Michael Miller has created all of the audio files for the big cat bios on this page and for our Vox guided tour system. He has been a true joy to work with and has a passion for protecting cats. If you need any kind of voice over work, we highly recommend Michael, not only for his talent, but because of his integrity and his inspiring sense of gratitude.
Breeding Tigers in the U.S. Kills Tigers in the Wild
Asking how that can be? Here is how.
The private ownership of tigers in the U.S. negatively impacts conservation in a number of ways:
Negative conservation message. The primary driver of breeding tigers in the U.S. is the need for a constant supply of tiger cubs in order to charge the public to take photos with them, pet them and swim with them. The exhibitors falsely claim that this causes people to be more interested in conservation. The opposite is true for two reasons.
1) Exhibitors argue that close contact with the animals creates awareness of conservation. Studies with primates have shown the opposite to be true. (Citations).
2) Exhibitors tell people that the tiger is inevitably going extinct in the wild so the only way to “conserve” them is to breed them in captivity.
First, “conservation” is preserving the balance of nature in the wild. Having tigers in a cage to gawk at is not conservation. The only time breeding in captivity has a positive conservation impact is when animals (1) are of pure genetic heritage, (2) are either inherently capable of surviving in the wild or can be taught to survive in the wild (like BCR’s rehab program for orphaned bobcat kittens we teach to hunt and then release) and (3) there is habitat into which the animals can be released. NONE of these criteria are met by the generic tigers that are used for cub petting and display.
Second, as opposed to increasing interest in conservation in the wild, the statement that the tigers are going extinct in the wild so we need them in cages to preserve them does the opposite. What this argument “teaches” people in effect is that we don’t have to worry about tigers going extinct in the wild if we have them in cages. So it teaches people NOT to be concerned about preservation of tigers in the wild.
Impairing U.S. credibility in influencing other nations. There are estimated to be 5,000 to 10,000 tigers in private hands in the U.S. Those who have USDA licenses are supposed to keep a census showing acquisitions, dispositions and those they possess at a given time. But the exhibitors only need to keep records for a year and only keep them on hand for inspection. USDA does not collect this data and track it. There is no tracking of private owners of tigers who do not have a USDA license.
An organization called TRAFFIC commissioned a study a few years ago to determine if parts from U.S. tigers might be entering the illegal trade. The study concluded that there was no way to know how many U.S. tigers end up in the trade for their parts because of the lack of tracking. For instance, two of the most notorious prolific breeders of tiger cubs, one in Wynnewood, OK and one in Myrtle Beach, SC each breed dozens of tigers each year for petting and there is no tracking of where these cubs end up.
There is an international treaty called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Without going into details, the nations meet every few years to report on progress, discuss issues and vote on recommendations. Again to keep it short, China and a few other nations want to change the CITES rules to allow them to breed tigers like we breed cattle or chickens on “tiger farms” and slaughter them to sell their parts and products made from their parts (called derivatives) like tiger bone wine. Those countries falsely argue that if they “supply the market” for these products from the farms then there will be no incentive to poach tigers from the wild. This is absolutely not true for two reasons. First, the wild tiger will always be considered the premium product, particularly when it comes to derivatives that are alleged to have aphrodisiac qualities. So expanding the market by making supply more readily available will create even more demand for the premium wild tiger product. Second, it is simply much cheaper to poach a tiger than to feed and house one for years until it is large enough to slaughter.
The U.S. fortunately opposes tiger farming and sale of tiger parts and derivative, as do many other nations.
So what does this have to do with breeding captive tigers in the U.S. for cub petting and having them end up in back yards and no one knows where?
Recently we were participants in a meeting of NGOs (non governmental organizations) from around the world that are involved in tiger conservation. They universally bemoaned the fact that while the U.S. was an ally in trying to resist efforts by some nations to farm tigers and legalize the sale of parts and derivatives, the U.S. credibility and effectiveness is severely impaired because the nations favoring the legal sale of tiger parts point to our widespread untracked captive population and ask how can the U.S. credibly ask those nations to stop captive breeding when we set such a bad example of rampant breeding in our country with no idea how many tigers here may be killed for their parts and end up in the international trade. The nations with tiger farms point out that at least they know where their tigers are.
Is there something YOU can do to stop tigers from being killed in the wild? YES!
We can hugely increase the ability of the United States to influence the international community to prevent the tiger farming and sale of tiger parts and products that will increase the poaching of wild tigers. How? By passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act HR 3546 / S 2541. This law would end most of the private breeding and possession of big cats in this country. Passing this bill into law would show that the U.S. was ending the private breeding here and restore our credibility with the international community.
How can you help? It is easy and takes only a few minutes. Just visit BigCatAct.com and learn how to email or call your Representative and Senators and urge them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
With about 80 cats of 10 species, Big Cat Rescue always has something interesting going on and we want to share it with the world. Our limitations have been the high cost of outdoor cameras and enough bandwidth to make it viable. At the bottom of this page is a map and a video of potential camera locations.
Vacation Rotation Enclosure
The Vacation Rotation enclosure is 2.5 acres where we rotate different lions, tigers and cougars for two week vacations. At the 18 second mark, if you can imagine being about 15 feet up in the air and looking down at the tiger, is where I would put a web cam so the pond and fountain are up front. It happens to be the point closest to Internet, which is about 75 feet away.
Every two weeks the new cat or cats move in, so there is always a lot of activity that day and then typically a lot of exploring in the early morning and evening hours. During the heat of the day, it will be cats snoozing, but I could watch that all day.
Max and Mary Ann
Max and Mary Ann are two young bobcats who were rescued from different situations, but were young enough to introduce. Now their favorite spot to be is on top of one of their platforms within just inches of the side wall of the cage. A camera on the side or above them would have a lot of action in about a 3 foot square space, as that is their favorite spot to groom, play and nap.
Warning, the music will stay in your head the rest of the day.
TJ Tiger Pond
TJ the tiger has a 2+ acre enclosure that goes down into our lake. One of his favorite places to lay is on the lake bank and he loves to splash in the lake. The camera could be place at the same vantage point from where this was filmed, as we were up on a cat walk above him.
Windsong Memorial Hospital
We have a Nest cam in the Windsong Memorial, directly over the operation table.
At the 40 second mark in this video you can see the inside of the hospital. At the 3:09 mark, you can see the ceiling where there is a cut out to the loft above. This is where the camera has the best view of the surgery.
Feeding Time at Big Cat Rescue
One of the things people never get tired of seeing is the cats being fed. The cats are all fed in small wire enclosures because we have to train them to come into a small space for vet exams and emergencies. It’s not a very interesting spot, except around 9 am every day, but then it can be just amazing to see and hear a cat crunching through bones. Probably the best place for a camera would be one of the 3 feeding areas attached to the Vacation Rotation area above because it would always have a different big cat and would be about 300 feet from the other VR camera.
In this video you can see the hospital room where cats go through rehab before being allowed outside.
Current Nest Cam
This is currently being used by Nirvana the Ocelot.
This is an aerial shot of our property, outlined in green. The red area is the Vacation Rotation area and Intern housing. Intern housing is on the left 1/3 and the VR is the other 2/3’s of that space. At the bottom right you can see the cell tower that is paying rent to be on our property, but has no dishes on it. They have removed most of the supportive gear, generators, etc., so I don’t think they have plans for the site any time soon. Nextel built it, but a new company pays us rent now. I’ll find out who, if this helps get us better coverage. We have Frontier FKA Verizon FIOS through our property at 10 spots (all buildings).
Below is a video where I walked around today and shot the areas that I think would make for the best web cam experiences.
Green is our boundary. Red is the Vacation Rotation area. If the site has an explore.org live cam, there will be a link.
1. Vacation Rotation 15 feet up w/ view of entire enclosure http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-vacation-rotation
2. Vacation Rotation feeding area http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-feeding-station
3. TJ Tiger lake bank http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-tiger-lake
4. Max and Mary Ann the Bobcats on their platform
5. Rehab (actually further to the right in a 3 ac parcel adjacent http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-bobcat-rehab-and-release
6. Kitten Cabana for domestic kittens that are always between 6-8 weeks of age http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-kitten-cabana
7. Vacation Rotation for small cats that is under construction
8. Nakita Lioness from 15 feet up in the corner of the open area http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-lioness-nikita
9. Cat Hospitals (one for surgeries, the other for rehab) http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-windsong-memorial-cat-hospital and X-ray http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-x-ray-cam
10. Alternate feeding station that looks into the cypress bayou for TJ tiger
TJ was the youngest of four tigers who were rescued in 2007 from a breeding facility in Center Hill Florida called Savage Kingdom. He is quite playful and loves to crash through all of the high grasses in his enclosure. TJ has a particular fascination with water and will splash in and out of his pools or the pond, when he is on vacation in the Vacation Rotation enclosure. He seems to delight in the way the light moves on the surface of splashing water.
Savage Kingdom was run by an ex circus performer named Robert Baudy who had been famous for his big cat act in the 1950’s. He boasted that the way you trained a big cat was to chain them to the wall and beat them without mercy until they learned that no matter how much they tried to retaliate, they could never succeed. Once they were broken they were safe to use in performances.
Times have changed, and so has public opinion about how to treat animals, but tiger taming hasn’t changed. Cats are routinely beaten, deprived of food and deprived of space in order to make them perform on cue. Tiger trainers have figured out that no one will pay to see an abused animal, so they make a big show of giving the cats kisses, pats on the head and treats, and tell the public that they only train using love, respect and positive reinforcement. It is a lie.
We do positive reinforcement and clicker training to get our cats to do things like lay down, show us their paws, etc. to make it easier for us to deal with their medical needs. At Big Cat Rescue the cats have the choice of doing the interaction with us and our vets, and if they don’t want to do it, they can walk away.
If the “show must go on” then you can bet the cats were abused behind the scenes to make them reliable performers on stage. Please never pay to see big cats perform.
Savage Kingdom Rescue: TJ, Bella, Modnic and Trucha
A hundred times or more a year Big Cat Rescue is contacted by someone trying to unload a tiger, lion, bobcat, serval or some other exotic cat who has outlived his usefulness. In most cases the people calling are those who have used the animals to support themselves, or to make themselves more popular, and now the cat no longer serves their needs. Then the cat has to go.
Big Cat Rescue can only take in a limited number of big cats each year because each cat is a 10-20 year commitment. Most of the cases do not meet Big Cat Rescue’s criteria for accepting a cat as they will not assist these irresponsible owners in continuing to breed and use animals by being a dumping ground for last year’s babies.
This case at Savage Kingdom was different. Robert Baudy was world renown for producing what are commonly referred to as “throw away tigers” because they are so often lame and cross eyed from the inbreeding that goes into producing the white tigers that will fetch a big price.
When USDA finally shut down the 84 year olds’ breeding activities in August of 2006 an era of abuse came much closer to an end. A friend of Baudy’s had managed to place all but four tigers by May 14, 2007. If she could not find a home for these last four tigers she was going to have them euthanized on May 18th because she could no longer afford the time and resources needed to care for the cats.
TJ, Bella, Modnic, and Trucha were the last four cats that needed a home and Big Cat Rescue stepped in to provide one. On May 18th, 2007, Rescuers transported the four to their new home at BCR. They now have spacious grassy enclosures with shrubs and trees, large mountain dens, and pools to cool off in.
Fatal Attractions – Tigers Unleashed, about TJ and Bella tigers: http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/fatal-attractions/videos/tigers-rescued-deleted-scene.htm
Cage rest sounds pretty peaceful for the cat, but it’s a real challenge for the caregivers.
See 2 playlists of some of our rehab bobcats
While we do bobcat rescue, rehab and release in Florida, we will not relocate bobcats as state law requires that they be released very near where they were captured. They must be released on at least 40 acres and we must get written permission from the owner of the property. They may not be released into state owned parks (strangely) but rather must be released on privately owned land with the land owner’s consent.
Big Cat Rescue has decades of experience rehabbing and releasing bobcats back to the wild where they belong. We provide huge, naturalistic enclosures where these cats can learn or perfect their hunting skills before being released back to the wild. We have trained staff who are experts at capturing an injured bobcat or hand rearing orphaned bobcats until a surrogate can be found.
We go to great lengths to keep these wild cats from imprinting on humans and monitor their care via surveillance cameras to make sure they are thriving. When they are healed, or old enough for release (about 18 months of age) we find the best habitat possible for sustaining them and set them free to live out the life that nature intended.
If you have a bobcat emergency in a state other than Florida, we can help you find a rehabber or will be a resource to wildlife rehabilitators who need help with bobcats, lynx or cougars. When you are searching for a bobcat rehabber ask the following questions:
1. Do they have experience with bobcats?
2. How big are their rehab enclosures? (Ours start at 1200 square feet and some are double that)
3. Do they feed a live diet of prey to insure that the cats will be able to hunt for themselves?
4. Do they keep people, including themselves to the extent possible, away from the bobcat so that they do not imprint on people and end up approaching humans after release?
5. Do they have a vet on staff or on call 24/7 for emergencies?
Rehabbing and releasing bobcats is much more difficult that the rehabilitation of most wildlife. These magnificent little wildcats need every opportunity to fulfill their role in nature and Big Cat Rescue is here to give them that second chance.
We are thinking the bobcat rehab rebuild is going to run about a quarter of a million dollars.
The area that would be most suitable on our property would allow a foot print of about 200 feet by 800 feet and would give us about 1/3 of that in thick woods and 2/3 in grassy runs. The woods are a blessing and a curse when we are talking chain link boxes.
Click map to see larger
The pink areas are our permanent big cat residents. The green shaded area is where we want to move our bobcat rehab facilities. It will be the opposite end of our property from the new hotel that is going in on Easy Street.
The 18 acre lake was dug out by the previous owner and then he was filling it in, starting w/ the green shaded area, with concrete and construction materials from demolition sites. He dug the lake down to 30 feet in places, so we could have that much concrete to drill through.
Wild bobcats DO dig, so we have to have a floor. That’s why I was thinking that a big chain link box, complete with roof and floor, might actually work there. It would have to be 1 in mesh and at least 11.5 gauge to meet state standards and keep their live rats from escaping. We would put dirt, grass and shrubs over the flooring after install.
This year we had 7 bobcats in rehab, which is the most we’ve had at one time, but as our reputation for successful releases grows, more cats seem to end up here, so we need to be ready for that growing demand.
We are confident that we can end the practice of private ownership of big cats, so the wildlife rehab work will expand as the need for big cat sanctuaries decreases with our legislative wins.
We own the three houses and two barns that are south of the green shaded area, so there is water, power and Internet nearby. The main house and the two barns have a life estate by the elderly owner though, so I’d have to build something for indoor care of injured cats, but it wouldn’t have to be huge because of the opportunity to take over the existing structures soon.
Currently the intensive care is done in our on site Cat Hospitals, but it would really be nice to have the wild bobcats totally away from the hubbub of the sanctuary, in their own recovery facilities adjoining the outdoor runs.
What I envision here are 8 long, narrow runs, maybe 20 by 230 each, that could be opened up into 4 that are 20 x 470 when there are 4 or fewer cats. Still puzzling about how to make the space expandable, without shared walls, which are just a tragedy waiting to happen.
Whether a bobcat comes to us injured or orphaned, they usually go through these stages:
1. Inside intensive care
2. Outside, small (low) cages so they don’t climb and fall.
3. 1000 -2500 square feet of space to perfect their hunting, climbing, hiding skills.
Another factor that I haven’t quite figured out yet, is how to mount cameras so that we can make sure the cats are doing well, and to engage the public. Our Bobcat Rehab camera is very popular at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-bobcat-rehab-and-release and a great way to engage people in caring about wildlife, so I want to build it with a goal of it being a good virtual visual experience.
Each cage will require 27,120 sf of 1 in chain link mesh. Or roughly 64,750 linear feet of 8 foot high chain link mesh. http://www.yourfencestore.com/ lists 10 gauge, 1 inch mesh for 11.14 per linear foot which means a retail cost.
Below are mockups by Kenni Pedersen of what the bobcat rehab runs will look like.