The Story of Melani

By Sybelle Foxcroft


When I first saw her, I immediately ran to her, laying down and softly talking to her. I told her how much she was loved, I told her she was safe now, and I begged with her to live. The thought crossed my mind that I was being cruel to ask this of her, but then her beautiful blue green eyes opened slightly, and she chuffed ever so softly.

In the blistering heat of Surabaya Zoo, Indonesia, a 15 year old female Sumatran Tiger staggers around her enclosure, each step was a painful effort each breathe heaving, Melani was her name.

Her skeletal outside appearance of 47 kg caused people to gasp in horror and shock that such a small tiger could actually be alive. She was bones with fur thrown over the top. There was a call to have her euthanized because people could not stand to see her like this. She was the animal version of a human concentration camp survivor. But Melani had a secret. Just because her appearance was horrifying, it did not mean that she did not love life just as much as you or I do. We recognised that in her and with that knowledge, the fight to save her life began. There are some places on earth where education is a difficult thing to come by and animal welfare or ethics is not a well-known subject. If we come from countries where we have full access to high levels of education then why can we not share that with our neighbours on earth? There is no reason why we can’t, there is no reason why we cannot reach out a hand of friendship and offer to walk beside them and give a helping hand. The only barriers that stop us arethe barriers that we put up ourselves. Melani’s plight was one which required a great deal of diplomacy, tact, compassion yet strength. The odds were stacked against her and we knew a number of miracles were needed. We asked the world to pray and the world did. With a combination of background communications urging clemency for this dear girl, and petitions signed by over 100,000 people, the Forestry Minister of Indonesia agreed that Melani would be given a chance at life. The first miracle was granted. Although there were those in Surabaya Zoo who adored Melani, the knowledge and intense veterinary needs were not available. Melani’s condition was caused because of financial short cuts taken resulting in the purchase of cheap meatsfor the Tigers. The meat was tainted with formaldehyde which in most cases of ingestion was a death sentence. Formaldehyde basically freezes all the internal organs and is a horrendous painful death. There were four Tigers fed this meat, three of them died, but Melani somehow struggled on. She was moved from Surabaya Zoo to Taman Safari Bogor on a 20 hour journey by road in a special air conditioned vehicle. On arrival at Taman Safari, Melani was so weak she could not stand. The staff gently lifted her tiny body and lay her down in the intensive care section of the animal hospital in Taman Safari. As numerous intravenous drips we connected to her frail body, her veins were hard to find. Melani was on the verge of complete renal shutdown. But somewhere inside her being the will to live was stronger than her collapsing body.

Sybelle with Melani-a spiritual bondWhen I first saw her, I immediately ran to her, laying down and softly talking to her. I told her how much she was loved, I told her she was safe now, and I begged with her to live. The thought crossed my mind that I was being cruel to ask this of her, but then her beautiful blue green eyes opened slightly, and she chuffed ever so softly. I knew right then that she wanted to live more than anything, she was going to fight, she had been fighting all this time to live, and she was not going to give up. From the very beginning, Melani was different than any other Tiger I had met. It was like she possessed tranquillity in her soul that was void of causing any harm. There are those within the science community that say it is incorrect to place a human emotion on an animal, but as a person of science and person of compassion, Melani showed more depth of soul, more happiness, and more love towards humans than many humans I have met. 1 year later, Melani was painfree, she was no longer staggering robotically, and she walked with ease and ran on the grass under the sunshine inside her highly ethical and humane enclosure. The second miracle was granted and she survived but not for long.

A Tiger, like many animals, are born with a nervous system, and because of this they can feel pain and therefore emotion. We humans have no right to inflict pain on any creature; it is a moral crime to do so.

I told her how much she was loved, I told her she was safe now, and I begged with her to live…..
She was extraordinary and unique living being that had the ability to show affection to the very species that hurt her so. She brought such joy to people all over the world just because of her beautiful spirit.

Melani loved people….
There is no doubt in my entire being that Melani’s capability of love was unconditional, a lesson that every human being should learn. The world is a better place just because of this little Tiger.


Melani Legacy FoundationWhen Melani passed away in August 2014, Sybelle wrote:

It is with great sorrow and heartbreak that I have to tell you that our dear beloved Melani has passed on.

There was no sign of illness. The day before she died she was her happy and beautiful self. After a big day of walking, running (yes running!!) and nearly swimming, it was time to sleep. In the sunshine, amongst the plants, she lay her head down, listened to the birds, chuffed and went to sleep.

She closed her eyes that last night with one of her keepers–she was content and calm.

How many people urged me to have her euthanised….. they said she would never live to see sunlight and touch grass again… I hope those people are looking at this now. An animal loves life just as much as a human does. This dear girl did not want to leave this earth.

The heavens called this earth angel to come home. She had done her job here on earth.

You taught me so much. My heart breaks that I will not see your beautiful face again, but I love you from the depths of my soul, through the tears streaming, I love you,

I cannot write anymore at the moment as I am so sad.

God bless you dear soul, I will see you again one day

To honour Melani–a most wonderful brave Tiger to have walked this earth, Cee4life has officially opened the “Melani Legacy Foundation” in memory of this beautiful Tiger girl.

According to Sybelle Foxcroft, the moving spirit and founder of Cee4life, Melani’s Legacy Foundation will work as a catalyst to go on and help the many other animals that are out in the world in need aid, rescue or protection, whether they are wild or captive, and for the ongoing humanity education to humans that is so vitally needed.

Melani will live forever in our hearts, we will always love you and we will never forget you, we will Never Give Up is the message by Cee4life while announcing the launching of Melani Legacy Foundation.

For more on Melani and the Melani Legacy Foundation CLICK HERE


Sybelle Foxcroft is author of “Behind the Cloak of Buddha: A True Story of Animal and Human Endurance”.

Behind the Cloak of Buddha is the true story about a group of captive tigers subjected to a lifetime of abuse and wildlife trade, and of a woman’s fight to bring justice and peace to their lives. Set in the seemingly idyllic surrounds of a Thai Buddhist Temple, this landmark book lifts the lid on the hidden atrocities that species are subjected to for greed and confirms the enduring spirit of both human and animal.

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