Kali (pronounced Kah-lee’) the tiger was born in a travel trailer in the year 2000 the day after her mother and a transport full of tigers, leopards, cougars, bears and wolves were dropped off at the Augusta Conservation Education in GA. The founder of the organization rescued over 300 animals in the 20 years that he ran the facility, but by 2014 he could no longer afford it and began placing the remaining animals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare asked if we could take Kali, the last cat on the site and we agreed.
The Hindu goddess Kali is the fierce destructive form of the wife of Shiva, but also considered the goddess of time and change.
Kali’s previous owner shared many of Big Cat Rescue’s ideals of a sanctuary including no breeding, buying, or selling, but he did believe in physical interaction with his animals.
Big Cat Rescue takes a hands off approach to working with the big cats. Even though these animals were born and raised in captivity they are still wild animals and having close physical interaction puts both the people and animals at risk of serious injury.
Overall Kali was well cared for. She had been fed a good diet and had a spacious although barren cage. Because Kali was so well fed she was very difficult to lure into a transport cage. Her owner did not want Kali to be sedated and so he spent weeks trying to get her accustomed to going in the transport cage to receive her food. His patience paid off and the day of the rescue Kali loaded up within seconds.
When Kali first arrived she was depressed. She would spend the entire day sulking from atop her platform. At dinner time she would come down to eat, but would then immediately go right back up to her perch. Perhaps she missed her owner and the interactions they shared.
Most of our cats were mistreated before their arrival and are happy to find a new home where they are loved and fed a good diet. Kali had a different experience in that she was cared for, and then suddenly was moved away from the only home she had ever known. A lot of people rescue animals with the best intentions, but when life happens they find themselves no longer able to provide for the animals that they have committed to.
This was the case with Kali’s owner. He was going through a bitter divorce and neither he nor his wife were able to provide sanctuary to the animals that they had rescued.
Thankfully for Kali she will never have to worry about being moved from her home again. Big Cat Rescue will provide her with a stable and loving home for the rest of her life.
A few weeks after her arrival Kali made a complete turn around. She bounces up to keepers chuffing all the way, plays with her toys and enrichment, and loves lounging in the tall soft grass.
Big Cat Rescue will be her forever home because we operate this sanctuary in a responsible manner that ensures all of our cats will have a permanent home regardless of changes in the economy or even the leadership of the sanctuary. We have done this by creating detailed strategic plans, setting aside money for reserves and training all of our staff and volunteers extensively. People like you, who learn about the plight of these cats, and who donate to help, are the way we can continue to help cats like Kali.
Did you know that big cats and cubs are exploited and even abused at tourist attractions here in the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world?
What can you do to make sure you don’t unwittingly participate in tourist activities that exploit big cats and other wild animals?
Easy ways YOU and your family can be responsible tourists:
• Never pay to touch or have your photo taken with a tiger or lion cub
• Don’t attend circuses, fairs, or attractions that feature wild animal shows
• Don’t purchase items made from wild animals, such as furs and rugs
• Don’t partake in local “delicacies” made from wild animals, such as tiger bone wine
• Only visit sanctuaries that are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (www.sanctuaryfederation.org).
Sign up here to be kept in the loop when your voice is needed to protect big cats and their cubs: Sign up for big cat alerts and as an added benefit you will be entered for a chance to win our Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation.
As an animal lover, if someone were to make you this offer, would you accept?
You can pet, play with and bottle feed this cub and we’ll take a picture of you so you can share it with your friends – BUT, it means one of the following will happen to this cub once he/she is too big for this anymore:
This cub will suffer the rest of his/her life in a cage without proper food or care.
This cub will be shipped off to a hunting ranch to be shot for a price.
This cub will be slaughtered for the exotic meat market.
This cub will be sold off at auction to the highest bidder, fate unknown.
This cub will be killed for parts and bones for the medicinal market.
We know you’d never say “yes” to any of these. You love animals. That’s why you want this experience. But,that’s exactly what you agree to when you say “yes” to this thrill-of-a-lifetime offer.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about tourist attractions in South Africa, Mexico, or the United States. Sadly, this is the fate for so many cubs bred for money-making ventures like these. An exhibitor in Oklahoma, that Big Cat Rescue sued, said he could make $27,000 each week offering animal interactions like this. It’s obvious, money is what drives the industry – and the breeding.
But someone is surely regulating this, right?
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) feels there should be no contact with cubs under the age of eight weeks since that’s when they receive their first disease-preventing injections. They also feel there should be no contact with cubs over 12 weeks old since they can be dangerous even at that young age. But these are just guidelines, not regulations. If breeders/exhibitors were to follow these guidelines, it means a cub used for public contact would have a “shelf life” of only four weeks! What does this encourage? Rampant breeding and not following these guidelines. Where do they all go when they’re too old and can no longer be used for public contact? Refer to the list above.
Don’t inspectors make sure everything’s ok for these cubs?
In 2011 in the United States, there were only 105 USDA inspectors to monitor almost 8,000 facilities, ranging from slaughterhouses, pet stores, pet breeders and dealers, farm, laboratories and other animal-related businesses. That’s nearly one inspector for every 80 facilities! When traveling exhibitors often move these cubs all over the country to fairs, festivals, and malls, relying on inspectors to ensure quality of care for them is unrealistic. And even when cubs are being exhibited when they’re too young or too old, violators aren’t cited unless an inspector is there to personally see serious harm to the cub – screaming and squirming isn’t enough.
Doesn’t touching a tiger or lion help promote conservation since we’re losing them in the wild?
As more and more of these cub petting attractions spring up everywhere, guess what? Tigers and lions in the wild are endangered and becoming nearly extinct. In fact, touching a cub does nothing to conserve their cousins in the wild.
Tragically, it may be doing the opposite. If you can visit a facility to pet a tiger cub, then why protect them half a world away where you may never see them? Studies have shown that public interaction with captive wild animals has done very little to cause the public to donate to conservation in the wild. And there’s been no successful release of a captive-born tiger or lion to date. When a cub needs to be with its mother for at least two years to learn survival skills, this simply isn’t something humans can duplicate. So, the answer is “no,” touching a lion or tiger cub in no way helps save them in the wild.
What can we do?
Ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act! This would put an end to the private possession and backyard breeding of big cats. Get the factsheet.
Contact the USDAby emailing them at: email@example.com . Let them know you want to see an end to physical contact with big cats, to prohibit public handling of young or immature big cats, and to stop the separation of cubs from their mothers before the species-typical age of weaning.
Never, ever give in to the temptation of public contact with a wild cat. It’s dangerous for you and sentences these big cats to life in a cage – or far worse.
Educate friends, family, and media about the reality of this cruel practice. So few know this is an insidious form of animal abuse, but now you do. Share it through social media channels too.
The next time you see a cub in your town or at some of the tourist attractions you visit while on vacation, we hope you’ll remember the truth and you’ll help raise awareness. When the demand ends, so will those who profit by supplying these experiences.
Together, let’s be their voice and assure no more cubs suffer an awful fate. (Article by Julie Hanan for One Green Planet)
Why Petting Cubs Leads to Abuse
Here our radio ad to educate parents about swimming with cubs:
Hear the highlights from this page:
The Truth About Tiger Cub Petting Displays in Malls
By Howard Baskin, JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL
Breeders who charge the public to pet and take photos with young tiger cubs tell venues and customers some or all of the following lies:
1) That the exhibitors are “rescuers” and operate “sanctuaries”
2) That the cubs have a good life while being used to make money:
a) they enjoy being carted around the country in a semi and repeatedly awakened and handled by dozens of people all day
b) that blowing in the cubs face “calms” them down
c) that dangling them by holding under their front arms and bouncing them up and down “resets” them
Cubs at the mall always = cub abuse
d) that close up photos with flash does not harm the cubs
3) that it is safe for the cubs and for humans, and legal, to allow contact with cubs from when they are only a few weeks old to when they are six months or more old.
4) that the exhibitor must keep constantly breeding and using the cubs to make money because that is the only way he can support the adult animals he keeps.
5) that the exhibitor is doing this to promote conservation in the wild.
6) that the exhibitor is teaching people not to have exotic animals as pets
And the biggest lie of all:
7) that the cubs will have good homes after they get too big to be used to make money from petting
THE FACTS ARE
1) Breeders/Exhibitors are not sanctuaries.
Most sanctuaries are not accredited
True rescuers and sanctuaries do not breed. Breeding more tigers simply adds to the number of big cats that end up living in deplorable conditions or being destroyed to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is the most highly respected body that defines what a true sanctuary is and sets standards of animal care and practices that sanctuaries must meet in order to be accredited. Facilities that breed or subject the animals to the stress of being carted around to exhibit definition are not sanctuaries. For more about the difference between real and “pseudo” sanctuaries, visit the GFAS website at http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/for-public/truth-about-sanctuaries/
In addition to not being a sanctuary because they breed and do offsite exhibits, these people who claim to love animals so much typically operate facilities where the animal care, while it may comply with USDA’s minimal standards, is far below the standards set by GFAS as humane, and in many cases is deplorable.
2) Life on the road means being torn from mother, denied natural behaviors, and mistreated.
The cubs used for petting exhibits are torn from their mothers shortly after birth, causing emotional pain to both the cubs and the mothers. Imagine what that mother tiger experiences after enduring the long pregnancy and finally giving birth, filled with the instincts to nurture her cubs, and then having them snatched away. The breeders take them away and have people handle them so the cubs will “imprint” on the people instead of doing what is natural and imprinting on their mothers.
And what is life like during the months they are used to make money for their owners? Cubs this age want roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. Watch what happens during these exhibits. The cubs are repeatedly awakened so a customer can pet them instead of being allowed the sleep their young bodies need. When they try to wander they are repeatedly yanked back. And where are they when not on exhibit? They spend endless hours in small cages in trucks, hardly a suitable environment for inquisitive, active young cubs.
While used for petting by the public or held for photos with the public, the cubs squirm and try to get away. What do the exhibitors do to control them?
One technique used by exhibitors to get the cubs to stop squirming is blowing in the cub’s face. Contrary to what the exhibitors say, this does not “calm” the cub. The cub does not like this any more than you would. This blowing in the face is a way mother tigers discipline their cubs. It is a punishment. The cub becomes inactive temporarily not because the cub is calm. The cub becomes inactive hoping that not moving will cause the exhibitor to stop blowing in its face.
The other technique is to dangle the cub from under their front armpits and toss them up and down in the air. One notorious exhibitor tells customers this is to “reset” the cubs. Another tells customers that this is how the mother tiger holds the cubs, which is equally ridiculous. Being held under the arms and tossed up in the air is just another unnatural and unpleasant experience that causes the cub stress, making them temporarily stop doing the behavior that is natural, i.e. trying to squirm away from being held.
What happens when the cubs are sick? The video at www.TigerCubAbuse.com shows cubs with severe diarrhea kept on display. The keepers simply follow them around wiping diarrhea off the floor, and then use the same towel to wipe the cubs’ irritated rear ends as the poor cubs scream in pain.
How would you feel if you were their mother and knew this was the life they had been torn from you to endure?
3) Cubs are routinely used to make money both below and above the legal age.
Most big cats endure squalid conditions
While cub displays are inherently cruel for the reasons given in this fact sheet, USDA regulations do allow them, but only for a few weeks. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact with the cubs until they are at least 8 weeks old because that is when they receive their first injections to prevent disease. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact after the cubs are 12 weeks old because they are large enough to be dangerous. So, the only time it is “legal” to have the public pet cubs is when they are between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks.
However, because enforcement resources are limited, exhibitors flagrantly violate these rules, putting the cubs and the public at risk. Videos at www.TigerCubAbuse.com and www.TigerCubAbuse2.com show exhibitors freely admitting on camera that the cubs are under 8 weeks old. The video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE8CXQLKfq0 shows people playing with 5 and 7 month old cubs at G.W. Exotic Animal Park, home base for Joe Schreibvogel and Beth Corley, who operate the most notorious mall exhibit road show. Twenty-three of this exhibitor’s cubs died in 2010.
4) Abusing cubs is not a necessary or justifiable way to make money to support adult cats.
The exhibitors often claim they have no choice, that they must breed and exploit cubs to make money to support their other animals. Joe Schreibvogel posts on Facebook “I don’t think none of us like to be forced to be in the entertainment of animals (sic).” But the truth is that true sanctuaries all over the country support their animals without abusing some in order to make money to feed the others. They do this by providing a great home for the animals that far exceeds the minimal legal requirements and then learning how to attract donors who appreciate the excellent home they are providing. Lacking the ability to do this is not an excuse for abusing tiger cubs to make money. People who are not capable of operating a real sanctuary simply should not own animals. No true animal lover could justify abusing some animals to provide financial support for others.
5) Paying to pet tigers does not support conservation in the wild.
Captive breeding causes more poaching
No money the public spends to pet or take photos with tiger cubs ever goes to support conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a huge and growing market for tiger parts like the skins pictured here, and tiger “derivatives”, i.e. products made out of tiger parts like tiger bone wine. A dead tiger is worth up to $50,000 for its parts. Breeding what US Fish and Wildlife Service calls “generic” tigers like the ones used in the mall exhibits is not tracked. So there is no way to know how many U.S. born tigers are killed to have their parts illegally sold into this trade. And, the more that trade expands, the more incentive the poachers have to kill tigers in the wild.
6) Petting cubs sends the wrong message about exotic animals as pets.
Exhibitors often claim that they are teaching people that exotic animals should not be pets. But what example do they set as they handle the animals and let others do so? Saying that exotic animals do not make good pets while charging people to pet them is a little bit like someone telling people not to use heroin while having a needle sticking in their arm. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not a message that works. The websites of these exhibitors frequently show photos or videos of the exhibitor handling, hugging or kissing adult tigers. This encourages other people to want to be “special” like the exhibitor.
The way to encourage people not to want exotic animals as pets is to set an example by never having physical contact with them. This is what true sanctuaries, people who truly care about the animals, do. Meantime, exhibitors like Joe Schreibvogel actively support of private ownership of exotic animals as pets. He has conducted a fundraiser for an organization devoted to, “fighting for the rights of everyday people….to keep, house and maintain exotic animals”. Schreibvogel’s 2010 fund raising event was attended by people who brought their pet primates. He created an “association” whose website has a page offering baby white tigers for sale. Many of the followers on the “Joe Exotic” Facebook page are obviously exotic pet owners. The G.W. Exotic website actively rails against the steady trend of laws banning private ownership to protect the public and stop abuse of the animals.
Private ownership of exotic animals results in widespread abuse as cute young animals mature and end up being kept in deplorable conditions. While some exhibitors claim they are teaching people not to get exotic animals as pets, others actively promote the trade. But all of them, by their behavior, encourage people to own exotic animals in order to be one of the “special” people who can have contact with these animals.
7) The cubs are destined for a horrible existence after they are too big to use to make money.
Big cats are often kept in concrete & steel jail cells
This is the single biggest reason not to permit cub displays. If asked, exhibitors tell venues and patrons that the cubs will end up in some wonderful home, either at their facilities or elsewhere. Current USDA rules allow an owner to keep a tiger in a concrete floored, chain link jail cell not much bigger than a parking space, often with nothing to do but walk in circles or stare out. Enforcement of the rules that do exist is limited because it would be economically unfeasible to have enough inspectors to adequately monitor the thousands of tigers owned by people licensed by USDA to exhibit animals. These are animals built to live in the wild, roaming and hunting. They are very intelligent and they experience a broad range of emotions.
We treat criminals in prison far better than the way most owners end up treating captive tigers, whose only crime was being bred by a breeder/exhibitor to make money. Attached are photos that are not exceptions. They are typical of the conditions in which the cubs that are bred by private owners will end up.
8) There is potential for disease and liability.
A May 2011 statement from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) recommends that the public be prohibited from direct contact with tigers due to the risk of illness to humans stating” …ringworm in 23 persons and multiple animal species was traced to a Microsporum canis infection in a hand-reared zoo tiger cub.” Zoonotic diseases — those that jump to humans — account for three quarters of all emerging infectious threats, the Center for Disease Control says. Five of the six diseases the agency regards as top threats to national security are zoonotic. The Journal of Internal Medicine this month estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died.
Cub petting has been an evil practice for far too long
PUBLIC IMAGE ISSUE FOR VENUES
Changes in values in our society do not happen suddenly. It took decades of educating and changing people’s minds before women finally got the right to vote, something we take for granted today. A similar progression occurred in the area of civil rights. The same shift is taking place at an accelerating rate with respect to our society’s view of private ownership of big cats.
Compelling evidence of this is found in the trend in state laws. Just since 2005, nine more states have banned private ownership of big cats, generally recognizing that such ownership is dangerous to people and results in the animals being kept in deplorable conditions.
The public doesn’t see how most big cats are kept
Many people innocently support the abuse by patronizing the cub displays. The cubs are adorable, and the exhibitors are skilled at telling their lies. But, increasingly numbers of people are aware of the issues presented in this fact sheet, or on their own simply see the displays and find them repellant. As the number of people of people who find such displays objectionable grows, venues like malls increasingly make a negative impression on patrons in a way they cannot necessarily measure. Venues like Petsmart stores, Alton Square Mall in Alton, IL, and Metro North Mall in Kansas City, MO have led by banning exotic animal displays.
As more and more people become aware of what happens “behind the scenes” and actively object to the cub displays, more and more venues will ban the displays. In the meantime, venues who allow the displays make a negative impression on many customers who care about animals while many tiny cubs are condemned to lifelong misery.
As a venue, you can make a wonderful contribution to society by helping stop this abuse, while at the same time sending a very positive branding image to the many customers who love animals and do not want to see them being abused when they come to shop.
We hope the information in this fact sheet is useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Susan Bass, Director of Public Relations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida at 813-431-2720 or Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org. Venues that these exhibitors lie to in making their pitch to be allowed to display have a critical choice. They can be part of the problem, encouraging this abuse by permitting it, or part of the solution. We hope you will send a positive public relations image to your many animal loving patrons and help save these innocent tigers from abuse by banning such exhibits in your venue.
See more video of the horrible conditions where big cats are kept
This video talks to Big Cat Experts Around the Globe About How Petting Cubs Kills Tigers in the Wild
See a cub man handled for paying guests to get their picture at the mall
Note that the handler stands on the cub to subdue him
How Can You Tell if a Tiger Cub is Too Young or Too Old?
It’s almost impossible for regulatory agents to determine if a cub being used on display is truly within the legal age range of 8 weeks to 12 weeks. This photo composite shows tiger cubs at different ages and in relation to people to give you an idea of what is likely to be a legal size petting / photo op cub and what is not. Note that we do not believe cubs should be used for petting or photo props at any age. Cubs belong with their mothers and in the wild.
Click on the image to see it larger.
Tiger Cubs Ages 2 Weeks to 12 Weeks
The American Zoological Association is the accrediting body for zoos, like the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries is the accrediting body for sanctuaries. Only 10 % of the facilities in the U.S. that are housing wild animals are accredited. GFAS does not condone unescorted public visitation or contact with the captive wild animals and the AZA also states the following (emphasis added): http://www.aza.org/Education/detail.aspx?id=2451
V. Conservation Education Message
As noted in the AZA Accreditation Standards, if animal demonstrations are part of an institution’s programs, an educational and conservation message must be an integral component. The Program Animal Policy should address the specific messages related to the use of program animals, as well as the need to be cautious about hidden or conflicting messages (e.g., “petting” an animal while stating verbally that it makes a poor pet). This section may include or reference the AZA Conservation Messages. Although education value and messages should be part of the general collection planning process, this aspect is so critical to the use of program animals that it deserves additional attention. In addition, it is highly recommended to encourage the use of biofacts in addition to or in place of the live animals. Whenever possible, evaluation of the effectiveness of presenting program animals should be built into education programs. http://www.aza.org/animal-contact-policy/
At a 2002 meeting of the Tiger Species Survival Plan members it was decided that, “A second concern is the relationship between the Tiger SSP and the private sector, where many tigers (mostly of unknown origin) are kept. During the 2002 Tiger SSP master plan meeting in Portland there was a discussion of the appropriateness of handling tigers in public places by AZA zoos. There was complete consensus of all members in attendance that such actions place the viewing public at risk of injury or death, that there is no education message of value being delivered, that such actions promote private ownership and a false sense of safe handling of exotic big cats, and that the animal itself loses its dignity as an ambassador from the wild. As a result, the committee resolved such actions were inappropriate for AZA-accredited zoos, and that the AZA accreditation committee should make compliance of this restriction part of its accreditation process. This opinion statement was conveyed to the executive committee of the Felid TAG for comments and action.”
Mammals: Small Carnivores
In general, due to the potential for bites, small carnivores should be used in contact areas only with extreme caution. Due to the risk of bites, small felids are generally not used in direct contact. If they are, care must be taken that such animals are negative for infection with Toxoplasma gondii. All carnivores should be tested for and be free of zoonotic species of roundworms such asBaylascaris sp. Small carnivores (e.g., raccoons and skunks) obtained from the wild may present a greater risk of rabies and their use should be avoided in contact areas.
Click the image to get the 8 x 10 poster image to post at your school, civic center, on your car, or anywhere else you can reach people who want to save tigers.
Male DOB 1/1/03
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)
Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He really likes the grass. Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”
Keisha was the second generation of tigers born at that facility and some reports state than five generations were born there over the years.
Keisha is missing a portion of her ear and her entire tail. JnK volunteers reported that she lost both to two lions that shared a common wall with her. It is unknown if she received veterinary care for these injuries or was left that way and luckily survived. All over the compound the bears and big cats shared common walls where they could easily reach through and injure or kill each other.
Despite the first fourteen years of her life being a horrible experience that no animal should have had to endure Keisha’s spirit was never broken. She is full of life and very outgoing. She loves Zeus and once he is neutered we hope to introduce the two.
One of the top experience with Keisha since her arrival was her very first Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Keepers stood by in awe as Keisha pounced around her enclosure as happy as could be with the big bird in her mouth. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to play with it or eat it so she did both for hours. Being witness to such joy from an animal that has seen so much suffering makes the long hours and hard work all worth while.
Keisha the tiger was born in 2000 at a pseudo sanctuary in Sinclairville, NY called JnK’s Call of the Wild. While the website proclaimed to be a sanctuary, in fact, all but one of the 11 tigers had been bred for use as pay to play props. According to volunteers, Zeus was the son of the original female, Kimba, and then was bred back to his mother to create the other 9 tigers, including Keisha. This is commonly done on purpose to create white tigers, which are the result of severe inbreeding.
What we saw during the rescue was unimaginable suffering and conditions that clearly threatened everyone in the area. JnK had a pile of citations for not allowing inspectors onto the property, but in many cases those are considered by the bad guys to be far less incriminating than actually answering the gate and letting inspectors see what they are doing.
The NY state attorney’s office decided to send a message to all of the backyard breeders, dealers and pseudo sanctuaries that they would no longer turn a blind eye to the danger that these facilities pose to the public and launched the biggest seizure of wild animals in New York’s history. With the help of IFAW and several sanctuaries 11 tigers, 3 lions, 3 bears, and 2 wolves were rescued that day in May of 2014.
Keisha only has half an ear and a little bobbed tail. We think she lost them to the lions who lived in the cage next door to her in NY. All over the compound the bears and big cats shared common walls where they could easily reach through and injure or kill each other.
Big Cat Rescue had gone to NY expecting to bring home four of the tigers, but one had passed away before we got there and no one seemed to know when or how. The other tiger, who was Keisha and Zeus’ mom, was a 20 year old tigress named Kimba. She was in such bad condition that we were not able to save her, but at least she died here in comfort, surrounded by love.
Maybe the worst thing about the entire situation in NY was that it is typical of how big cats are treated in America. You can put an end to that by never paying to see or touch a cub.
The romance didn’t last long. Keisha is just too playful and pounce-y and just scared Zeus half to death so much of the time that we had to separate them. They live close to each other, but have their own space to live in peace.
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.
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