Buying a lion, tiger, bear or elephant would be banned in Ohio starting on Jan. 1, 2014.
Capuchin and howler monkeys? They’d be restricted, too.
However, current owners of all those wild animals and dozens of other exotic species would be able to keep them for as long as the animals live — if they follow a complicated set of new rules.
Snakes, even poisonous ones, are permitted, unless they’re really big snakes 12 feet or longer, and can continue to be bought, sold and bred.
Then there are exemptions: Obie the Massillon tiger cub and service monkeys.
There was barely a whimper yesterday, after months of packed hearings in which animal owners roared their disapproval, as the Ohio Senate voted 30-1 to approve legislation restricting ownership of exotic wild animals. The bill now heads to the House.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” Kasich said of the measure. “We don’t want to have a situation where people continue to have lions, and bears, and tigers on their front lawn. I mean, they can have artificial lions and tigers and bears on their front lawn. Carvings. But no more real ones. No more live animals, and (the bill is) a transition to getting us there.”
“This has been a rough bill for all of us,” said Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 310. But he said public input from six hearings during which dozens of witnesses testified helped produce a bill that is “a good balance between public safety and the preservation of personal property.”
Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, said he supports the bill because “we never want our law enforcement or the public in that situation again.”
The “situation” happened Oct. 18 when the release of dozens of wild animals near Zanesville focused world attention on Ohio. Terry W. Thompson freed lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and wolves on his Muskingum County property and then committed suicide; 48 animals were killed by deputies to protect the public.
The resulting outcry pushed the state to come up with an initial proposal for an outright ban on private ownership of exotic animals. That approach quickly changed, however, to grandfather in current owners. That will allow most owners to keep their animals if they register them, pay permit fees, implant identifying microchips in the animals’ skin, obtain insurance and construct proper facilities.
“There are some good animal owners out there,” Balderson said yesterday after a Senate committee voted 9-0 for the measure. He estimated that 90 percent of the animal owners in the state will meet the requirements of the new law and be able to keep their animals.
“The state of Ohio does not want to take care of these animals. We have nowhere to put them, nowhere else to take them,” he said.If unlicensed animal owners refuse to get rid of them by 2014, local humane societies have the job of enforcing the law — with the fate of the exotic animals unknown. Local zoo officials already have made it clear they cannot take any.
Sen. Kris Jordan, a Republican from Delaware, cast the lone vote on the Senate floor against the bill because it punishes “99 percent of the people to go after the 1 percent.” Jordan said even if the law had been in effect before the Zanesville incident, “it wouldn’t have stopped him (Thompson) from his craziness.”
In recent weeks, Balderson’s bill was amended multiple times, including allowing most snake owners to not only keep, but also breed and acquire new animals.
Among the exceptions granted was one for educational institutions with a “single dangerous wild animal as a sports mascot.” That applies only to Massillon Washington High School, which features a tiger cub, always named Obie, caged on the sidelines each football season. The cub — a new one arrives each year — has been a tradition since 1970.
On Tuesday, Balderson’s bill was amended to exclude specially trained service monkeys that assist severely disabled people with personal and household tasks.
Dispatch reporter Joe Vardon contributed to this story.
By Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch Thursday April 26, 2012 4:01 AM
Cougar Puma or Mountain Lion Attacks Are Likely Discarded Pets
BUELLTON — The paws of a mountain lion have been sawed off as apparent souvenirs after a vehicle struck the cougar on a California central coast highway.
It’s illegal in California possess mountain lion parts.
The California Highway Patrol was called before dawn Tuesday to investigate a deer on U.S. Route 101 three miles south of Buellton in Santa Barbara County.
Instead, the CHP officer found the mutilated cougar.
State Fish and Game Lt. James Solis tells the Santa Barbara News-Press (http://bit.ly/JpJ9fP) that the mountain lion’s front paws were sawed off, adding someone likely plans to make jewelry out of the claws.
A tiger jumped into a pond at a zoological park in Hyderabad, April 23, 2010.
India’s many national parks are home to over half of the world’s tigers. Still, the number of tigers in India has sadly plummeted from an estimated 100,000 around a century ago to roughly 1,700 today.
As a result, “kuch nahi” (there is nothing) is likely to become a familiar refrain if you go on a tiger safari. Let’s face it: tigers are extremely elusive, so if your only aim is to see tigers, you’re better off at the zoo.
But there is something magical about seeing one of the world’s rarest animals in its natural habit. Besides, India’s parks have more to offer than rare tiger sightings.
The best time to visit national parks to see tigers is between March and May. Parks generally close in July or earlier, and open again by mid-October. The jungle is more lush after the monsoon, but tall grass will make it harder to spot the big cat.
Here are a few tips on popular tiger safari destinations recently visited by reporters from The Wall Street Journal.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Margherita Stancati/The Wall Street Journal
Views of Bandhavgarh National Park.
Why: If you want to see a tiger in the wild, Bandhavgarh is probably your best bet. With 50 or so tigers and a core area of 105 square kilometers, Bandhavgarh boasts the highest density of tigers in the world. At this time of the year, it’s relatively easy to see female tigers with their cubs.
Number of tigers spotted: Four.
Highlight of our trip: Seeing a tiger resting peacefully next to a stream in a lush area of Zone 3, our favorite, mainly because there were fewer jeeps.
Beyond tigers: Tigers are what you really come here for. Animals you are bound to see include the spotted deer, sambar deer, lemur monkeys, peacocks and the Indian roller, a bird with dazzling blue plumage. You can also check out the hilltop Bandhavgarh Fort.
Travel tips: Book everything in advance, either through your hotel or a travel agent. If you don’t, you may not be allowed in the park at all. A limited number of jeeps per day are allowed in the park, which is divided into four zones. Make sure to book at least one trip in Zone 1, Tala, which has the highest number of tigers.
Margherita Stancati/The Wall Street Journal
Views of Bandhavgarh National Park.
While park authorities will supply you with a guide, they are allocated randomly, meaning that, on busy days, there is a chance you may get stuck with a teenager who has very little interest in nature. Ask your hotel or travel agent if they have nature experts on hand to join you. You can fit two jeep safaris a day: typically one at the break of dawn – get ready for a 5 a.m. wake up call – and one in the afternoon. Safaris cost around 4,600 rupees ($90) per jeep.
There is the option of going on an elephant safari, but we were told this was in the tens of thousands of rupees so we skipped. Shorter so-called “joy rides” on elephants are also possible, and they cost about 1,500 rupees. A good alternative to Bandhavgarh is the nearby Kanha National Park. While you are less likely to see tigers there, the landscape and wildlife are meant to be more interesting overall.
Where to stay: There are plenty of safari lodges in and around the park. We stayed at the Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge, which we loved – bungalows set in a pleasant garden, great food and friendly, helpful staff (rates vary so it’s worth haggling. Another excellent option is the idyllic Tree House Hideaway, perfect for a romantic getaway.
How to get there: The closest airport is in Jabalpur, which is roughly a three-and-a-half hour drive to Bandhavgarh. Otherwise you can get a train to Umaria, a short drive away.
Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Will Davies/The Wall Street Journal
A view of Jim Corbett National Park.
Why: India’s first national park, which opened in the 1930s, changed its name in 1957 in honor of the conservationist Jim Corbett, who grew up in the area and was famous for tracking down and killing man-eating tigers and leopards. Corbett’s winter home in Kaladhungi, roughly half-an-hour’s drive from the park, has been converted into a museum. The park was among the first to be embraced by the Project Tiger scheme, which was launched in 1973 with the aim of protecting tigers. But tiger sightings are rare as the park is so large, covering more than 1,000 square kilometers.
Number of tigers spotted: Zero
Highlight or our trip: Driving among a herd of wild elephants eating in the trees and bushes next to one of the many dirt tracks used by safari jeeps to traverse the park. A female elephant and her baby crossed in front of our jeep, pausing to size us up before moving on to the other side of the track.
Beyond tigers: Jim Corbett has a wide range of wildlife, so even if you don’t see a tiger, there are plenty of other animals to enjoy. The park boasts wild elephants, sloth and Himalayan bears, deer – sambar, spotted, barking and hog –, macaque and langur monkeys, mongoose, to name a few, as well as a stunning array of birdlife.
Will Davies/The Wall Street Journal
A monkey at Jim Corbett National Park.
Travel tips: As with other parks, it’s best to book your safari well in advance as there are limits on numbers allowed in the park at any given time. Jeep safaris go in the morning and evening. Jim Corbett has three main zones. If you have to make a choice, it’s probably best to avoid Bijrani as this is the zone most crowded with jeeps. You can book a vehicle – sturdy, open-top Maruti Gypsy jeeps — through your hotel for about 5,000 rupees per safari. A guide will join you when you reach the park gate. Other options include taking a canter safari, which is a bigger, open-top vehicle, and an elephant safari, which cover less ground but can potentially get you up close to tigers.
Where to stay: There are scores of hotels and guesthouses around the eastern edges of Jim Corbett, from the main town of Ramnagar northwards beyond Amdanda Gate, the entry point to the park’s Bijrani Zone. Camp Forktail Creek on the northeast rim of the park in Bhakrakot village is highly recommended, as is Jim’s Jungle Retreat to south of the park. We stayed at Corbett Leela Vilas, about 15 minutes drive north of Ramnagar, which has a dozen or so clean and well-appointed cottages. The well-run resort has a beautiful swimming pool and packages include breakfast, lunch and dinner. These three resorts are at the higher-end, but there are plenty of other options around Jim Corbett to suit smaller budgets.
How to get there: The park is a six to seven hour drive north from Delhi. Alternatively, you can take a train to Ramnagar.
Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Shefali Anand/The Wall Street Journal
A peacock dances in Ranthambhore.
Why: Ranthambhore’s thin forest cover and open grassy meadow make it a relatively good area to see tigers, as they have few places to hide. One of the reasons Ranthambhore is so popular is that it’s very close to Jaipur, which is firmly on the tourist map.
Number of tigers spotted: Zero. However, we saw one tiger when we visited Ranthambhore this time last year.
Highlight of our trip: Although we didn’t see a tiger, we were very lucky to spot a rare leopard. It was lying on a small hill ahead of us and was initially hidden by the trees. We were able to see it properly once it started walking.
Beyond tigers: There is no guarantee whatsoever that you will see a tiger or a leopard. Expect to see a lot of deer, including the sambar deer, a favorite of the tiger. We also saw a blue-hued antelope called nilgai. We were lucky to see two peacocks dancing with their feathers in full display. The park’s other wildlife includes monkeys, sloth bears, wild boar, king vulture and owls.
We recommend visiting the Dasktar crafts center, which is close to the tiger reserve’s main gate. There you will find village women working on products ranging from scarves to bed sheets to kurtas, for sale at reasonable prices.
You can also visit the Ranthambhore Fort, believed to be one of India’s oldest.
Travel tips: Only park-approved vehicles are allowed inside the reserve. Your options are an uncovered gypsy, which seats six people, or larger vehicles that seat up to 20. You can book per seat.
The gypsy (530 rupees each for Indians, around 930 rupees for foreigners) is ideal because it allows you more freedom to go explore the park’s many nooks and corners. Gypsies are in high demand, so book early. You can reserve one through the park’s official website. You can also book through a travel agent or your hotel, though they’ll add a service charge for this.
Rathambhore park is divided into eight zones. But, unlike in Badhavgarh, visitors are assigned their zone by lottery. There are two safaris a day – one starts at 6.30 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. Your hotel or travel agent can help you arrange a guide or nature expert to come along.
Where to stay: While there are plenty of budget options in Ranthambhore, consider staying at a nice hotel because you’ll be spending a lot of time there. We stayed at theNahargargh Fort, which has spacious rooms and courtyards, and is built like a palace. Ask for a discount when booking.
High-end options in the park include luxury properties run by the Taj Group, the Oberoi Group, and Sujan Luxury Hotels.
How to get there: The closest airport is in Jaipur, which is roughly a three-hour drive away. The closest train station is Sawai Madhopur, which is around 14 kilometers from the park. There are direct trains from Delhi and Mumbai, but make sure to book way in advance.
You can India Real Time on Twitter @indiarealtime.
Bad few days for tourists watching exotic animals.
First came word Monday that a 22-year-old Norwegian had been clawed by a cheetah on the Harnas game farm in Namibia. A report on eTurboNews.com says Kristel Johanson left a tour vehicle to help a guide feed cheetahs. One pawed her, tearing her shorts and leaving her leg bloody. Luckily, her injuries were not serious. The guide told a reporter along on the tour that you should never turn your back on a cheetah.
Coincidentally, a Hyundai Super Bowl ad showed a caged cheetah preparing to race a vehicle and instead turning on its caretaker and chasing him.
Said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: “Hyundai fumbled when it used a real cheetah in its ad. Wild animals used for ads often spend most of their lives confined to cages or chains and may be routinely beaten in order to ‘show them who’s boss.’ ”
Then came a report from the San Angelo Standard Times in Texas that a 6-year-old boy was injured Sunday while being attacked by a mountain lion Sunday in the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park.
Tuesday, Chinese media said tourists on a bus in a wildlife park in eastern China were rattled when Bengal tigers attacked the vehicle. An Agence France-Presse report says the tigers punctured tires and smashed the windshield, reports say, injuring the driver’s hand in the process. The tourists were not hurt.
AFP says last year, a bus driver in northeast China died after getting out to check on a mechanical malfunction and being set upon by a Siberian tiger.
What do you think about tours that put you close to uncaged wild animals?
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna criticized Ohio lawmakers Thursday for not yet passing a bill to regulate exotic animals, months after authorities shot dozens of lions, tigers, bears and other wild creatures let loose by their suicidal owner.A Republican state senator from Zanesville, the eastern Ohio city where the animals were shot, had planned to introduce a bill this week but then said it was not ready. There is no new timetable for the measure.
“What’s it going to take, everyone, to pass a bill? Someone else getting killed?” Hanna said during his remarks to an Ohio newspaper trade group.
Hanna, a former Columbus Zoo director who has given animal demonstrations on national television for decades, said he can’t believe legislation hasn’t progressed.
“In fact, I’m actually in a state of shock right now because, folks, you’re not dealing with some little issue of animals here. You’re dealing with bombs,” Hanna told members of the Ohio Newspaper Association at their convention in Columbus.
Hanna said he has no power over the Ohio Legislature and isn’t running for office. But he said he has seen a tiger finish off a 2,000-pound water buffalo in less than 10 seconds and lions take down even larger animals in less than 30 seconds.
“You probably don’t want to witness it,” he said.
Ohio has some of the nation’s weakest restrictions on exotic pets. Efforts to strengthen the state’s law took on new urgency in October when authorities were forced to hunt down and kill 48 wild animals — including endangered Bengal tigers — after their owner freed them from his Zanesville farm and then committed suicide.
In August 2010, a bear attacked and killed a caretaker during a feeding at the home of a man who also kept wolves and tigers on property near Cleveland.
Hanna again defended the sheriff’s decision to kill the animals released from Terry Thompson’s Zanesville home. The animals destroyed included six black bears, two grizzlies, a baboon, a wolf and three mountain lions.
“When we showed up, we had 45 minutes of daylight left,” Hanna said. “Tranquilization, folks, is very difficult. It’s not like on TV where you pop something and it just, plop, falls over.”
He said no one knew for sure how many animals were loose or captured that night, which why the dead wildlife were laid out in a row across the countryside. A photographic image of the scene was disseminated to newspapers and websites around the world.
State Sen. Troy Balderson, of Zanesville, had sent a letter last Friday to state lawmakers, asking them to sign on to his bill.
He included some details about future regulations in his letter. For instance, the measure would immediately ban people from acquiring additional exotic animals. Zoo, circuses, sanctuaries and research facilities would be exempt.
Owners of lions, tigers and other large animals, such as elephants and crocodiles, would be banned in 2014 from keeping the creatures unless they applied to be a “private shelter” and met new caging requirements and care standards.
Balderson said Tuesday the bill needed more work and wouldn’t be introduced this week.
Asked to respond to Hanna’s comments Thursday, Balderson said in a statement: “The draft legislation continues to be a work in progress, which is complicated by such passion involving public safety and personal property. Therefore, we want to make sure we get it right, and that requires very careful dialogue with all interested parties.”
Balderson’s draft proposal is less strict than a framework suggested last year by a state study committee, in which Hanna took part, and state agencies.
The group had recommended a more stringent ban on the casual ownership of exotic animals. Those who still owned restricted wildlife — such as bears, monkeys and others — in 2014 without proper licenses or exemptions would have the animals taken away by state or local officials.
Hanna took issue with the idea of with some owners being allowed to keep their animals because they would be grandfathered into any ban.
“I can tell you now,” Hanna said. “Someone is going to get killed again if this thing isn’t properly passed.”
Hanna said that on his travels around the world, he has frequently been asked whether the laws have been changed in Ohio as a result of the Zanesville hunt.
“This is an international issue,” he said. “The world is waiting for what the law will be.”