Defenders International (ADI)
Torn from his mother as a baby, Tilin spent the next 17 years of his life with the circus. Constantly chained by the neck, living in a small box, Tilin’s only company was a pride of lions.
We first met Tilin in 2006, when our undercover investigators filmed him traveling with a circus. Lonely and depressed, Tilin needed his own kind.
We determined that this campaign would not leave anyone behind – even one lonely male baboon. Following the circus animal ban in Bolivia, Tilin was finally handed over to ADI, along with his lion companions.
While the lions headed to the U.S., Tilin was not so welcome. There were several counts against him: males are almost always unwanted and difficult to home, Tilin’s age was against him, and there are almost no homes for Hamadryas baboons. The U.S. does not allow entry for stray rescue primates, so this immediately reduced many of his options.
These concerns were uppermost in our minds as we started the search for a suitable home – then Tilin got lucky. The specialists at Lakeview primate sanctuary in the UK agreed to take Tilin, provided we would build the special accommodation he needed. Tilin is much larger and stronger than the other primates at Lakeview, so none of their accommodation was suitable.
We would need to build both a quarantine unit and then later, a permanent enclosure. With the UK requiring at least 6 months’ quarantine, Tilin would need both an indoor room with platforms and an outdoor secure enclosure – this unit was the priority. We also needed help ensure that he did not remain alone and provide financial support for any future companion.
The baboon quarantine facility was completed with the generous support of Bob Barker and features two indoor units and an outdoor climbing area. It will be the first home for all new large primates arriving at the sanctuary.
The gentle and handsome Tilin arrived after a long journey from Bolivia, via Spain to the UK, which he appeared to enjoy enormously. From the moment Tilin arrived, he was a star. He quickly trained the Lakeview carers to do his bidding, and he enjoyed sitting quietly observing them as they talked to him.
After he had settled in for a few months, the next step was to find Tilin a non-breeding companion. Everyone deserves a chance at a life with their own kind.
We sent inquiries out to sanctuaries and contacts around the world, and eventually we were alerted to the lovely young Tina.
Tina is also a Hamadryas baboon, around seven years old, born in a captive-breeding farm in Israel and exported to Cyprus with another primate for the pet market. When her owner could no longer handle her she was taken in by a donkey sanctuary, where she lived for about five years, her main playmate a German Shepherd dog.
We felt that Tina would be the perfect companion for Tilin and arrangements were made for her to move to the UK.
The ADI team met Tina at Heathrow Airport and saw immediately she was calm and had travelled well. We then headed to Lakeview.
Tilin was exploring his outdoor pen when we arrived and he was shut outside whilst we released Tina into the first of the indoor units. As she cautiously emerged, she called out. Outside the big, burly Hamadrayas baboon froze – it was like a person who had been stranded on a desert island for years suddenly hearing a voice calling out in the evening air.
Then Tilin was let into his night quarters adjoining the unit with Tina . They could see each other but not touch through the cage. His excitement was palpable. He headed to see her and she nervously retreated. He settled into his bed and watched her. Very excited, but a perfect gentleman, Tilin clearly adored Tina from the moment he saw her. She was not so sure and at first, shouted at him – but Tilin’s patient and gentle nature won her over and she started to come close to the wire to be near him.
A stream of low-key chattering followed as they settled down in their adjoining rooms.
During the ensuing weeks Tilin remained cool and laid back in his interactions with Tina, who finally decided she liked him a great deal. Whenever Tilin nipped outside, Tina would call to him and he would dutifully scamper back. They were bonding.
After a few weeks it was safe for Tina and Tilin to be brought together and they immediately started grooming. By the end of their first day together they were sharing Tilin’s bed. Tina has an implant so they will not breed.
After years of isolation, Tilin and Tina are together – forever. Saving Tilin from that Hellish cage with the circus and bringing him all the way from Bolivia was an achievement but the greatest moment was ending his loneliness.
Both Tilin and Tina have been deprived of the life they would have known, with their families in the wild. We need to do what we can to return some of that dignity and freedom of choice to them.