Sassy and Rusty share a large cat-a-tat and can usually be found napping nestled together. Rusty tends to over groom Sassy, so she ends up looking like she’s wearing a band of short fur around her neck.
Though Sassy is the smaller one of the two, she certainly calls the shots at feeding time. Despite living among cat-a-tats of lions, tigers, and leopards, the feeders always make sure Sassy is fed first or she will cause quite a ruckus.
The saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” certainly applies to this little spitfire at feeding time. She is as feisty as they come.
Zabu was born at a circus and roadside zoo in New England that has since closed.
Zabu was raised and housed with Cameron, a male lion, neither of which were spayed or neutered. Leaving these two intact cats together could have had grotesque consequences resulting in the birth of ligers. These genetically mutated cross-breeds are victim to a plethora of birth defects that plague the animal its entire life. These freakish hybrids have become popular, though this is not an animal that would even exist in the wild.
It is important that people understand that by refusing to visit venues with these animals on display, this type of animal abuse can be stopped. White tigers also do not exist in the wild. They can neither hide from attack nor sneak on prey. Man has created the glut of white tigers in captivity today through rampant inbreeding.
Because white tigers are all so deeply inbred, they all carry genetic flaws. Zabu is no exception. She has a shortened upper lip leaving her teeth exposed and unprotected. For every white tiger you may see in captivity, many normal colored tigers have died. Since public demand for the white tiger has driven up prices for them, more and more are being bred. Those that are born “the wrong color” are discarded in various horrific ways.
When Zabu and Cameron were rescued we constructed a large natural enclosure for the two of them to share since they are truly bonded as a couple. Cameron received a vasectomy shortly after his arrival to prevent any cubs from being produced. The two lived together happily for years, however, when Zabu would go into heat Cameron would become possessive over her and aggressive towards keepers. Zabu was spayed in order to curb this behavior which was successful for a few more years.
Cameron reverted to his previous behavior and the decision was made to neuter him, which would mean he would lose his beautiful mane. The loss was merely cosmetic and well worth the price to keep this loving pair together.
While Cameron tries to sleep most of the day away (as lions do in the wild), Zabu is extremely energetic and is always pestering him to play. She’ll often give up on him and just run and jump and play with her big red ball or splash endlessly in her pool. Of course, that’s after she’s tired of playfully stalking her keepers or trying to spray the groups of visitors that stop by.
Carole’s Presentation to Volunteers About White Tigers
I’ve been working in the area by Zabu for the past several days and have had the pleasure of hearing tour guides talking about the white tiger issue. I have heard the amazement in the voices of the guests as they learned that every thing they thought knew about white tigers was wrong.
I have heard guests try to argue the facts or ignore the new information by proclaiming that they still think white tigers are beautiful. It has given me a new appreciation for what all of you go through when giving tours. It especially impresses me that some of you, who are still so new to the knowledge yourselves, manage to be firm in your presentations while still being kind to the guests.
This week a thirty year old secret was exposed in Newsweek, the second largest weekly magazine in America. Sharyn Beach exposed it in Britannica Online Encyclopedia in March of this year. It is the same secret that Big Cat Rescue exposed 11 years ago as the first organization to go public with the truth about the white tiger.
What I knew in 1998 was that people could sell a white tiger cub for $60,000 and just about all of the breeders and dealers and zoos were out to breed them. I had been to facilities such as the one where Shere Khan was born, and where Modnic, TJ & Bella came from and where Auroara had come from. What I saw haunted me because I saw many tigers who had horrible deformities; teeth going in all directions, eyes out on the nose, clubbed feet and lame hips.
These birth defects were primarily in the white tigers, but some of their golden litter mates were affected as well. I started asking about who the tigers’ parents were, who their siblings were, and discovered that people were inbreeding these cats. They never used that word, but rather would say “line breeding” or “selective breeding” or they would make outrageous claims about how they had “created” a line of white tigers by choosing the best pairings. In 1998 there were only 200 white tigers world wide. With Siegfried and Roy promoting white tigers as Royal White Bengal tigers the breeders scurried to meet demand.
Especially complicit were the Cincinnati Zoo & the Nashville Zoo who knew that the origins of white tigers only came from severe inbreeding. It was common knowledge to breeders that there was an 80% mortality rate. They should have put an end to it right then and there, but white tigers were a novelty and people would pay to see them. The accredited zoos, who actually keep pedigrees on their tigers, knew that inbreeding was the only way to increase their probability of getting that money making white cub.
In 1998 I still thought that most of the breeders and dealers out there were just ignorant. I was a member of AZA and had been attending their conferences and meeting their cat experts to find out what they thought to be best practices. I thought that if the private sector knew better they would behave better and so I spent a lot of time writing articles for their club called the Feline Conservation Federation. I was part of their list serve and participated in discussions about exotic cat husbandry in the hopes of helping their cats have better lives. We had only had the Internet for a couple of years and were still trying to find ways to use it to band all exotic cat owners together for a comprehensive repository of information on best practices. Our own website had only been up for two years and I was using it as a way of making all of the lessons we had learned available for everyone else. I figured the reason all of these breeders had so many defective tigers was because they didn’t know that they were all so inbred and they were just making it worse by not keeping records.
I proposed all of what I knew about white tigers on our website and suggested that we create a registry of all of the cats in the private sector, along with micro chipping, to make sure that no more cats suffered from such terrible birth defects. I quickly learned that the people making money off the white tigers knew what they were doing and ignored the agony they were inflicting.
About a year later a veterinarian wrote to me after finding our white tiger page on the Internet. He said that we were the only people telling the truth and that he had the full story because he had been the veterinarian for the Las Vegas duo for many years, as well as the vet for several large zoos. He had worked with 250 tigers. He spent 20 years documenting the origins and malpractice involved in breeding white tigers and had never found a way to make his findings publicly known. The zoos didn’t want anyone to know. Dr. Dan Laughlin and I spent hours on the phone pouring over the documents he had sent me to convince me of his credentials and his findings.
We launched his letter on our website which culminated in his statement,
“…every white tiger in the U.S. is not only the result of repeated inbreeding of genetically defective animals but, even worse, is a hybrid or crossbred animal. Thus, anyone involved in breeding and/or exhibiting white tigers is doing a great disservice to honest conservation and preservation efforts to save the five remaining and endangered subspecies of tigers barely clinging to survival…”
We also quoted Ron Tilson, the head of the tiger species survival plan who said,
“The white tiger controversy among zoos is a small part ethics and a large part economics. The tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry, most have been hybridized with other subspecies and are of unknown lineage, and because they serve no conservation purpose…”
“However, there is an unspoken issue that shames the very integrity of zoos, their alleged conservation programs and their message to the visiting public. To produce white tigers or any other phenotypic curiosity, directors of zoos and other facilities must continuously inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on. At issue is a contradiction of fundamental genetic principles upon which all Species Survival Plans for endangered species in captivity are based. White tigers are an aberration artificially bred and proliferated by some zoos, private breeders and a few circuses who do so for economic rather than conservation reasons.”
Our tour guides began sharing this information with our visitors. We began writing letters to USDA, state wildlife agencies and to the media to raise awareness about the horrific practice of inbreeding to get white tigers.
The breeders, dealers, zoos and circus acts who were profiting from white tigers saw us as public enemy number one. There was no way they could prove the outrageous stories they were promoting about how these cats came from hidden islands, or were the product of their animal husbandry genius. If anyone looked beyond the image in front of them, they would find out the truth and that would mean the end of their profits. White tiger sales began to plummet, both from the over abundance of animals born and because more people were becoming aware of the inbreeding. I have seen white tiger cubs selling for as little as $1000.00. I have lost track of the number of adults who were offered to us for free and sometimes people even offering to pay us to take them so they could make space for more cubs.
Zabu the White Tiger
The people who went from making $60,000 for a white cub to only $1000 for a white cub have no excuse for what they do. The only thing they can do is to try and discredit us. That is why they are always attacking us, and me in particular.
The breeders and dealers seem to spend all their time talking trash about me. Little do they realize that it is actually helping us show the world what kind of person would breed white tigers.
Thanks to the pressure that Big Cat Rescuers have kept on them, the AZA came out with a policy statement against breeding white tigers fairly recently, even though they do not yet enforce it strongly.
It is so exciting to me to see that we have persevered through more than a decade of trying to get the world to see that breeding white tigers (especially) is cruel and unconscionable. To see Britannica and Newsweek running stories that tell the truth is a HUGE win! This was the headline caption for the Newsweek story this past week, “Bred for profit, the animals are often cruelly deformed by inbreeding.” The only reason the truth is being exposed is because of you. No one else was willing to take on the Goliath of zoos, circuses and Las Vegas. The day is coming when no more tigers will be purposely inbred to create a freak for the paying public. That day is coming because Big Cat Rescuers won’t give up until it does.
Nikita was found chained to the wall in a crack house during a drug bust in Tennessee. Because she had been confined to a concrete floor, she had huge swellings on her elbows that took months to heal. She was so thin that you could carry her under one arm. She would only eat white rabbits, so she had a plethora of nutritional issues to deal with as well.
The authorities took her to the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere, but she had been declawed and could not live with the zoo’s other lions. They had to find a new home for her, so we received the call. Big Cat Rescue agreed to take Nikita in, as well as three other Bobcats who all arrived on 11/30/01.
Nikita has flourished under our care. She has grown into a tall, lanky, healthy lioness. She’s extremely playful and loves to roll on her back and grab her paws or try to do somersaults whenever she has visitors stopping by to talk with her. Though we wish she had the freedom she deserves, we’re so happy that she survived her earlier ordeals to enjoy the blissful days we try to provide for her here.
LION VS Big Yellow Ball = Lion Wins! Watch our goofy lioness Nikita take on her new yellow boomer ball! Enrichment is an important part of our cats lives at the sanctuary they will never be free and wild, so we have to keep their minds stimulated with new toys and enrichment, ensuring the best quality life in captivity. http://bigcatrescue.org/lion-vs-big-yellow-ball/
Mr. Howell is approximately five years old and was Lovey’s mate. He is declawed on all four paws and his left ear is folded over most likely the result of a past injury.
The two of them shared a cramped cage about 5’x13′. Their only shelter was a small plastic dog house that they managed to cram themselves into to escape the cold weather. The also had a tiny child’s play table to perch on.
Mr. Howell was not neutered and it is most likely that Lovey has not been spayed as their previous owner was a breeder. So the two of them were separated upon their arrival at Big Cat Rescue until they could be neutered and spayed.
Mr. Howell has a strange coat pattern and coloring, and had almost no fur on arrival, so it was believed that he may be some sort of bobcat wildcat hybrid, but now that he is healthy and fully furred he looks like a pure bobcat.
Mr. Howell loves his large rock cave and spends most of his time on top of this mountain observing his surroundings. Mr. Howell also loves spice bag enrichment! Big Cat Rescuers were in awe to see his reaction to the first enrichment he has probably ever received. Mr. Howell rolled around on the ground, rubbing his face on the bag, and pawing at the fun new toy.
Mickey Cougar’s story is so long and heartbreaking that it will be hard to tell in just a few minutes. (Watch his rescue video to find out the whole story.)
Animal House, in Moulton, AL, was a backyard zoo that operated with a USDA license up until 2006 when it was revoked. At the time Alabama had no laws to regulate the private possession of wild animals, so once USDA washed their hands of the mess, there was virtually no government oversight of the facility. Former volunteers say the owner had no other source of income than her social security check and that she had contracted with the county to become their dog pound.
In 2013 conditions there were reported to be so grim that the county revoked her contract and rescue groups went in to save the dogs and cats housed at Animal House. One of the rescuers video taped a leopard who had been injured by a Doberman, two years prior, and sent the photos and video to Big Cat Rescue asking for help.
We were told that the owner had been feeding the dogs and cats there to her wild animals and that the Doberman had fought back. Her family said the dog had just been in an adjacent cage and the leopard reached through. Regardless of whether it was malice or neglect, the leopard’s leg had bones sticking out and festering tissue exposed. Big Cat Rescue tried, unsuccessfully, for months, to get USDA, the USFWS, the State of Alabama and the local Sheriff to either confiscate the leopard or get her medical attention. When they failed to help the cat we appealed to the media, who said there wasn’t a story if they couldn’t get permission to go film the cat themselves, which the owner was NOT going to allow.
The leopard died and had probably suffered unimaginable agony for two years or more until her wounds killed her.
We never gave up and 2014 began negotiations with the owner, her family members and the state department of natural resources to rescue the cats who still were being kept there. When we saw the condition Mickey Cougar was in, we didn’t know if he would make it at all.
Both of his back knees suffered from torn ligaments so that when he walked the bones on top would just roll and slip off the bottom bones. It was painful to even look at him. Despite the fact that he was grossly underweight and had almost no muscle mass we had to make the difficult decision to sedate him to evaluate the damage and then again to try and repair it.
Dr. Hay, an orthopedic specialist, did the surgery, using something like a synthetic ligament mesh, to mend back his first leg. Dr. Wynn used a new technique of spinning the patient’s own blood and harvesting platelet rich plasma, to quicken healing, which was injected into the other knee. We had to reduce the size of Mickey’s cage, so he takes it easy while he is healing. We will probably have to go back and do surgery on the injected knee once the first one has healed.
Meanwhile Mickey seems to have a strong will to live and we are going to give him every chance possible at a happy life.
Update Feb 22, 2016
Mickey Update Oct. 15, 2014
I can’t even look at Mickey without tearing up because he is at once, both so pitiful and yet so determined to overcome. We knew it would cost a lot to try and fix him.
For the past week or so, Mickey has been getting rehab treatments, to encourage him to use the leg and build up some muscle. It is Mickey’s nature to have two speeds: Laying around and full out running for the dinner plate. The twice a day rehab work gives him food treat rewards for walking slowing and deliberately.
We can see a pronounced improvement in the leg that was repaired, as he can keep the knee in place much better, but because of his lack of strength, from nearly starving to death in Alabama, and having no muscle, he trips over his back feet.
We film some of these sessions so the vet can see his progress and have shared some of them online, but it hurts to watch.
Dr. Hay visited the sanctuary recently, to see the rehab session himself. He said at Mickey’s current pace he thinks the surgically repaired knee should be strong enough that he can operate on the other side in 3 to 6 months.
Every day it is touch and go with Mickey because he needs to let the repair heal fully, and thus distribute his weight to the repaired leg and the one that still slides all over the place. Too much reliance on the repaired leg and it could damage the work done and never heal right and too much reliance on the broken knee, and his muscles on the other side will continue to atrophy.
Everything has its side effects, so even the pain meds have to be very carefully monitored, as too much can make him nauseous or cause him to sleep all the time and too little can make him not want to move at all.
Whenever there are cats in need of rescue, we always offer to take the oldest, sickest or most impaired because our sanctuary is unique in its ability to provide the best veterinary and supportive care. We have 2 vets that have been with us for about a decade each. They visit twice a week and provide all of the house calls for free.
We have specialists in orthopedics, eyes, cancer and teeth who dramatically discount their work because they love the big cats. We have 14 paid staff, who do administrative work and manage our 80-100 volunteers who put in the collective hours of 40 more paid staff. By spending the time and money to train expert volunteers, our donors’ money can go directly to the cats.
The reason we can provide such excellent care is because people like you care. It is your donations that keep the food coming every night, the medications on time, the emergency care and the ability to take in other cats like Mickey, who wouldn’t have a chance anywhere else.
Mickey Cougar Update March 6, 2015
Mickey Cougar was rescued in 2014. He was in such bad shape that we weren’t sure if we should try to fix everything that was wrong with him, or put him out of his misery. This video does not seem to have ever been posted, as it was 40 minutes long and 6GB in size. It’s been cut down to 12 minutes and shows the horrible decisions we often have to make.
Check out our main YouTube channel at BigCatTV.com and our website at BigCatRescue.org