oldest living captive tiger.  Bengali had received extraordinary care at Tiger Creek Sanctuary for more than 21 years, which was why she was able to live almost twice as long as the life expectancy for captive tigers. Bengali had in the late stages of her life been diagnosed with chronic conditions that would be expected for a tiger of that age, and was receiving excellent care from the Sanctuary’s veterinarian.  These chronic conditions eventually lead to a decreasing quality of life.  Ultimately, upon the recommendation of the veterinarian, humane euthanasia was performed. 

“Jasmine, another geriatric tiger who was 20 years old, had been diagnosed by the Sanctuary’s veterinarian with chronic renal failure, and was being treated for that condition by the veterinarian.  Her health also eventually declined to the point that the she was humanely euthanized in January 2022 by, and upon the recommendation of, the Sanctuary’s veterinarian.

 “Notably, tigers in captivity often do not live past 14-16 years.  Tiger Creek Sanctuary receives animals that have been rejected by their owners, or retired circus animals or surplus cats from other zoos, and very often these animals come to Tiger Creek with pre-existing medical conditions that are chronic and can be debilitating.  They are examined and diagnosed by veterinarians and treated as directed by the Sanctuary’s dedicated staff who attend to their needs for the rest of their lives.  For the last three decades, the Sanctuary and its staff have been devoted to humanely housing and providing the highest level of care to these animals.

 “While I don’t ordinarily comment on pending litigation, in this instance I am not able to remain quiet.  ALDF’s lawsuit allegations could not be further from the truth.  It is ironic to say the least that an organization that pretends to care about animals is making such an effort to destroy a sanctuary that provides a loving and nurturing home for these otherwise rejected animals and gives them exceptional care and medical treatment.”

Tiger Creek spokesperson

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund did not receive any notice of either Jasmine or Bengali dying — two tigers who endured the harsh conditions at Tiger Creek — despite their treatment and health being central to the claims in our case. Nor did we have an opportunity to perform a necropsy to evaluate those conditions and why they died — necropsies often tell crucial stories about the deceased animals’ lives.

“This is part of a concerning trend of animals dying at alarming rates at Tiger Creek and evidence of improper care at Tiger Creek because necropsies are a standard veterinary evaluation tool when animals die for unknown reasons in captivity. For example, necropsies help to ensure other animals, staff, nor the community at large are in any danger.”

ALDF