President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500 USA
20th September 2015
Re: Why tigers belong on the U.S.-China agenda
Dear President Obama,
We, the undersigned, write to respectfully ask you to raise the issue of tiger trade with President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United States in September 2015.
We congratulate you on your leadership in the global fight against the poaching and trafficking crisis that is sweeping across Africa, threatening the survival of an estimated 420,000 elephants and 25,000 rhinos. Given that there are fewer than 3,200 wild tigers remaining across Asia, we appeal to you to ensure that they too urgently receive the highest levels of political and financial investment to end the
demand that is making them worth more dead than alive.
Tigers Killed for their bones, teeth, claws, penis and fur
One of the most critical threats to the survival of wild tigers is trade in their meat, skin and bones to satisfy demand driven by wealth, rather than health − for high-status food, drink, home décor and even investment assets. This demand is fuelled by a marked increase in tiger farms in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, where tigers are intensively bred for trade in their parts and products. China alone claims to house more than 5,000 tigers on farms.
China is the main consumer market for tiger parts and products, and China’s State Forestry Administration has grown demand by supporting the expansion of tiger farms, allowing legal trade in skins from farmed tigers and approving farm wineries that make tiger-bone wine. Those actions have stimulated consumer interest in tiger products from all sources, undermining law enforcement, incentivizing poaching, and facilitating trafficking by organized criminal networks. Tiger-farm investors continue to push hard for full legalization of trade in tiger bones – the very trade China banned in 1993 because it threatened the survival of wild tigers. If trade were legalized, it would unleash a devastating demand that could quickly wipe out the last wild tigers, as the bones of wild tigers are far more valuable than those from captive tigers.
In order to ensure that tiger conservation remains a priority for the international community and to end tiger farming and tiger trade, we appeal to you to raise these issues with President Xi when he is your guest in Washington.
We also request the United States to take the following steps to compel China to take vital action:
1. Destroy all stockpiles of tiger parts and products and ensure deceased captive-bred tigers are incinerated so their parts cannot enter the black market;
2. Review the current certification of China under the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Act and urge China to phase out tiger farms, as per Decision 14.69 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
3. Encourage introduction and adoption of the Big Cats and Public Safety Act, so that the keeping and breeding of the more than 5,000 captive tigers in the United States can be phased down to include only the small number needed by legitimate zoos and conservation breeding programs, to set an example of best practice;
4. Ask China and Laos to address the trafficking and sale of tiger parts and products, ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species in and through Laos by Chinese and Laotian nationals; and
5. Encourage adoption of legislation that increases the capacity of the United States to assist in the international effort to combat illegal wildlife trade, ensuring that tigers are emphasized, along with elephants, rhinos and other species.
Zero poaching of tigers can only be achieved when there is zero demand. Therefore, we ask you to continue your leadership in tackling illegal wildlife trade by seeking an end to tiger farming in Asia and the keeping of thousands of unregistered captive tigers in the United States.
We thank you for your time and consideration.
Carole Baskin, Big Cat Rescue
Adam Roberts, Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation
Debi Goenka, Conservation Action Trust
Kedar Gore, The Corbett Foundation
Sally Case, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Debbie Banks, Environmental Investigation Agency
Iris Ho, Humane Society International / The Humane Society of the United States
Sean Carnell, National Tigers For Tigers Coalition
Kishore Rithe, Satpuda Foundation
Simon Clinton, Save Wild Tigers
Harshwardhan Dhanwatey, Tiger Research and Conservation Trust
Vicky Flynn, TigerTime
Belinda Wright, Wildlife Protection Society of India
Biswajit Mohanty, Wildlife Society of Orissa
For Return Correspondence
By Email: email@example.com cc JudithMills@eia-international.org
By Post: Judith Mills c/o Environmental Investigation Agency, PO Box 53343, Washington, DC 20009 USA
By Telephone: Judith Mills, (202) 674 4588
Twitter handles that might be useful:
White House Press Secretary
Sally Jewell, Secretary of the @Interior
Secretary of @StateDept
Director, White House Office of Environmental Quality (CEQ)
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
News on the talks between President Obama and China’s Xi
An international group of 13 wildlife experts, in a letter released Tuesday, is asking Obama to mention another topic — the threatened extinction of the 3,200 tigers that remain in the wild in Asia.
I am frequently asked that question and the answer is that no one really knows. Here’s why:
1. There are two kinds of tiger owners in the U.S. Pet owners and commercial owners. To be a commercial owner you have to obtain a USDA license. It is a one page form that asks for name, address and phone. The cost is $30 (up to $750 depending on the number of animals you hold). The Big Cat Q & A sheet that USDA compiled in 2004 suggests that you have to have some experience, but doesn’t require any documentation other than just saying you do.
2. USDA did a census, once in 2004, where they asked USDA licensees how many tigers they held. It was a voluntary survey, but based on what licensees admitted, there were roughly 5,000 tigers and about 200 of those were in AZA accredited zoos. USDA doesn’t regulate pet owners so they were not surveyed. Here is a list of the places we know have tigers, but no census has ever been done for lions, ligers, leopards, etc., and no private owners are listed here; just USDA facilities for the most part. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-rQZK2lBPese4Lyq4mcS_g75Zjc_l0YxYo5wD6f_IOo/edit?usp=sharing
Tiger Cub Found Wandering in California
And then there are stories like this one, that aired on Sept. 4, 2015 when a 3 month old tiger was found wandering the streets of Hemet, CA before being turned in to the Ramona Humane Society for care.
The cub was sent to Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary which is not accredited. It is a mystery as to why the cub was not originally sent to one of the accredited facilities in California, but within a few days authorities did send the cub to Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine, CA which is accredited.
The cub is doing well despite obvious signs of being inbred, not well nourished and having been illegally declawed by his former owners.
Tigers in the U.S.
This video was posted in Oct 2010 and still the USFWS has not rescinded the generic tiger loophole, the USDA has still not banned contact with cubs, which we believe is a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act, and Congress has still not banned the private possession of big cats. The Big Cat Coalition estimates there are 200 cubs a year bred for pay to play schemes, so five years of government inaction means more than 1000 big cats have been added to the crisis. This year has to be the year that we just don’t let up until all three take action to end the abuse.
Gilligan’s age is unknown. He was purchased along with Skipper at an auction.
Gilligan had the tiniest cage measuring 5′ x 7′. It was also the dirtiest of all of the cages. The mud floor was not mud, but feces covered with a sprinkling of straw. It appeared as though Gilligan had tried to keep much of his waste confined to one area on top of his plastic dog house. He had perched atop the house day after day to defecate. The large pile of feces cascaded out of the side of his cage. It was clear that his cage had not been cleaned in several months.
Strewn about the cage were bits of meat, bones and fur. The dog house was too small for Gilligan to fit in and other than a small child’s play picnic table he had nowhere to escape the weather. He was forced to sleep in the open and surrounded by filth.
Because Gilligan’s cage was so small there was not enough room for Big Cat Rescuers to enter it with nets and a crate. So using wire that they had brought, they constructed a secondary enclosure to the door of his and inside placed the crate filled with soft dry hay. Gilligan was unsure about this new crate and despite its appeal of warmth and dryness he refused to enter it. He was left to contemplate entering the crate on his own while Big Cat Rescuers moved on to try and catch Skipper.
After Skipper was captured and carried to the Big Cat Rescue trailer, Gilligan had still refused to enter the crate. With no other options he was sedated with a blow dart. He quickly fell asleep and Dr. Justin did a full exam. After the exam he was gently placed in the crate and given the reversal agent for the tranquilizer.
When he awoke he was in a soft bed of hay being loaded into the trailer for his long trip back to Tampa.
Gilligan seems absolutely blissful in his new enclosure. In his first days he constantly sniffed all around soaking in the fresh air. He was also quite amazed with the wildlife that abounds at the sanctuary from cardinals, to lizards, to squirrels, he is very observant and intently watches as they flit and scurry about.
If you are looking for a way to help protect big cats like Cecil, please take the Tiger Selfie Challenge below. While Cecil was not a cub that was used for pay to play and then turned out into a canned hunt, most of his kind do start out that way.
Take the Tiger Selfie Challenge!
You remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, don’t you? It was a crazy, popular way to raise awareness about Lou Gherig’s Disease, that started in 2014 and has already raised more than 100,000 million dollars for ALS research. Just yesterday Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—and challenged Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to do the same. A full year later this form of public activism is still grabbing headlines.
What if the cats had such a successful campaign to raise awareness about the suffering they endure for tiger selfies, lion selfies and liger selfies?
You KNOW we could end the pay to play schemes, once and for all, if everyone knew that posing with tiger cubs was Cruel NOT Cool! Find out how here: http://bigcatrescue.org/selfie/
New Big Cat Videos
Never miss a video starring your big cat friends! Subscribe to both channels:
In honor of Cecil the lion we have created free screen savers and wallpapers for Macs and PCs at our newly launched ChatBigCats.com site! LaWanna and Ysabel have been working for months to convert our old BigCatFun.com site to a kid safe, mobile responsive, interactive site where you can play games, puzzles and find all kinds of fun things to do. This site is still in Beta, so some links may be broken, but this link will take you to an area that is ready, where you can download the screen savers and wallpapers. http://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-august-2015/
Your voice is saving big cats!
Last month we asked you to speak out against the cruel use of cubs, in a pay to play Swim-With-Tigers scheme at Dade City Wild Things and USDA has finally sued them for severe violations of the Animal Welfare Act saying, “The gravity of the violations alleged in this complaint is great, involving multiple failures to handle animals carefully and to provide access for inspection.” Find out more at TigerCubAbuse2.com
Because you take action, whenever we point out big cat abuse, the USDA has also sued Doug Terranova who runs a circus and shows up at fairs with Joe Schreibvogel and his pay to play cubs, and Gregg & Karen Woody who also drag cubs out to parking lots and fairs. We can end the abuse of lions, tigers, ligers and other wild animal cubs if we all speak out together. Thank you for taking action on our alerts, and please be sure to do so on the following:
Top Shocking Incidents
of Big Cat Exploitation – August 2015
We hope by sharing a new list with you each month that you will join us in speaking out for the big cats and cubs that are exploited across this country every day. We encourage you to take one small action today and contact one or more of the offenders below to politely express your concern. Together we can be the voice for the voiceless…together we can make a difference. If you learn of exotic cats or cubs being exploited in your area, please contact Susan Bass at Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org.
No. 1 The Benton County Fair in Oregon recently hosted A Walk on the Wild Side’s exotic animal exhibit. An article in the local Corvallis Gazette-Times quoted one fairgoer saying the cages were small and the animals were pacing and showed signs of stress. A Walk on the Wild Side, also located in Oregon, has been closed to the public since March 2015 due to code violations but still subjects exotic cats to fairs and shows.
Benton County Fair Manager Lonny Wunder said he receives two or three complaints a year about the wild animal exhibit, but he will reconsider having them back if he receives more than that. SO we are asking you to please urge Wunder to do the humane thing and not allow exotic animals to be displayed at the fair next year.
Contact Fair Manager Lonny Wunder at 541-766-6090 and email him at this link http://www.bentoncountyfair.net/contact-us/email-inquiry/ No. 2 The Midland County Fair in Michigan just hosted a circus act called Wambold’s Amazing Animals. The act featured several tigers and even included a liger – the result of the unnatural mating of a tiger and a lion. Local paper Midland Daily News covered the tiger show in at least two articles but never mentioned the true issues involved with big cats in traveling acts in their reporting. Fair manager Trish Steele is quoted gushing over the circus act, “They provide a lot of educational information to people who are in the free entertainment area. It’s not just a show.” Hmmm.
The owner of the tiger is also quoted in the article saying white tigers are “very, very rare in the wild because they have no camouflage.” It’s true they don’t have camouflage, but white tigers are not found in the wild because they are not a species!
There is nothing educational about seeing majestic big cats forced to perform in front of crowds and travel in small transport wagons. Please help us educate Steele and the Midland Daily News that exotic cats and other animals at fairs and in circus acts should be a thing of the past. Urge the fair to NOT have the cats back next year.
No. 3 The Kutztown Fair in Pennsylvania recently hosted a circus act with tigers called Tiger Encounter, run by the notorious Frisco circus family.
We’re told children were allowed to feed the cats with a long stick. That sends the wrong message that big cats are ours to use how we want. Please kindly let the Kutztown Fair that animal lovers do not want to see big cats used as entertainment.
No.4 The West End Fair in Pennsylvania is going on right now until August 29. The fair features Bruno Blaszak’s Royal Bengal Tiger circus show. However, there is no such thing as a “royal” Bengal tiger. The fair’s website says Bruno is “devoted to preserving these magnificent tigers for many generations to come.”
Breeding them to live lives of misery in circus acts and traveling the country in tiny transport cages? That is no life at all for big cats.
No. 5 The Showhegen State Fair in Maine recently included the Vicenta White Tigers circus act. In a local newspaper article, owner Vicenta Pages actually told a reporter – presumably with a straight face – that “there are no longer any white Bengal tigers left in the wild of their homeland in India, having been hunted and poached to extinction.” HUH?
White tigers do not exist in the wild and could not survive even if they did because they would not be able to sneak up on prey or hide from predators. Big Cat Rescue believes it is tragic that fair managers and even journalists fall for these lies over and over again. Would you speak out for these tigers?
Many of you responded to our action alert, contacting the FWC and asking them to not give up on the FL panther. Big Cat Rescue attended the meeting in Sarasota to speak up for panthers (and bears). We also participated in a news conference with the Sierra Club, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Humane Society of the United States. Our combined actions resulted in the FWC taking note of the public’s comments and sending the proposal back to their staff for
Earlier this month (August 2015) the FWC posted their revised policy proposal. As the Tampa Bay Times put it in their editorial on August 17th, the revised proposal is a “win for open government over secrecy” but the policy still has “some weasel language” and that overall, this is a reminder of the “need for public oversight of this critical agency.”
Big Cat Rescue opposes the revised policy proposal Although we were pleased to read that the overall tone of the proposal had softened with the removal of some of the most contentious terms and language, Big Cat Rescue found the “weasel language” to be far more extensive and subtle than the TBT let on.
First, the good.
The revision includes welcomed recommendations to restore panther habitat in the Everglades, coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation on the installation wildlife crossings, and support for strategic conservation easements. But much like the FWC’s response to request for more habitat be protected for wildlife – the FWC has little to no say in these matters. These recommendations are just that, recommendations.
Second, the bad.
The original proposal repeated brash assertions that the FWC would no longer support panther recovery outside of southwest Florida and insisted that one population of an estimated 100 to 180 panthers in southwest Florida after 34 years “should be ample scientific evidence to warrant reconsideration of the status of panthers under the Endangered Species Act.”
The federal government has maintained that for panthers to be taken off of the endangered species list their needs to be three separate populations, each with 240 panthers. Conservation groups, wildlife organizations, and a wide array of Floridians were quick to call out what was an attempt to force the federal government to reconsider the criteria for taking panthers off the endangered species list. (Big Cat Rescue believes that lowering the panther’s federal protective status, and ultimately delisting the big cat from the Endangered Species Act, are steps towards allowing a panther hunt.)
This revision, in addition to the softer tone and recommendations, includes language stating that the FWC does not intend to change the panther’s protected status. But the core statements brashly asserted in the original proposal are still there – polished and smoothed over, but none the wiser.
Third, the ugly.
The FWC is still abandoning their obligation to federal recovery efforts outside of the small population of 100 to 180 panthers in southwest Florida. The policy proposal still calls for federal officials to lessen their criteria for taking panthers off the endangered species list. It also leaves the door wide open for the FWC to take lethal action against panthers.
Be a voice for the Florida panther!
Tell the FWC Commissioners to oppose the policy proposal. Attend the upcoming FWC meeting in Ft. Lauderdale on September 2nd, 2015 at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina. The FWC will be voting on the revised policy proposal as well as finalizing rules for the impending bear hunt.
Max the bobcat kitten was at the center of a months-long legal battle that touched off after a Rhode Island vet seized him from someone who bought him from a backyard breeder… It is illegal to have bobcats as pets in Rhode Island. The cat’s owner went to court to get the cat back, but the state won. Now Max will live at Big Cat Rescue for the rest of his life!
We’re so glad we could step in and offer Max a permanent home, if you want to help put an end to the trade in wild animals as so called “pets” please visit this site to help give them a voice: http://bigcatrescue.org/get-involved/roar