Kricket the serval was born in 2001 and had been kept as a pet, but when her owners divorced, the wife decided that she didn’t have time for Kricket and began looking for a home for her.
We agreed to rescue Kricket and began preparing an enclosure for her with lots of places to hide and fun things to explore, she’d just spent the last ten years living indoors so we wanted to make her adjustment to life outside as stress free and enjoyable as possible.
Her owner was willing to contract with us to never possess another exotic cat, Kricket was then shipped from Virginia to Florida via Delta Dash.
We were at the airport to pick her up and Joseph the lion gave Kricket a roaring welcome to the sanctuary when she arrived!
Exotic cats kept as pets are often fed improper diets resulting in serious health problems. Her former owner, a vegan, insisted that Kricket chose a predominantly vegetarian diet, but we’ve never known a cat to do so.
The former owner said the deformities that Kricket suffers from were from injuries and not diet related.
She insisted that Kricket preferred broccoli to animals, but here Kricket loves the variety of raw meat.
Whatever Kricket’s diet was it’s obviously taken a toll on the little serval, her back and rear legs show signs of stunted development and her tail is unusually curled, which is most likely the result of her past injuries, inbreeding that is common in the pet trade and her insufficient diet. Some of Kricket’s bone deformities have improved since she has been on an improved diet.
Watch more about Kricket and a few of her new serval friends who were rescued the same year.
Male DOB 1/1/03
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)
Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid
I first met JoJo the Caracal / Serval hybrid at the South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in 2005 after a hurricane had taken down the perimeter fencing and dumped piles of deadfall on the cages.
The owner, Dirk Neugebohm, had ended up in the hospital with a heart attack from trying to clean the mess up by himself.
He wrote from what he thought was his deathbed back then to anyone and everyone he could think of asking for help; and asking for help was not something that came easily to this hard working German.
What we found, when Howard and I visited, was a man who was way in over his head. Donations were almost non existent, the cages were old, dilapidated, small and concrete floored. The freezer had been damaged and he had lost his food supply, so we sent food and volunteers to help him clean up and rebuild.
The tiger back then was Sinbad, who lived in what is commonly used for housing parrots. An oval corn crib cage with a metal roof. Sinbad died recently after a snake bite, leaving Krishna, pictured, as the only remaining tiger.
We had a donor and a sanctuary (Safe Haven in NV) that were willing to take Krishna, but we were told that the Florida Wildlife Commission had found someone less than 6 miles away to take him.
Dirk managed to keep his sanctuary afloat, if just barely, for the next 8 years, but a couple days ago one of his volunteers, Vickie Saez, who we had been helping for the past couple of years with infrastructure and social networking, contacted us to say that Dirk was dying of brain cancer in the hospital and that she had convinced him to let the animals go to other homes. She said the Florida Wildlife Commission had arranged for most of the homes, but that Dirk was very happy that we could take JoJo. Our sweet Caracal, Rose, had died July 31st and her cage was empty.
We were told that all of the other cats had new homes waiting, except for Nola the cougar, but she was very ill. We offered to pay a vet to do blood work on her to make sure that she was not contagious. We were concerned because she had a history of some very contagious diseases, which had left her severely debilitated. What concerned us was that her caretaker said she looked bloated.
A vet had arrived to help with the transfer of two leopards to a place in Jupiter. He sedated Nola to see what was wrong.
We are told that he palpitated three melon sized tumors in her abdomen and that with every touch of her belly she exuded foamy blood from her nose and anus. He was sure that there was no hope for her and humanely euthanized her.
This photo was Nola back in 2011. While we were sad that we would not be able to give Nola a new home here at Big Cat Rescue we are glad that she is not suffering any more.
JoJo at Big Cat Rescue
JoJo has arrived at Big Cat Rescue and settled in nicely. It is quite possibly his first time to walk on the soft earth.
His cage has been a small (maybe 60 square feet) of concrete and chain link for at least 8 years and probably longer. He is thought to be about 10 years old. Sometimes breeders hybridize exotic cats because there are no laws on the books that regulate them, but in Florida, the inspectors say, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck; it’s a duck.”
JoJo now has 1,200 square feet of earth, bushes, trees and grass.
He really likes the grass. Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”
Nikita was found chained to the wall in a crack house during a drug bust in Tennessee. Because she had been confined to a concrete floor, she had huge swellings on her elbows that took months to heal. She was so thin that you could carry her under one arm. She would only eat white rabbits, so she had a plethora of nutritional issues to deal with as well.
The authorities took her to the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere, but she had been declawed and could not live with the zoo’s other lions. They had to find a new home for her, so we received the call. Big Cat Rescue agreed to take Nikita in, as well as three other Bobcats who all arrived on 11/30/01.
Nikita has flourished under our care. She has grown into a tall, lanky, healthy lioness. She’s extremely playful and loves to roll on her back and grab her paws or try to do somersaults whenever she has visitors stopping by to talk with her. Though we wish she had the freedom she deserves, we’re so happy that she survived her earlier ordeals to enjoy the blissful days we try to provide for her here.
LION VS Big Yellow Ball = Lion Wins! Watch our goofy lioness Nikita take on her new yellow boomer ball! Enrichment is an important part of our cats lives at the sanctuary they will never be free and wild, so we have to keep their minds stimulated with new toys and enrichment, ensuring the best quality life in captivity. http://bigcatrescue.org/lion-vs-big-yellow-ball/
Mr. Howell is approximately five years old and was Lovey’s mate. He is declawed on all four paws and his left ear is folded over most likely the result of a past injury.
The two of them shared a cramped cage about 5’x13′. Their only shelter was a small plastic dog house that they managed to cram themselves into to escape the cold weather. The also had a tiny child’s play table to perch on.
Mr. Howell was not neutered and it is most likely that Lovey has not been spayed as their previous owner was a breeder. So the two of them were separated upon their arrival at Big Cat Rescue until they could be neutered and spayed.
Mr. Howell has a strange coat pattern and coloring, and had almost no fur on arrival, so it was believed that he may be some sort of bobcat wildcat hybrid, but now that he is healthy and fully furred he looks like a pure bobcat.
Mr. Howell loves his large rock cave and spends most of his time on top of this mountain observing his surroundings. Mr. Howell also loves spice bag enrichment! Big Cat Rescuers were in awe to see his reaction to the first enrichment he has probably ever received. Mr. Howell rolled around on the ground, rubbing his face on the bag, and pawing at the fun new toy.
When a lens luxated due to old age it became very irritated and had to be dealt with right away. Dr. Miller, Dr. Wynn and Dr. Boorstein all came in to the Windsong Memorial Hospital to see if the eye could be saved. Stay tuned.
What do you do when a lion needs a vet?
Call in a team of experts for a lion size house call.
Keepers reported that Joseph the lion wasn’t eating and was wobbling when he walked.
It was a Sunday afternoon and there is no place nearby that we could take a lion for X-rays.
Dr. Justin Boorstein and his friend, Dr. Tim Jones sedated Joseph lion to draw blood and do a physical exam.
Jamie’s home made, lion size gas mask enabled the transition from drugs to gas.
Interns held the Y-stick on Joseph, in case he woke suddenly and pumped fluids into Joseph as he slept.
Dr. Justin Boorstein listened to the lion’s breathing and heart beat as Dr. Tim Jones kept an eye on the anesthesia.
Every intern had their job, from protecting the vets to logging each drug, each change in vitals and giving fluids.
That is a lion size heart monitoring cuff!
Dr. Fay Herrero, from Odessa Equine Clinic brought out his portable X-ray machine to make sure there were no broken bones.
Dr. Fay Herrero had been making house calls all day for horses, but this way probably his only lion call of the day.
The portable X-ray was not powerful enough to penetrate Joseph’s abdomen.
We tried to find a vet with a portable sonogram machine, as well, but had no such luck.
Dr. Justin, Cody and Michael lift Joseph so the X-ray pad can be positioned under the sleeping lion.
Dr. Fay Herrero will be on speed dial until our own X-ray machine is up and running.
Despite all of the diagnostics, we still do not know what is causing Joseph to feel bad.
Hopefully his blood work, which usually takes a few days, will let us know how to proceed.
When Dr. Herrero left he said, “You have an wonderful group of people here!”
A Lion Pride of a Different Stripe
It took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt (aka Cziraky) and her Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords, Donnalynn and Christian Laver were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats who had been used for years as props in Diana McCourt’s “tiger training” scheme.
By the end of the ordeal eye witnesses said that the cats were starving and they still have inadequate shelter from the elements.
Even though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she still continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers.
The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats.
To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. (Joseph still has his canine teeth) Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.
Most cases that 6 years or more to prosecute so animals suffer most or all of their lives waiting for help to arrive. The only way to put an end to the suffering is to end the private possession of big cats and eliminate the USDA loophole that allows people to keep big cats if they have a $40 USDA license. It is too easy to get and too hard to lose to provide any sort of enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.
In May of 2007 Diana McCourt emailed Carole Baskin asking if she could move her operation to Tampa and bring her cats to Big Cat Rescue. Our response was that her cats were welcome here but her brand of animal abuse was not. By August McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions. Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats increases our annual budget by $45,000.00.
When Sarabi, our lioness died, her half acre enclosure was opened up so that Nikita our only other lioness could have the run of both half acre enclosures. This large enclosure has an open roof and is only suitable for lions because they don’t climb, or very old, declawed tigers, who would be unable to climb. Taking on two lions, age 9 and 13, who have a 20 year life expectancy means a cost of $15,000.00 annually and $150,000.00 in the long run. Lions often end up in canned hunts, especially males who are coveted as wall trophies, so we felt certain our donors would help us rescue these two cats. Our board convened and agreed that the lions would be rescued as soon as we could make travel arrangements for them.
Calling with the good news, that at least the lions would be spared, we were told by the landlord, who has been caring for the cats since evicting Diana McCourt, that the male tiger, Nikita, would be heartbroken that his best friend in the world, Joseph the lion, would be leaving. As the conversation unfolded it appears that for the last 13 years, two tigers and two lions have shared a cage. (Joseph only coming along in the past 9 yrs) Instead of being elated for the lions, we now felt sick that they would be separated from the only pride (albeit tigers) they had ever known. And thinking about how they would feel, of course, led to thinking about how the tigers left behind would feel.
We appealed to our supporters, asking if they would be willing to help us rescue all four cats who have lived together and the response was an overwhelming, “YES!”
On Oct. 19th Big Cat Rescue’s President Jamie Veronica, VP Cathy Neumann, Operations Manager Scott Lope and Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM flew to Columbus, OH to rendezvous with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) staff and a driver and vet tech from the Animal Sanctuary of the United States (ASUS) at the Columbus Zoo at 6 am on the morning of the 20th. From there the entourage drove an hour to the Gambier, OH facility and met with the property owner and the Knox County Animal Control Officer, Rich Reed who had been granted possession of the six cats.
Within just a few hours all of the cats were safely loaded and on the way to Florida where they arrived at 6 am the morning of the 21st. While the weary drivers slept, the Big Cat Rescue team unloaded Nikita, Simba, Sasha and Joseph into their new enclosure, which is a little more than half an acre of lakeside living with high grass, cave like dens and hills from which they can survey their new kingdom.
We let you know that the rescue would cost us $34,000.00* and 294 of you responded. As of 11/16/07 $29,435.00 has been raised to save these four cats. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue the last two cats and IFAW paid to transport all six cats to their final destinations. That saved us $4,000.00! We are now only $565.00 short of what this rescue will cost us in the first year. Thank you everyone who has helped so far! If you haven’t helped yet, keep in mind that your donations are tax deductible and that these cats rely entirely on your generosity.
Come along with Carole Baskin using Google Glass while catching a bobcat, caring for an elderly tiger, shaving a bobcat, watching staff building the “Bobcat Tower of Terror,” talking with Simba Leopard on vacation, catching and sending Sabre Leopard out on his first vacation, checking in on the feisty little Cypress bobcat, a sneak peek at Genie the sandcat, Joseph lion taking a long, cool drink and more: http://bigcatrescue.org/cat-chat-45/
Sabre was 3 years old when he arrived at Big Cat Rescue on 7/20/95. Though he was only supposed to be here temporarily, his former owner moved and left no forwarding address.
This could have been another sad ending as most are in the exotic pet world. Luckily, we had taken Sabre in and he will have a home here for life. He is very playful and fun loving and always has a mischievous look on his face. He loves to act very silly, running about his cat-a-tat and jumping on top of his mountain den.
Sabre, like many of our cats, has been relocated to new cat-a-tats a few times. The change of scenery and new neighbors to interact with provide another form of enrichment for our big cats. Sabre has enjoyed the time he has spent among other cougars, tigers, leopards and bobcats. The only thing Sabre probably hasn’t enjoyed is his recent neutering. But now he is back to his old energetic self loving his new location.
Sabre the Black Leopard Tumor Removal
Sabre the black leopard is 22 years old, which is about 10 years longer than most leopards live, but a tumor has begun to grow under his chin and could make it hard for him to swallow, so the difficult decision is made to remove the mass surgically. The surgery could kill him, but the mass could too. This is graphic surgery video so don’t watch if you have a weak constitution.