Cheetah Jaguar

Cheetah Jaguar

Why Big Cat Rescue Doesn’t Have Cheetah or Jaguars

The reason Big Cat Rescue doesn’t have cheetah is they are so inbred that they are virtually identical and don’t live very long, so they don’t end up in need of rescue. They are nearly impossible to breed in captivity so most zoos have to take them from the wild or they buy them from breeders who are not open to the public.

They don’t breed well in zoos because females are very fussy about picking a male, so the breeding farms put a female in a pen and then one by one try her with different males by using a tunnel system, like ours, but much much larger (measured in acres). They have to be in huge pens or they stress and die.  In the wild they patrol home territories of more than 800 square miles so no cage is really going to be suitable.  Any time you introduce adult cats you have a very real threat of them killing each other.

Their severe inbreeding is the result of all cheetah, not just the captive ones, making them all almost identical.

The current theory is that they became inbred when a “natural” disaster dropped their total world population down to less than seven individual cheetahs. They went through a “Genetic Bottleneck”, and their genetic diversity plummeted. They survived only through brother-to-sister or parent-to-child mating.  According to the enzymes, humans rate at about 70% identical. But laboratory rats and cheetahs rate at 97% identical.  Scientist think less than seven individuals, because it has been shown that if a population is reduced to seven individuals and then expands quickly, the offspring still retain about 95% of their genetic variability. But cheetahs have almost zero genetic variability – there’s hardly any difference between them.

If a species does not have much genetic diversity, it will not be able to adapt well to changes in their environment – such a climate change, or new bacteria or viruses. But if they do have a lot of genetic difference from one individual to the next, at least a few of them will be able to survive the changing times.

Because cheetah cost over $50,000 and mostly have to be brought in from the wild, which is a red tape process that takes nearly a year, and then they die young, they almost never end up being dumped into the pet trade. If someone says they have rescued a cheetah, demand to see the paperwork, because that almost never happens without a lot of money changing hands.  While much of the paperwork is marked as a “Donation” you can bet money changes hands when cheetah do.

jaguar on log by water

I haven’t found evidence to support my theories about why jaguar are so rare in captivity. Maybe you can help in the comments. Here’s my best guess:

Jaguar can have four cubs in a litter, but two is more common, so they don’t reproduce nearly as fast as lions and tigers. Jaguar have the superior intelligence of leopards but have far more powerful bites and much more bobcat like personality, so they kill people more often than leopards in captivity do.

Even a jaguar who is too old for breeding will fetch $7500.00 or more in the private sector, because it is so rare that jaguars are dumped from zoos into private hands.  We know that two old circus jaguars were sold to a private collector in Florida for at least that much because we had offered to take them when the circus lost its license.  The end buyer called us to say the circus told her we were bidding 7500. each and she wanted to work out a deal with us where we were not bidding against her.  The circus had lied to her, because we don’t buy animals to rescue them (since the 90s) and we had not offered any money for the cats.  That call from the end buyer did give us a glimpse into how much they are traded for though and the fact that some places claim to rescue rare cats, but are really just buying them.

We know from our work in situ with native tribes that zoos pay people to poach cheetah, jaguars and other rare cats from the wild. The zoo’s PR story will always be that it was a “nuisance” animal that was going to be culled so they rescued it, but that’s almost never the truth when it comes to any exotic cat species.

Local people agree to back up the lie, because that’s how they keep the constant flow of money coming in for their poaching, but if you work amongst them long enough, they will tell you that they are being paid to go find animals for zoo displays. Because the import process takes a long time to get past USFWS rules, the animals languish in tiny, barren cages, and often die and have to be replaced before the day of flight to the U.S.  The only way for them to obtain the valuable cubs is usually to kill their mothers.

Wild cats belong in the wild, so please don’t pay to go see them in cages.  Help us end the private possession of big cats at




Male DOB 1/1/03
Rescued 9/1/13
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)




Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid


JoJo the Caracal / Serval Hybrid

hear big cats

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.

JoJo hybrid 2012 Big Hiss

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.

Bird Caged Cats

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.

Krishna 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.

Nola cougar 2011

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.

JoJo hybrid Grass Hide

He really likes the grass.  Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”

JoJo hybrid GrassClose Up

His diet has only been chicken necks for as far back as anyone can remember.  I think he is really going to like the menu at Big Cat Rescue.  You can help make rescues like this possible and help feed all of the cats at:

 See More About JoJo:

JoJo the Caravel is up on his platform in this Wildcat Walkabout Video on May 1, 2014 –

Get the Meet JoJo iBook in iTunes

Meet another Caravel at the Wildcat Sanctuary


2016 July




Spay N Play

Spay N Play

Spay N Play


Spay and Play Flier that you can share in your animal shelter, rescue booth or veterinary clinic.  Download Front and Back.


In an ongoing effort to promote responsibility and to stop suffering, Big Cat Rescue is pleased to present our international Spay and Play program.  Bring us an original receipt, from your vet, showing that you spayed or neutered a pet, or a receipt from an animal shelter showing that you adopted a spayed or neutered pet, within the past year,  and get a FREE PASS for our day tour.  That is a $36.00 value!  If you are the kind of person who cares enough to protect your pet, or feral cats, from over population and all the horrors that go with it, then you are the kind of people that we want to meet.  See Day Tours for times and tell the Ticket agent you have a Free Pass to redeem.  So fix a pet and bring us proof (the receipt, not the cat) and we will give you a tour that you will be talking about for years.

Think you want to have just one litter first?  Think again:

From just allowing one litter of four, you are responsible for a minimum of 52 more cats in just 14 months!   There is no safe place for all these cats to go.  Tens of thousands are killed every year.  Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Spay or Neuter your pet, and then come “Play” with some of our big cats.

If you are a Veterinarian, a shelter employee or a pet rescue organization you can print out the posters below that lets your clients know that their receipt for spaying or neutering OR adopting a pet that was spayed or neutered gets them in to see our big cats for free. The receipt should be dated within the last year. That is all they have to bring.

The No More Homeless Pets coalition is a movement that is sweeping the nation.  In almost every place in the country you can find rescue groups working together now to end euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats in shelters by promoting low cost and free spaying and neutering projects.  Visit No More Homeless Pets of Hillsborough County to see if you qualify for free or low cost altering of your pet. If you are not a resident of Hillsborough County, FL then try asking your local Animal Control if they have a low income voucher program or if they can recommend a low cost clinic.


Low Cost Spay & Neuter for Those Qualified


The No More Homeless Pets coalition is a movement that is sweeping the nation.  In almost every place in the country you can find rescue groups working together now to end the killing of healthy dogs and cats in shelters by promoting low cost and free spaying and neutering projects.

Visit Hillsborough County Animal Services to see if you qualify for low cost altering of your pet. If you are not a resident of Hillsborough County, FL then try asking your local Animal Control if they have a low income voucher program or if they can recommend a low cost clinic.

Find out your Animal Shelter’s policies and ask if they are involved with No More Homeless Pets in an attempt to end the killing of healthy dogs and cats.


“Come quick, come quick,” their mother said,
“The time is getting near.”
She feels that when the kittens come,
The children should be here.

She told them that a big orange Tom
Took “Kitty” as his wife.
“It’s wonderful, a gift from God,
The miracle of life.”

At half a year young “Kitty”
Feels too painful and too scared
To appreciate six miracles,
Blind-eyed and yellow haired.

But she knows these lives depend on her
And nature tells her how.
And as she cleans them, children ask,
“Mom, can we go now?”

But now and then for six more weeks
The children visit her to play
With six new magic toys
Made of life and fur.

The six weeks pass, the newness gone,
And new homes yet unfound,
Mom bundles up six miracles
And takes them to the pound.

Where lovingly, with gentle hands,
And no tears left to cry,
The shelter workers kiss them once,
and take them off to die.

And “Momma Kitty” now she’s called
Mourns her loss and then,
She’s put outside, and of course,
She’s pregnant once again.

Dad tells “Kitty,” “STOP THIS NOW,
Or you wont live here long!
But deep inside of Momma Cat,
This time something’s wrong.

Too young, too small, too often bred,
Now nature’s gone awry,
Momma Kitty feels it too,
And she crawls off to die.

She too is freed from this cruel world,
And from her time of strife.
How harsh the truth, how high the price,
This “Miracle of Life?”

–By Barry Taylor, DVM

Fathers Day 2016

Fathers Day 2016

I wonder how many people thought about Cecil the Lion this Father’s Day?

In a few days it will be the anniversary of a cruel event that made Cecil the “father” of the movement to end the importation of wildlife trophies into the U.S. and many other nations. On July 1, 2015 a rich dentist from the U.S. paid $50,000.00, lured the lion out of a protected reserve and shot him with an arrow.  It then took him 40 hours to find Cecil and gun him down.

Some good things came of this, including Delta, American and United Airlines, along with many others, making it their policy to NOT transport big game trophies on their flights.  1.2 million people signed a petition called “Justice for Cecil”, which asked the Zimbabwe government to stop issuing hunting permits for endangered animals.

lionphoto_jv038-2Five months after the killing of the Cecil, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added two species of lions, in India and western and central Africa, to the endangered species list. The listings would make it more difficult (though not impossible) for US citizen hunters to kill these protected lions.

All are good measures, but nothing will bring back Cecil to his pride.

I’m writing you from the airport in D.C. where we just spent the weekend at the Taking Action for Animals conference and then had meetings non stop, all day long, with legislator’s aides about our federal bill.  It’s called the Big Cat Public Safety Act and it will ban the private possession of big cats.  It will end the suffering, some as awful, and much more prolonged than what Cecil endured.

The timing couldn’t be better for you to email AND CALL your members of congress because they have been hearing about the bill all day.  All they need now is to know that people in their district actually care.  We have learned that they ignore petitions, and pretty much disregard form letters.  They want real letters and calls from their district and no one can do that but you.

Please take a moment out of your busy day to remember Cecil and to do what you can to end the suffering of big cats in the U.S. by sending those emails and making those calls.  We make it easy at where we hope you will change the wording a bit and also make the call when the zip code locator brings up your Senator and Member of Congress.

The beautiful image here was used by permission of Dean Russo Art. I love it because it immediately made me think of Cecil, the most beloved lion to ever live in the wild.!dream-sequence-series/lydhk

Sales of the piece do not benefit Big Cat Rescue, so if you want to help us continue our work to protect big cats, please donate here:



Dr Justin Boorstein

Dr Justin Boorstein

Dr Justin Boorstein

Justin BoorsteinDr. Justin Boorstein started out at Big Cat Rescue in December 2005 as an Intern who was studying veterinary medicine.  He became licensed to practice in Florida in 2012 and Dr. Wynn has been showing him the ropes at the sanctuary.

Dr. Wynn typically visits the sanctuary twice a week and when needed.

Dr. Boorstein has been spending his free time teaching volunteers and interns how to check fecals and has been helpful in our vaccinating schedules as well as emergency care.

Dr. Justin Boorstein works at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and rose to international fame as the doctor for the Zombie Cat or Zombie Kitty.  Zombie Cat, was a cat named Bart, who had been hit by a car, thought dead, buried and then clawed his way out of the grave to be discovered very much alive 5 days later.

More than 151,000 news reports circled the planet over Zombie Cat’s amazing journey to hell and back.



Zombi Cat or Zombie Kitty

See more about Dr. Justin Boorstein’s wild life here:

In 2016 Dr. Justin Boorstein lectured to more than 200 vet students at an international conference.

DrJ ustin Boorstein Lectures 200 Vet Students2016

Pamela Rodriguez

Pamela Rodriguez



Pam-RodriguezPam is a Green level partner, long time volunteer and generous donor who serves as an Independent Director.

She puts in an enormous amount of time in our gift shop and is known for her wonderful tours given in her sophisticated British accent.

Pamela has been vital in making sure new volunteers get a chance to visit with the cats.

Meet the Big Cat Rescue Team. See a typical day at the sanctuary.

Transparency Notification:

In their role as a current board member this person is independent and is a voting member in 2016.