Carolina Tiger Rescue, formerly the Carnivore Preservation Trust, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild.

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Romeo Tiger


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Romeo tiger passed away Monday, July 13, 2009. Romeo's health had been declining for several months as a result of a progressive neurological disease, making it increasingly difficult to control his hind legs. For his comfort, he had been removed from the tour route in his final weeks. Romeo's condition took a marked downturn a week prior to his passing, prompting Curator of Animals, Kathryn Bertok, and Veterinarian, Dr. Angela Lassiter, to schedule him for euthanasia. Staff, Romeo's adoptive parents, and other members of the "family" were given unlimited visitation over his last weekend to say their goodbyes to him.

Loss of Romeo Press Release

Romeo's reputation at Carolina Tiger Rescue(then CPT) was legendary. He was rescued from a private owner in Durham when he was six months old. Romeo grew to be twelve feet long (from his nose to the tip of his tail) and was estimated at one time to weigh over 800 pounds, making him an extraordinarily large tiger.

June 21, 1991 - N&O Owner 'down and out' after SPCA sezes his tiger cub
June 22, 1991 - N&O Tiger taking new digs in stride

Romeo was a favorite on tours and was particularly notorious for spraying tour guests. His size, spraying ability, and story made him particularly memorable. After purchasing the cub from a pet store in Wake Forest, his owner took Romeo in a convertible to be declawed and defanged. The vet reported the situation, and authorities granted custody of Romeo to the SPCA, who placed Romeo at Carolina Tiger Rescue.

Romeo's life at Carolina Tiger Rescue (then CPT) included two mates- Mini, a tiger who passed away in 2000, and later Shalimar. His relationship with Shalimar certainly reflected his name, Romeo was always possessive and protective of his females- including volunteers and adoptive parents. Boyfriends and husbands were not especially welcome. After Shalimar died in 2007, staff could see the difference in Romeo- he began resting in the spots that had been her favorites, and for some time showed signs of missing her.

Tour guides also introduced visitors to the concept of animal "enrichment" using Romeo's preference for Obsession perfume. "Enrichment" is any item or activity that Keepers provide to captive animals to prevent boredom and "enrich" their lives- and Obsession perfume was a favorite of Romeo's (most male tigers and ocelots like Obsession). Romeo also enjoyed showers, and of course, treats.

My own favorite memories of Romeo center on our walks. When life was rocky, the remedy was walking with Romeo. Nothing seemed too hard in life when you could walk alongside Romeo.

Some tigers express their affection every time they see you, others may not have a special connection with you at all (although they may a connection with others). But my interactions with Romeo seemed to express an intuition different from the behavior of other animals. He had a sense sense of wisdom as if he knew far more than he possibly could from inside his enclosure.

Romeo was a large tiger, but his presence was ever so much more massive. We were humbled by our awe of him, and grateful to be acknowledged and greeted by him.

Tribute by Amanda Byrne.

Photo/s courtesy of Amanda Byrne, ©Carolina Tiger Rescue