Miami International Airport prides itself on being “America’s busiest port of entry for wild animals,” but airport staff and animal rescue supporters are especially excited about Friday evening’s arrival of a 353-pound Bengal tiger named Hoover.

The tiger, who turns 12 on Saturday, was rescued from abuse in a Peruvian circus and is on his way to an animal sanctuary near Tampa.

In 2011, Peru joined the growing list of countries that ban the use of wild animals in circuses. But, according to the animal rights group Animal Defenders International, Hoover wasn’t rescued until April 2015 because the circus that had him had gone underground in an effort to evade wildlife officials.

Once rescued, a sick and emaciated Hoover spent a year at ADI's temporary rescue near Lima and is now well enough to travel to a new permanent home at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa.

MIA has put Hoover’s image and a “Welcome Hoover” message on the 75’ x 8’ LED sign at the airport entrance and has a party planned for Hoover when he’s offloaded from an Avianca Cargo Flight Friday night at 11:15 p.m. 

“We’re pleased to welcome Hoover to the United States and help him transition to his new home in Florida,” said Emilio Gonzalez, the director of Miami International Airport.

After paperwork and examinations are completed, a custom transport trailer will take Hoover from MIA to Tampa. He’ll have a birthday party there on Saturday and enter his new enclosure.

“He will spend the rest of his life enjoying the warm breezes of Florida, relaxing in the shady grass, lounging on his platforms and cooling off in our lake,” said Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin.

Harriet Baskas is a Seattle-based airports and aviation writer and USA TODAY Travel's "At the Airport" columnist. She occasionally contributes to Ben Mutzabaugh's Today in the Sky blog. Follow her at twitter.com/hbaskas.