We are asked this question several times a day, but don’t always have the time to give a completely in depth answer, so please forgive us for just sending you to this page. Our intent in doing so is to give you a much more complete answer than we could in an email and it frees us up to be doing the very work that you have been funding us to do. If you have asked for our advice, it’s because you already know and trust us, but even those who love and support our work often report they had no idea of the range of our work. If cats are your passion we are specialists in protecting them. Please allow me a few minutes to give you an overview of the range of our work and if you don’t see your particular interest mentioned, I’ll include some other suggestions.
Captive Big Cats
Big Cat Rescue has been rescuing and providing lifetime care to exotic cats of all sizes, from 3 pound Sand Cats to 750 pound Tigers since 1992. All of our cats’ bios are listed here: http://BigCatRescue.org/bobcat-rehab More than 250 cats have lived out their lives here in peace and tranquility. We rescue cats as we have space and funds to do so but never take on more animals than we can provide for until the end of their lives.
Rescue and Rehab of Wild Cats
Big Cat Rescue has the finest bobcat rehab facilities to be found. We have a long history of assisting bobcats who have been hit by cars, poisoned, shot or orphaned. More about our rehab work cat be found at http://BigCatRescue.org/bobcat-rehab
Domestic Cats and Kittens
Big Cat Rescue fosters domestic kittens, and often their mothers, through the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. We take orphans or mothers with young litters and raise them up until they are 2 lbs and are ready to be spayed / neutered and adopted. We provide round the clock infant care and take in the feral cats and kittens that other foster homes are not equipped to handle. We have been able to assist more than 275 cats and kittens on their road to permanent homes since 2014. http://bigcatrescue.org/kittens/
Big Cat Rescue has assisted groups including Animal Coalition of Tampa, No More Homeless Pets, Cat Crusaders and others by providing transport for spay day equipment and hosting groups for free at our sanctuary for their volunteer appreciation parties. We TnR a number of cats ourselves as well and fight for laws to protect those who are working to reduce the number of cats killed in shelters through aggressive spay / neuter programs.
Wild Cats in the Wild
In addition to advocacy work to protect wild places for wild cats, Big Cat Rescue donates to programs in countries where wild cats live. We have a staff member who seeks out the best work being done for wild cats. She wades through tons of information to suss out the programs where our donations can do the most good and is careful to be sure we are not supporting situations that may be doing more harm than good. You can see the places we have chosen to fund here: http://bigcatrescue.org/insitu/
When it comes to supporting big cat conservation, there is probably no one we trust more than Panthera, but with 80 million dollars in the bank, they don’t need our small sums, so we tend to focus more on the smaller cats who get far less funding.
Education About Cats
Big Cat Rescue provides a premiere website that gets more than 3.5 million visitors per year and has more than 10,000 pages of information on big cats and how to protect them. Our social sites have fans in excess of 2 million people and our live streaming events often reach half a million to a million people a day. We use the Internet and our social reach to educate people about what they can do to protect big cats. We have written and provide materials for free on how to run an effective sanctuary here: http://bigcatrescue.org/cat-care/
We have compiled our extensive staff and volunteer training into an online course that is available for $9 per month to anyone who is thinking about working with captive wild animals at ZooCollege.com and we provide the course for free to sanctuaries that are accredited or seeking accreditation.
Through our live web cams people from all around the planet can tune in to watch the behavior of captive cats, see how rehab cats are learning to survive in the wild and can even watch all of our veterinary procedures from a camera that is mounted over the operating table and in X-ray.
We focus most of our time and energy on educating adults because big cats will die out in the wild before the children of today are old enough to do anything about it, if we don’t act now. We do offer Adult and Kids Tours and Education Outreach and provide teachers with a way to put the cat in FCAT.
Advocacy for All Cats
We are the only sanctuary with a lobbyist who is working to end the trade in big cats. We were the first organization to actually hire a lawyer to represent a tiger. More about that at FreeTony.com
We provide an easy to use system that connects our supporters to the lawmakers and non governmental decision makers around the globe who are in the position to make our world a better place for exotic cats. You can see the array of current pending issues (go ahead and take action too while you’re there) at CatLaws.com All of the cute photos and videos we post all over the web are just to get people to come take action to actually protect wild cats. While big cats, or exotic cats are our primary focus, we often encourage action for measures to protect domestic cats too.
Did you know that Big Cat Rescue and all of the properties owned by BCR and Carole Baskin are completely off the grid? In 2012 Big Cat Rescue began installing solar panels to harness the power of the sun and cut our dependence on fossil fuels. By 2015 we had partnered with Arcadia Power to insure that all of our power comes from clean energy sources, like wind and solar. Big Cat Rescue has rental properties and volunteer and intern housing off site that pay a little bit extra each month for energy to insist that it be green. CEO, Carole Baskin does the same with her home and her rental properties. In 2016 we took our commitment to a healthier planet a step further by becoming a green energy producer for SolarCoin. If you have known us since the 90s you will know that we have a robust ink and cell phone recycling program, that we are frequently sharing planet protecting strategies and that we recycle everything at the sanctuary.
If there is any work being done for cats that we don’t do, it’s only because we haven’t heard about it yet. Feel free to alert us in the comments below.
Other Good Places?
So maybe you don’t want all of your donations to go to cats, or to one place. That seems to be pretty common, based on the number of people who ask me who else would be good to fund. Personally, from what I know about funding animal work, it is a lot more effective to focus all of your time and energy in a certain direction, than to scatter resources with a shotgun type approach. That’s why Big Cat Rescue is laser focused on CATS.
There are two ways to determine if an organization is worthy of funding.
There is no reason for any legitimate sanctuary to not be accredited because the cost is minimal ($750 a year which won’t even feed one cat for 3 weeks) and the value is immeasurable. Donors have the assurance that an outside body is actually overseeing what happens and GFAS offers all kinds of training, resources and grants to help sanctuaries improve their conditions.
If it is an animal welfare group, or a sanctuary, then look to Charity Navigator. Be sure to compare the non profit you are thinking about to Big Cat Rescue’s scoring to know how they stack up. There are very few who even come close to our ranking.
Who You Shouldn’t Fund
Ignore the heart tugging plight of wild animals in foreign countries where you cannot find a legitimate sanctuary or non profit (see above) to vet them. Many con artists have figured out that people will send money if they see starving animals. There is a photo of a starving tiger that is still making the rounds and bilking kind hearted people out of their money many years after she was rescued and then died.
Slick mailing campaigns are the main stay for some of the worst facilities in America. As much as 90% of the money donated goes to the mail house that creates the stories, which are usually utter fabrications, and the remaining 10% goes to people who are not running legitimate sanctuaries. They are experts in parting people from their money and prey on the elderly who may not have the skills to check out the underlying organizations online.
This last one is probably the hardest. There are some miserable conditions out there for captive wild cats, that are masquerading as sanctuaries or “rescue centers” (because they sell the animals, so they claim to rescue them from bad places and then send them to good places). Their pitch is, “If you don’t like what you see then donate and we will make it better.” That just isn’t true.
If they are taking in animals they can’t afford, or worse yet, breeding them, then there is no amount of money that is going to change them from hoarders to rescuers. The best thing you can do for the poor animals in their hands is to take careful notes, photos and videos and then write up complaints to the USDA, and state or local authorities so that they do not continue to add to the suffering they are already causing.
Thank you for taking the time to find out what we do and why we think we are your best choice if your intention is to help cats. At the link above you will find many ways to give; from outright donations, to donations that include signs to recognize your support, to making cat protection your legacy to finding great items you can buy and use that generate funds for the cats.
Because we are primates, who are naturally social animals, we often impose our needs and desires on cats who are solitary by nature.
I can’t tell you how many times people have bemoaned the fact that most of our cats are housed alone. People often insist the animal would be happier with a cage mate, because they couldn’t imagine living alone. Cats prefer solitude. They don’t need us and they don’t need each other.
This is where people say, “Oh yeah, well what about lions?”
That tells me they know almost nothing about lions. While it may be common to see lions living in prides in the wild, what the average person doesn’t know is that those are family groups who have been born into the tribe. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, realizes that inbreeding will result in sickly cats who eventually die out, so males have to fight to lead a pride and to have mating privileges. Younger males, who have been driven from their own birth prides by their fathers, have to find other tribes if their genes are going to be passed down. To do that they have to kill any dominant males in the pride and all of their cubs. It’s a bloody battle for survival of the species and not one that should be emulated in captivity.
In The Wild
In the wild a mother may raise her kittens or cubs from a year and a half to five years, depending on the species and the environmental factors, such as availability of prey. When they are grown, she will run them off and if they meet again, it could be a battle to the death over territory. Sometimes people see images of cats they think to be adults, living in groups in the wild, but that is usually a mother and her nearly grown cubs. They will be full size a long time before they are fully mature and ready to make their own place in the wild.
Lions crowded into tiny, filthy cages at Dade City’s Wild Things, once they were too big to use as photo props.
In captivity one of the worst things I’ve seen when traveling to zoos, private back yard menageries and “sanctuaries” is that people force cats to live in groups. Whether it is because the person who has set up the caging system doesn’t understand the cats’ needs, or whether they have succumbed to the public constantly demanding that cats be forced into shared space isn’t clear, but either way it is usually a miserable and dangerous existence for the cats. Cats want their own space, their own free access to food and water, their own dens and their own platforms and toys. They don’t like to share.
There are rare exceptions, where cats have been raised together since cubs, that they will tolerate each other and may even find some joy in chasing each other around and grooming each other, but that is the exception, rather than the rule. Even in cases where cats have lived and shared space together their whole lives, the cage has to be built in such a way that they can be easily separated when food, treats or enrichment is involved. That extends to their medical needs too. If cats share space, how can you tell if each cat ate their entire diet, or if each cat is eliminating properly, or get a pill into one without another stealing the treat with the medication?
What I usually see, at places where cats are kept in groups, is that there are dominant cats who get the lion’s share (sorry, couldn’t help that one) of the food, water, best toys, and best lounging spots. There are then the cats at the other end of the totem pole, who have fearful eyes, battered ears, missing tails, scars and are clearly not enjoying their lives. Then there all of the cats in the middle who are desperately trying not to be the least powerful cat in the group, even if they don’t think they can take over as leader. How can a place call themselves a sanctuary when most of the cats in it are not living a peaceful life?
The fact of the matter is that it is cheaper to make cats share space and, as wicked as it sounds, it gives some facilities the ability to “rescue” more cats as their cats kill each other or die from undiagnosed illnesses or from the stress of being forced to fight every day of their lives. Anyone who rescues wild animals can tell you that the public LOVES to fund a rescue but the money raised is never enough for more than the first year of care. In order to keep people donating, many places feel like they have to keep bringing in more cats. When you consider that they can live into their late teens and early twenties it becomes clear why they may not want to foster situations that allow last year’s rescued cat to achieve their full potential in longevity.
The things I’ve heard these people say is unbelievably callous. They say things like, “I rescued them, so they can work the rest out themselves.” No, they really can’t, because the way they would work that out in the wild means putting miles in between themselves and other cats. There are no captive situations that make that possible. There are some that do a better job than others, but most are crammed into quarters that aren’t even big enough for one cat, much less a whole group of them.
So, How Do You Decide?
You will hear others insist that their cats are happy living in groups, even mixed groups of differing species, and the photos and videos they post may seem to back that up. It isn’t something you can decide in a sound bite or from a few photos or videos. To really know if cats are living to their full potential you would have to do cortisone studies of their feces to know if the “fight or flight” hormones are being excreted in excessive amounts. Some zoos have done such studies on cheetah and find that just being in captivity causes them to suffer greatly from always being on edge. That is compounded by the fact that they are usually kept in groups, and mixed and matched a lot, because they don’t want to breed in captivity.
The proof is in the age and condition of the cats at the end of their lives.
There are VERY few facilities that post all of their exotic cats by name, birthdate and bio like we do. Even fewer who update you in real time about changes in their health and habits like we do. There are none, other than Big Cat Rescue, that I know of who also post a tribute to every cat who ever lived at the sanctuary. On that site we list their date of birth, if known, and approximated based on vet observations at the time of rescue, which is posted, their date of death and the vet’s necropsy findings. From that you can see that cats at Big Cat Rescue on average live to be 17, with some outliers who have lived to 24 to a month shy of 30. Other places will often post a claim of an old age at the time of death but have never provided any corroborating evidence during the cat’s life.
If there are other places that you want to support and promote then ask them to give you, and the rest of the world, all the information that we give our donors. If they are doing right by their animals, the world will take notice and support them. If they aren’t then why would you want to be involved with them?
This question is one of the top five most asked questions so it tells me that people just don’t know the laws of nature or the laws of governments.
Law of Nature
In the wild kittens or cubs stay with their mothers from a year and a half to 5 years, depending on the species of wildcat and the environment. During that time the mother may nurse them for a year or more, while also teaching them how to hunt. Being able to kill something does not mean that a cat is a good enough hunter to survive in the wild.
The mother cat teaches them the ways of nature and that you should only kill enough to feed yourself and your family, so that there will be food left for the coming weeks and years. There have been some spectacular failures where people have tried to raise big cats in fenced areas, and have taught the cats to kill, but the cats then proceeded to kill everything that moved, even if they had eaten plenty. That’s not good for the environment and the cats were never able to be released to the wild, despite millions of dollars being spent on the ill fated project.
A wild mother cat teaches her kittens and cubs to stay away from people. Even the most gentle natured, captive born exotic cat, who may have been handled since a cub herself, will teach her kittens to despise humans. Instinct, as well as her personal experience with being held hostage, inspires her to encourage her kittens to fight for their lives if they come in contact with humans. In April 2016 USDA adopted the position that cubs should be left with their mothers for at least the first 4 weeks of life, which makes them too feral to handle for cub petting schemes. USDA should follow Nature’s guidance, which keeps the cubs with their mothers for well over a year.
Even with this training from their mothers in captivity, the kittens or cubs have so many more life lessons that can only be taught in the wild. These include finding the best mates to insure longevity of the clan and how to protect their territories from those who would run them out or kill them. If you have ever watched shows in the Big Cat Diary series you will see that mothers teach their young about the perils of the wild; from how to hide, how to cover your scent, how to know when to fight and when to flee, how to stalk prey and save all your energy for the pounce and kill. There is so much to being a wild cat that just cannot be replicated in a cage, even if that cage were many square miles in size. Consider that a bobcat will patrol more than 5 square miles and a tiger can maintain a territory of more than 400 square miles.
Law of the Land
It’s illegal to release a non native wild animal. That’s true in the U.S. and would make sense in other countries. The reason you cannot release a non native animal (an animal that doesn’t normally exist in an area) is because doing so upsets the entire balance of nature. Nature is flawless, where man has not intervened, because there is a symphony of interconnected animals and plants that all work together in harmony; even if it also includes predators who maintain the balance.
A perfect example of what goes wrong when non native species are released into an area, that they do not typically inhabit, is the case of Florida allowing people to buy pet pythons, which never turn out well as pets once they are hundreds of pounds and can eat small children and pets. People don’t want to euthanize the exotic pets they raised, so they turn them loose, even though it is against the law. Florida has since outlawed a number of pythons as pets, but the damage was already done because scientists and biologists all report that our most pristine forests, in the Everglades, are now devoid of almost all animal life (other than the snakes). The animals who originally lived in the Everglades had never seen predators such as these pythons that were 15-20 feet long and none of the animals who lived there were able to prey on such huge invaders.
To a lesser extent we would see the same thing happen with bobcats. Big Cat Rescue is allowed, by law, to rehab and release bobcats who were born in the wild in Florida, back to the wild in Florida. Florida rehabbers are NOT allowed to rehab bobcats from Georgia (or any other state) for release into Florida. The reason is that bobcats from other states are bigger, have different hunting skills and different instincts than those native to FL, so introducing them could wipe out the Florida bobcat, or infiltrate the gene pool sufficiently to make a mess of things. You could argue that at state lines bobcats may cross back and forth on their own, but you have to draw the line somewhere (for enforcement’s sake) so governments draw it at their state or federal lines.
Law of Common Sense
(OK, well there should be such a law) Last, but not least, most of the wild cats in captivity were born from generations of captive wild cats who have been selectively bred for characteristics that do not enhance survival. They have been inbred to create white coats, which results in a plethora of other birth defects and mental retardation. They have been bred to be used as ego props, with breeders preferring the ones who are the least apt to struggle against being held. That’s not a good trait when you have to fight for survival in the wild. Many have been mutilated by having their claws and teeth removed.
Almost all captive bred exotic cats suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Since lion and tiger cub pimps want to use cubs for pay to play schemes, they pull them from their mothers when they are only hours old so that they do not bond with their mothers. They are fed a diet that is insufficient for their nutritional needs because you can’t get canned tiger milk and tigers aren’t puppies, kittens, cows or goats. This insufficient diet often results in bones that are frail and break from a simple jump. It almost always results in nutritional cataracts and no one knows for sure how much damage is done to their eyes from the near constant flashes from cameras as they are paraded as props to hold for selfies.
All of these reasons are why “they can’t just be set free”
Captive born wild cats have been dealt a lousy hand. They are hardwired to desire freedom and yet are denied it by those who breed them for life in cages. We hate it and are glad you do too. So, lets put our energy where it can make a difference and end the practice of breeding wild cats for life in cages. You can take action RIGHT NOW at CatLaws.com no matter who you are, or where you live.
Action YOU Can Take to Save Big Cats and their Cubs
Due to the government web forms that receive our data, only people who are constituents of certain representatives can contact their legislators. Please do not use a fake address to game the system as it renders your real identity as useless when there are matters that you really can speak out about. We try to only email you with actions you can really take, but if you put in a false address, then you won’t get the action alerts that affect you most. There is something on this page that everyone can do, so please pick your battles wisely.
Salsa is our service provider that makes it possible for you to find the right people to contact by just typing in your zip code. Don’t worry, we hate spam too and we will not share or sell your personal info outside of the specific targets you are contacting.
U.S. Residents Only
Most Important Action You Can Take for Big Cats and their Cubs
If you live in Maine, your voice is needed now to protect big cats!
Maine is taking comments from the public, but most of the people who are commenting are those who abuse animals for profit or ego. Maine officials need to hear from people who actually care about animals. We make it easy with a sample letter, but it will have far more impact if you change the subject line and use your own words. You don’t want your feelings to be dismissed because it looks like a form letter.
We only know 329 people in Maine who care about wildlife, so it is especially important that you take action and ask anyone you know in Maine to do the same. Deadline is June 17, 2016 so please do it now.
1. Poaching of tigers and their prey is driving decreases in tiger populations throughout their range, along with poaching of their prey and degradation of their habitat.
2. Inadequate law enforcement and residual demand for tiger products pose the greatest near-term threats to the survival of wild tigers.
3. Even talk of reopening trade in farmed (or captive-bred) tiger products has helped sustain residual demand, prompted investors to stockpile tiger skins and bones, and caused police in some Asian countries to take tiger trafficking less seriously.
4. Tiger farms (and other Intensive tiger breeding operations) must be phased out immediately while, at the same time, intelligence-led wildlife law enforcement and demand-reduction campaigns are intensified.
5. Demand reduction campaigns do work, but they have not yet been given adequate support to do so.
6. Intelligence-led law enforcement does work, but it has not been given adequate support to do so.
7. Governments should provide urgently needed support to increase capacity of national, regional and international law enforcement and intelligence exchange mechanisms, especially the coordinating capacities of INTERPOL, the CITES Secretariat and the World Customs Organization.
8. To increase the likelihood to stopping tiger trade from all sources, national, regional and international wildlife law enforcement agencies should compile and share with one another all information on tiger crime.
9. The number of tigers on China’s tiger farms alone has surpassed 6,000, while similar intensive tiger breeding operations are starting up in Southeast Asia. Investors in these farms depend on demand for tiger parts and products to increase. In fact, if wild tigers go extinct, these investors will enjoy a monopoly for supplying tiger-bone wine and tiger skins to China and, perhaps, the world.
10. Registration systems for intensive tiger breeding operations, including those using DNA, will not reduce demand for tiger products. Tiger farms and other intensive tiger breeding operations must be phased out to reduce this grave threat to wild tigers. The mere existence of these facilities sustains consumer demand.
11. China banned domestic tiger trade in 1993 because it was undermining the CITES ban on international tiger trade. The potential for domestic tiger trade in China to undermine CITES is now exponentially greater due to growth of human populations and per capita buying power.
12. The 2010 Chinese Year of the Tiger is offering unprecedented opportunities for policymakers in Asia and around the world to take action to bring back wild tigers. If they do not take immediate and bold new action, there may be no wild tigers left when the Year of the Tiger comes around again in 12 years.
13. Concern for saving “face” among tiger range and consuming counties should not supersede discussing “sensitive” issues that must be addressed if the world is to avoid losing wild tigers.
14. Wild tigers are emblematic of all of nature’s abundance (species and ecosystems) now endangered by degradation and overexploitation. People say, ‘when tigers disappear, forest fall,’ which robs people of livelihoods, food, water and health security.
Other important links include:
CITES Res. Conf. 12.5
CITES Dec. 14.69
CITES Notifications related to Dec. 14.69
EU proposal to amend 12.5 at CITES CoP15
China’s CoP14 report on tigers
New EIA report on tiger trade in China
“If we can’t save the tiger from extinction, we can’t save anything!” was repeated in a myriad of ways over the past week in Washington, DC by conservation experts from around the world. Einstein’s definition of insanity is to do the same thing, over and over and expect a different result. That has been “conservation as usual” to use the slang bantered about at this two day event that has been formally described as, “The most important conservation initiative undertaken in the history of the world to conserve wild tigers.” What makes this initiative unlike all of the past programs is two fold. 39 major conservation groups, including Big Cat Rescue, have joined forces with one common goal: Save the tiger in the wild. There have been other joint efforts, but none this large and never before has an entity as powerful as the World Bank been a committed partner in saving wild places for wild animals.
Harrison Ford, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, thanks to his latest Indiana Jones movie breaking records in theaters, is on the board of Conservation International and spoke at the June 9th launch. Also in attendance were our friend, the beautiful Bo Derek, who won the Wildlife Guardian Award at the Fur Ball last year, and Robert Duvall. HSUS brought Tiger Kids to the launch and this photo is from their participation as a ITC members. See these celebrities up close and purrsonal in the most important roles of their lives in this video we shot and find out more about how the World Bank and the International Tiger Coalition plan to save the tiger.
Big Cat Rescue has been accepted into the International Tiger Coalition based upon our unique ability to address the captive issues that imperil tigers in the wild. We keep the most accurate and up to date information on tigers in captivity, from attacks, maulings and escapes to proper care for tigers who have been bred for life in cages. We will be working with the team members of the International Tiger Coalition to stop the private possession and trafficking in tigers through better laws.
The US is the 2nd largest consumer of tiger parts. As China continues to defy world policy on tiger protection through their determination to farm tigers for their parts, it would create a legal market in China for tiger bones, organs and skins. When tigers are bred for photo opportunities in the US they outgrow their usefulness in just a few short months. If the trade of tigers in China is legalized, it gives US breeders a loop hole to sell their babies into slaughterhouse situations. While such slaughter is illegal in the US it is easy for those, who are so unscrupulous as to breed tigers in the first place, to exploit.
This is how they do it:
There is no cooperation between states to track tiger movement. Those who wish to exploit this lack of governance will license themselves in two states. Each state only cares about what happens in their own jurisdiction. Once the cat crosses a state line, no one is tracking what happens next. That way they can quietly disappear. This is why people in the industry are trying so hard to stop federal laws that would require them to be accountable from birth to death.
If a cat is owned by someone in one state, who is also licensed in a second state, and they want to get rid of the cat, all they have to do is tell the state where the cat is currently located that they are sending him to their out of state facility. USDA only tracks movement of tigers (sporadically) from one owner to another and not within the same ownership, even if in two different states. No one in the other state is alerted that the cat should be arriving and typically never does. This is how the the worst of the abusers bury the trail with the cat.
If big cat breeders and dealers will use a cub and shoot them when they are through it only stands to reason that they would leap at the opportunity to sell the tiger into underground slaughterhouses. Help Big Cat Rescue and the International Tiger Coalition put an end to tiger farming.
Who Cares About Tigers?
The International Tiger Coalition is an alliance of many organizations representing more than 40 organizations across the globe, united under the common aim of stopping trade in tiger parts and products from all sources. Members include:
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
This unprecedented coalition, made up of environmental, zoo and animal protection organizations as well as the traditional Chinese medicine community, has come together to speak with one voice in calling for an end to trade in tiger parts and products through increased intelligence-led law enforcement and strengthening existing tiger-trade bans. Furthermore, the coalition joins leaders of the international traditional Chinese medicine industry in asking China to make its successful 14-year tiger-trade ban permanent.
Read the Ten in Ten Plan to save 10,000 tigers in the wild in 10 years HERE and see how you can help.
Get the 60 page report by TRAFFIC on the role of the U.S. Captive tigers in the trade of tiger parts HERE
The aim of the coalition is to coordinate research, communications and awareness-raising efforts in order to provide an organized response to the organized crime that sustains illegal tiger trade and endangers all wild tigers. www.endtigertrade.org
Timeline of the International Tiger Coalition
A loose coalition of NGO’s began working together in 2007 and had achieved some unprecedented goals by 2009 when Big Cat Rescue joined the coalition.
2009 Big Cat Rescue attended the launch of the World Bank’s involvement in Washington, D.C. which was emceed by Harrison Ford and attended by Bo Derek and Robert Duvall.
2010 Big Cat Rescue sponsored the ITC booth at CITES and sponsored the attendance of the ITC Moderator, Judy Mills at the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Open Letter to Participants in the 58th Meeting of the CITES Standing Committee Get the PDF
June 24, 2009
From the 40 Member Organizations of the International Tiger Coalition Re: Response to Notification to the Parties Number 2008/059 on Tiger Breeding Operations
In 2007, the CITES Parties agreed by consensus that “Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers; tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.” (Decision 14.69)
In 2008, the CITES Standing Committee decided to ask relevant Parties to report on implementation of Decision 14.69. To this end, the Standing Committee established a working group to assist the CITES Secretariat in developing language for a Notification to the Parties requesting reports, with specific content, from relevant Parties.
Notification number 2008/059, issued on October 8, 2008, asked relevant Parties to report on their implementation of Decision 14.69, specifically:
a) the establishment of a national individual animal registration process incorporating a marking system;
b) the segregation of sexes to prevent further breeding;
c) the development of a strategic plan for the phasing-out of intensive breeding operations on a commercial scale or their conversion to operations devoted solely to the conservation of tigers; and,
d) the development of a policy with regard to what will happen to tigers currently in intensive breeding operations.
The undersigned 40 members of the International Tiger Coalition (ITC) are concerned that no country to which this Notification applies has responded meaningfully, i.e. with the information requested by the Standing Committee.
The only Party to respond at all was China. The ITC welcomes the fact that China responded.
However, Chinese authorities did not report specifically on their implementation of Decision 14.69 and did not address the four aforementioned issues specified in the Notification. Furthermore, the ITC is disappointed that other relevant Parties did not respond to the Notification in any form.
The ITC urges the Standing Committee to mandate the CITES Secretariat to take all appropriate measures to verify progress by relevant Parties to implement Decision 14.69, and to take appropriate steps if reports are not forthcoming within 90 days of the 58th Standing Committee meeting (SC58). Measures should include sending a delegation to relevant countries to assess their actions to implement the Decision and reporting to the next Standing Committee meeting, directly before the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The ITC also calls for donors to support such missions.
CITES Parties have endorsed the view that tiger farming for commercial purposes is a threat to the survival of wild tigers and needs to be stopped. We urge the Standing Committee, the CITES Secretariat and all relevant Parties to ensure full implementation of Decision 14.69 and full reporting on progress towards doing so as requested under the Notification. The CITES Parties were unanimous at CoP14 in their concerns for the future of wild tigers. That future requires a serious and timely response to this critical issue.
We thank you for your consideration,
International Tiger Coalition
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Animal Welfare Institute
Wildlife Trust of India
Animals Asia Foundation
Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Big Cat Rescue
Born Free Foundation
Born Free USA
British and Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Care for the Wild International
Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
My hands were shaking, all the way up my arms and vibrating my torso. It was the emotional tension of what was going to happen next and the physical tension of holding the Y pole in such a way to ensure that the vet wouldn’t take a bite to her face and making sure that the touch against Teisha’s neck was only feather light. She had been sedated twenty minutes earlier and appeared to be completely unconscious but you just never know when a big cat will wake with no warning or if some muscle spasm might cause them to chomp at the air. Usually this was Jamie’s roll, but she was inbound on a flight from St. Kitts, where she and Dr. Justin Boorstein, her husband and our other volunteer vet, had been lecturing to the 200 vet students there. Gale is much more experienced as a vet tech, and was assisting by holding off a vein to cause it to bulge enough so that Dr. Wynn could inject the pink liquid that would ease Teisha to whatever comes next.
The needle was thin, so I could see Dr. Wynn successfully struggling against the thick fluid. She was trying desperately to make this last moment that Teisha had on this planet one that was filled with peace and a feeling of being surrounded by souls who loved her. As usual, when cats are sedated, I was breathing in rhythm with her and watching every heart beat, in its tiniest movement of her thick fur and whiskers. If you have ever had to euthanize a beloved pet, or sat by the bedside of a loved one who was dying, you know that mere seconds feel like an eternity. A wash of memories flooded over me.
Years ago when Ohio finally outlawed the private possession of lions, tigers and other big cats, in the wake of the Zanesville massacre, there were a couple of loud mouths who vowed they would never comply with the law. The reasons they gave, in the ensuing legal battles, was that there was no where for their cats to go. I always assume these big cat breeders and exploiters are lying, but give them the benefit of the doubt and contact them to let them know that there are accredited sanctuaries who will make sure the cats will find permanent homes. I contacted Stapleton but he didn’t return my emails or posts to his social pages.
When the Ohio Department of Agriculture enforced the law in 2015 I let them know that we and other sanctuaries, who are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, were standing by and willing to help. Having dealt with us before, ODA knew that we were the best equipped to deal with the health issues they were seeing in one of Stapleton’s five tigers. At the time of confiscation they noticed that she did not stand, even when darted. When they asked if she was suffering some sort of disability, it’s reported that her owner casually said that she couldn’t walk because her cage mates beat her up all the time.
Once back at the state holding facility they treated her for deep punctures to her neck and back that appeared to have been from the other tigers biting her. They noticed that she couldn’t walk and would lay in her own waste. Because their temporary enclosures were cement floored, ODA asked if we would take her. They knew that we have soft earthen floors, an amazing vet team, an abundance of professional animal care givers and the funding provided by our donors that would give Teisha every chance at recovery. On October 21, 2015 our rescue team set out on the 15 hour drive to bring Teisha Tiger to Florida.
It’s been seven months, but it feels like it was yesterday that our team rolled Teisha out of the transport trailer and up to the side of the area that would be her new home. It took Teisha 3 hours to stand up and make it down the ramp we built from her rolling cage, which was only about 20 inches off the ground, to the deep soft sand of her 1200 square foot home. She was exhausted from the ride and 60 pounds overweight, from getting a lousy diet and no exercise, for who knows how long. Our first goal was to bring her weight down and see if that would enable her to walk.
As the pounds came off Teisha was able to go from dragging her back legs to actually standing on them and taking a few steps. As she got stronger she was able to pull herself into and out of her pool and delighted everyone with her antics. She would hold her breath and try to catch the little fish and would blow bubbles out her nose. I remember Teisha getting her first Halloween pumpkin. I loved seeing her enjoy a life, free from the abuse that had surely been inflicted on her by people and cage mates in that tiny, barren cage she lived in her 13 years prior. All was seeming to progress well, albeit slowly for her, but then she began to relapse. She walked less and less and by the end of April had begun to drag her back legs.
We had done X-rays that showed a narrowing of the spine, but couldn’t find a veterinarian who could do such delicate work without the benefit of an MRI. On May 2, 2016 we found a vet who said she could do the surgery, and wanted the MRI to be done at her local facility in Gainesville. We had reached the end of our ability to help Teisha. As much as we hated the idea of loading her up for the 2.5 hour trip to the University of Florida’s Large Animal Hospital, we knew it was her only chance. I never expected her to return from that trip as the stress of the MRI and surgery, either one, could be the end of her.
What the MRI showed was that there were 15 places along her back that had bulging discs and defects pinching her spinal cord. The vet said they were so bad and had been going on for so long that there was nothing she could do surgically. We thought that would be the end of it, but she encouraged us by suggesting that treating her with steroids could reduce the inflammation enough to give her relief and make it possible for her to walk again.
Teisha seemed game to try so we gave it our best. She was a champ; always taking her meds (no easy feat as cats are notoriously hard to pill) and eating well. Her keepers tried to use feeding time as physical therapy time to get her on her feet and maybe take a step or two so that her muscles wouldn’t atrophy. Like before, she had a modest gain, but then relapsed again. On May 24, 2016 she nearly choked to death because she couldn’t keep herself upright while eating. Once she fell on her side, she could barely breathe well enough to cough the little square of meat back up. We had to cut her food into tiny, tiny pieces to keep that from happening again.
On Friday she made her last tumbling, dragging walk from the side of her enclosure where she and the cat next door would chat, to the pool area lakeside. Teisha laid there in the misting breeze of her fan, and looked out over the lake. She continued to eat and took her meds but her body was failing and she could no longer walk. When we saw that she was unable to get our of her own waste, we called the vet to come assess her condition. Dr. Wynn was torn between knowing that euthanasia was the humane thing to do and the concern that Dr. Boorstein, who had been tending to Teisha during most of this, might feel that he should be here; but he was on a plane somewhere east of Cuba. Teisha couldn’t bathe herself and flies were gathering. I didn’t want even one more fly to land on this precious tiger. I told her Dr. Justin would be fine with our decision to end the suffering.
So here we were. It’s one of those awful decisions that has to be made because an animal just can’t go another hour or another day, but it fell on Memorial Day. Like Simba Tiger, all those years ago on Thanksgiving, a holiday just makes the situation worse because you are sure to re live it every year on that day. As hard as it was for everyone involved here, we all loved Teisha too much to make her wait.
Her breathing stopped, and I found myself holding my breath, until I realized that it was her last. Dr. Wynn checked her heart with the stethoscope, but I could see there was no more gentle thumping beneath the fur. Teisha was gone and the only thing that kept me from breaking down and sobbing over her lifeless body was the anger I felt at a society that allowed her abuse. Teisha’s passing furthers my resolve to end the private possession of big cats. No tiger should ever be bred to be used as an ego prop and then relegated to a nasty backyard cage to be denied everything that makes tigers the regal, untouchable creatures they were designed to be.
If Teisha’s story touched your heart, please call your legislator today and ask them to champion the BigCatAct.com Don’t let her suffering have all been in vain.
On Monday, October 5, 2015, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office took possession of 5 tigers from Mike Stapleton, owner of Paws & Claws Animal Sanctuary near Columbus.
Stapleton has been battling state officials to keep his tigers ever since Ohio legislators enacted an exotic animal law that went into effect almost two years ago. Authorities arrived prepared to seize Stapleton’s cats after he had vowed to never give up his cats, but in the end Stapleton peacefully surrendered his cats. All 5 cats will be placed in approved sanctuaries outside of Ohio.
When we learned that Teisha – a 13-year-old tiger, in such bad shape that she was unable to walk, and didn’t move even during the chaos and darting when authorities took possession of her two weeks ago – we immediately offered to bring Teisha to Big Cat Rescue where we can provide her with the best possible medical and dental care and nutrition.
It is our understanding that Stapleton told people on the scene Teisha had been injured by the other tigers in the cage, who constantly picked on her. It’s doubtful that a vet ever examined Teisha before ODA rescued her. The ODA vets treated her for deep puncture wounds, and heavy parasite loads upon arrival.
Four Big Cat Rescuers left Tampa on Wednesday, October 21, for the 15-hour drive up to Ohio with our transport carrier. They drove straight through and met with Ohio authorities this morning and took possession of Teisha. They are now en route back to Tampa with their precious cargo.
Until we get Teisha to Big Cat Rescue on Friday, and our vets can examine her at our Windsong Memorial Hospital, we are not sure what her exact condition is and how serious her injuries are.
We do know that for the first week after she was rescued by ODA, she did not stand and just peed and defecated while laying down. The ODA vets put her on pain medication and she has begun getting up and walking a little bit. It’s heartbreaking to speculate how long Teisha has been in pain but not receiving any medication while owned by Stapleton.
ODA also told us Teisha may have some bad teeth, which is sadly very common for cats who are pulled from their mothers at birth to be used as photo props and fed an improper diet. When big cats lack calcium, they pull it from their bones before pulling it from their own teeth. This is nature’s way as tigers would not be able to survive if they can’t chew. So that means tigers like Teisha who have bad teeth also suffer from very fragile bones. This may be why she can’t walk.
We will post updates about Teisha and her prognosis as we can. It is only because of our amazing donors like YOU that Big Cat Rescue can save these cats! THANK YOU for your continuing support of our work and our sanctuary!
Even with the steroid therapy, recommended after seeing the results of her MRI, Teisha Tiger continued to worsen. On May 24 she nearly choked to death because she wasn’t mobile enough to cough up small chunk of meat. We began cutting her food into even smaller pieces, and feeding her on a stick to make it easier on her, but on Friday, the 27th she took her last walk. She walked out to her pool, where she could lay in the misting breeze of her fan, and look out over the lake. She continued to eat and took her meds but her body was failing and she could no longer walk. When we saw that she was unable to get our of her own waste, we called the vet to come ease her to the other side. Her transition was peaceful and her suffering has ended, but we will miss her gentle spirit.
Don’t let Teisha’s suffering be in vain. You should know that whenever someone poses with a cub for a photo, or pays to see cubs on display, that they have contributed to this sort of suffering that goes on behind closed gates all around the world.
This video clip is 3 days after Teisha’s MRI.
Tiesha Tiger has had mobility issues since she was rescued from Ohio in October of 2015. These could have been caused from inbreeding, poor nutrition due to being pulled from her mother to be a plaything, injuries from being passed around, and from being beaten up by her cage mates when she was no longer a cute cub. When she first arrived she was too heavy and unhealthy to sedate, so we put her on a diet to get her a little bit leaner so we could sedate her.
The x-rays showed she had arthritis all along her spine. She was put on medication to help with inflammation and pain. Still, her condition worsened, so we decided to take her to the University of Florida for a full exam.
There she had an MRI which showed she had several bulging discs putting pressure all along her spine especially in her neck. The specialist said that surgery was not an option because of the number of areas that would have to be repaired, however they did think that steroids would help her greatly. The vet said that Teisha has been in this condition for many years.
Since her return those who have seen her may have noticed that she is a lot worse than when she left. She can barely move her back legs and she cannot stand up and walk on her own. This can be a result of being sedated and manipulated for the exam and MRI.
If you think about if any of you have had a hurt back in the past know that if you move a certain way it will hurt so you either brace yourself or move a different way. Being sedated Tiesha may have been moved in ways that put pressure on her spine increasing Inflammation or worst-case furthering the damage to her spinal cord. It could take several days for the inflammation to go down and for her to go back to normal for her. In the meantime we have her on the new medication which can take up to two weeks to show their full effects.
Our vets will be watching her closely over the next few days and observing her quality-of-life. We may be trying K-laser therapy as well. If it seems that she is not going to improve we will have to make the decision to let her go.
There’s just something about Teisha. I fell in love with her at first glance and she’s had a similar effect on just about everyone she has met. You see in her such a playful peaceful spirit, despite having been treated so badly by humans and her own kind. Cats hate diets as much as people do; maybe more, because eating is the highlight in their day. It’s been especially hard to restrict her food, and bring her down to a weight that her pinched spine can support, because she looks at you with those enormous golden eyes, that plead, “Just one more, please?”
Most places feed fat scraps to their cats because they can get it for free, but the result is cats that are morbidly obese, like Teisha and her cage mates all were. Even without the spinal injuries, it would have been very hard for her bones and back to carry so much weight, so she had to lose some weight. From Oct till April she’s gone from looking like a beached whale (361 lbs) to looking like a fit tiger (326 lbs), but her ability to get around has only improved slightly. Even with those improvements she has bad days where all she can do is drag her back end. Since her arrival our vets have been in consultation with specialists from all over trying to find someone who could do the delicate spinal surgery if an MRI shows that could improve her condition.
Thanks to wonderful donors we were able to do the X-rays on site, in our own Windsong Memorial Hospital, and we see a narrowing of the spine that could be the culprit. It’s just impossible to tell if that would be operable without an MRI, so this morning, after weeks of arrangements were finalized, Teisha Tiger is on her way to the University of Florida’s state of the art, large animal veterinary hospital. Because the MRI takes so long, and keeping a big cat sedated is such a dangerous proposition for the cat, they will probably do the MRI today and then, if they think she is operable, will do the operation tomorrow. Our President, Jamie Veronica, and her husband and vet, Dr. Justin Boorstein will stay with her in Gainesville.
Teisha’s prognosis is not good. I tearfully said “goodbye” to her as we shut the trailer doors, because I don’t expect to see her again. Everything about this is hard for her. The trip is long and miserable, even though she has A/C, C02 monitors and CCTV. Sedation is extremely dangerous in big cats and that alone can kill them. Our vets know what they are doing, but UF probably will insist that only their vets be in charge, and they probably don’t treat as many tigers as our vets do. Spinal surgery, if that is the option they choose, has all of its own risks, that are further complicated by the sedation for such a long, tedious process. Then there is that long ride home, after just having had surgery. It’s all a rotten hand that Teisha has been dealt, but if we can give her a good quality of life in the end, it will be worth it. And it will be worth the $6,000 that UF said it might cost us.
Donating to our general food fund helps us cover the daily costs of caring for so many big cats so that we can afford to give Teisha the medical care that could save her life.
Video Update on Teisha 10 25 15
WHY Change Name from Keisha to Teisha?
We always try to keep a cat’s name, but at Big Cat Rescue we have protocols that demand every Keeper post observations to a database that shares the info with the CEO, President, Ops Mgr, maintenance crew and the Vets if it is a medical related post. Each cat has to have a unique name in the database.
We have had cats with the same name before, like Cleo Cougar, Cleo Serval and Cleo Bobcat, but we already had a Keisha Tiger. Calling the new cat Teisha Tiger makes sure that her observations records are unique to her and sounds similar enough to her that we hope she will just pass it off as a regional accent.
Cats are masters at hiding symptoms when they are ill. Daily observations are crucially important to managing health. That observations database is vital part of the daily care so a unique name is a must.
Teisha is an Arabic name that means Alive and Well, which is our goal for her.
October 25, 2015 Teisha got her first perfume tube and she certainly enjoyed sinking her claws and teeth into it.
UPDATE: When we first saw how crippled she was, we thought we would have to sedate her, yet again, to do Xrays and maybe an MRI, but on the same pain management drugs that our other arthritic cats are on, she’s doing great, so we will just watch her closely and see how she does as she loses all of that excess weight.
Early November 2015 – Teisha’s 1st Pumpkin at Big Cat Rescue.
November 8, 2015 – Teisha Tiger is settling in nicely. She is beginning to look forward to her enrichment goodies and is learning which keepers clean and which keepers bring treats and what time breakfast is etc.
November 12th, 2015 – Teisha mastered getting in and out of her pool yesterday. Today, she has been in and out a few times. HAPPY TIGER