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?”
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.
We have so much to be thankful for; wonderful people like you who help ensure that our big cats stay fed, our AdvoCats all around the world who work for laws to end the abuse of big cats, our Big Cat Rescuers who donate their time to caring for the cats, running the sanctuary and educating our guests, and to live in paradise. This issue is our gift to you!
Holiday Goody Gifts for YOU!
Big Cat Rescue has teamed up with Explore.org who is hosting LIVE STREAMING video of the cats. See tigers playing, swimming, sleeping, and eating. Watch Nikita lioness as she plays and sleeps. Watch adorable funny kittens playing.
FIRST: Go to http://Explore.org/BigCatRescue to see the live streaming videos and use the “Snapshot” feature there to take your own photos of the lions, tigers, and kittens.
EVERY photo submission gets YOUR NAME placed in a drawing for a free t-shirt.
SECOND: Submit your photos to us before midnight on Christmas Eve. The T-Shirt Winner will be announced on Christmas Day. We will pick 30 photos to include in a special edition screensaver that we will give away Christmas Day. Find out how to submit your photos here, where it says, Win A FREE Big Cat Rescue T-Shirthttp://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-december-2015/
Video Updates Since the Last Mews Letter
Bobcat Release Site Needed in Highlands County FL
State law requires that bobcats be released back to the same county where they were picked up for rehab. Rain and Dancer came from Highlands County, so we need a release site that is in excess of 40 acres (the more land the better) where the owner will give us written permission to release them. If you have land, or know a land baron, please email Cat@BigCatRescue.org and let us know.
Can’t Get Enough of the Big Cats?
Now you can watch them LIVE on explore.org/bigcatrescue Check out each of the webcams below:
Windsong Memorial Cat Hospital
AdvoCats Come in All Sizes
Our AdvoCats come in all ages, from all over the US and the world. Eleven year-old Alexander P. proves that anyone who cares about big cats can make a difference. For the past two years Alexander has supported Big Cat Rescue through our Buy a Brick program by collecting donations rather than gifts for his birthday. This school year, he and his fellow classmate are organizing a school fundraiser to sponsor one of our very own bobcats in honor of their school mascot.
Just this week, Alexander’s family surprised him with an early Christmas gift – a trip from Maryland to our sanctuary in Tampa, FL! During his visit Alexander learned more about the issues of private ownership and about our federal bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Wanting to voice his support for big cats, Alexander plans on visiting the Capital next year to meet with legislators and tell them just how important this bill is to him. Thank you for all that you do for the cats, Alexander!
Alex is an energetic and playful tiger who greets everyone with a hearty chuff. He loves lounging in his swimming pool and gets really excited about enrichment. Enrichment includes special food treats like turkeys or bones that they do not get every day, paper mache animals with treats inside, interesting scents from perfumes and spices. Providing these types of enrichment to the cats makes their lives in captivity more tolerable. In the wild a tiger like Alex would roam several miles a day, so being confined to a 2,000 square foot enclosure can be quite boring. His keepers are diligent in providing not only Alex, but all of the cats enrichment each day.
In 1996, the year Alex the tiger was born, a big cat collector by the name of Catherine Twiss, who was convicted on 73 counts of cruelty, ended up with her 86 lions, tigers and bears selling at bankruptcy auction. Twiss had changed names and had fled from Indiana, to Arkansas, to Texas and finally to Mississippi. In each case Twiss would partner with some local who wanted a zoo or collection, but she would soon be thrown out for the wretched conditions in which she kept the animals. For example, an adult cougar was confined to a feces filled oil drum with barely enough room to turn around. (USDA standards only require the cage be big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around)
As cubs continued to be born for fundraising purposes, like the photo ops mentioned above, the adults were crammed into tighter and tighter quarters. Lions and tigers were kept in small, urine soaked muddy cages with putrid buckets of drinking water. Many of her cats bore facial scars from fighting for their lives in these unnatural groupings of animals that are hard wired to be solitary.
The Twiss cats were dispersed to animal facilities, including Cougar Haven in Mississippi. Fast forward to 2008 and Cougar Haven’s owner took the last of the funds in the bank, bought a topless bar and left a dozen lions, tigers and ligers behind to die. By the time Big Cat Rescue heard about it, only three big cats were still alive and we rescued all of them. Alex is one of those abandoned tigers.
Tribute to Alex Tiger
What was I going to do now? The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources had told me they were going to seize Tony the tiger from the Tiger Truck Stop because the cat was held there illegally. I had flown out to Baton Rouge, and driven up to Grosse Tete to assess what our rescue team would need in the way of vehicle, transport and capture tools. It was 2009 and it had been illegal to keep a tiger in Iberville Parish since 1993, but the state had just passed a ban in 2008 and was now beginning to enforce it against those who had not willingly complied. Michael Sandlin, who had family ties in government, was quickly able to thwart the rescue attempt by obtaining an injunction. I didn’t know at the time that it would mean years of litigation against the owner of the truck stop, or that we would hire the first attorney to ever represent a tiger in court, (David Nance) but I did know that it meant I was done in Louisiana for the moment.
I had intended to ride back to Tampa with our rescue team, who was on standby, just waiting for my call. Now I was in this backwater town without a ticket home. As I was deciding what to do next, I got an email from Doll Stanley from In Defense of Animals. She was begging for help for the last three surviving big cats at Cougar Ridge, in Mississippi. Turns out the owner had left town with the last of the sanctuary’s funds to open a topless bar. The power had been turned off and the cats only got water or food when she could make the long trip. Of the 12 cats left behind to die, only three remained alive, Freckles the liger and 2 tigers named Cookie and Alex.
I know how slowly our courts work, so I figured it would be a while before Louisiana would be able to overturn the injunction on Tony the tiger, so I told Doll I’d drive over that day. By the time I got there, it was getting dark. I thought I must have the wrong address, because I was driving along a dirt ridge, that was in a densely populated neighborhood. When I came to the address, it was obvious that the house had been left unattended for a long time. There was a six foot, wooden fence around the property, which looked to be about a half acre.
I opened the gate, and thought instantly that maybe I shouldn’t have. I had no idea what lay on the other side of the fence. I only had the expectation that there would be some very hungry 500 pound carnivores somewhere inside. At that instant there was a loud bang to my left. I jumped out of my skin, and strained against the darkening sky to see what it was. Cookie Tiger had leapt against the chain link wall of her cage and had her paws over the top of her fence. It was clear that with just the slightest effort she could scale the fence, so I backed out quickly and latched the gate. I called the rescue team at Big Cat Rescue and told them we needed to find a larger transport trailer than what we owned, three rolling wagons, and sedation equipment because this was going to be a difficult mission.
I called around and located a transport trailer, the semi to haul it and a crew of two who would join our crew of four. I went into town, found something to eat, and slept fitfully, as I knew the next day would be perilous. From the short cage walls, to the hungry big cats, to the fact that there was a long, 45 degree angle slope down to where some of the cages were. The slope was pure mud and I had no idea how we would manage to roll the cats and heavy wagons up to the dirt road where the trailer and tractor would have to park. I kept replaying the glance I got of the scene, before Cookie backed me out of the yard, to try and recall every detail.
As daylight broke and we all converged on the scene, Doll Stanley told us that Cookie Tiger wouldn’t come over the fence; although she admitted that the tiger had done so before when a school group had visited. Not exactly comforting.
We had the tranquilization and shot guns prepped and ready as we entered the fenced arena to ascertain which cages were empty and which ones still contained live cats. Cookie would not be ignored, and neither would Alex. The former owner had encouraged the cats to leap against the fence, apparently to impress guests, so they were leaping and shaking the rickety walls, but after the initial shock wore off, I could tell the tigers were just playing. They were so happy that help had come and it felt good to know that these cats would never suffer again.
Cookie had bounded into the first transport wagon. We pushed, pulled and slid in the mud trying to get her to the top of the hill. We would move up 10 feet, and slide backwards 5, but eventually got her to the top of the ridge and into the trailer.
Freckles Liger was not a happy cat and she wasn’t playing. Her owner had shown up to help load the cats, and much to our horror had gone in the cage with the liger and shoved her into the transport, when she was cautiously checking it out. Not ready to have a big cat kill someone on our watch, we asked him to not go in Alex’s cage. Turns out he wouldn’t have any way, as Alex was much younger and friskier, and had been taught the bad habit of trying to jump anyone who came near.
Alex was also the smartest of the three, and he was not going into a small box. He had just watched the last of his two yard mates be trapped and skidded up the muddy incline and out of view. He knew things were bad where he was, but feared they would be worse beyond the fence. Night was falling by the time we finally gave in and darted him.
When we travel to other states we have to make arrangements with vets who are licensed in those states because, our vets cannot practice medicine in a foreign state, and cannot bring in the sedation drugs that are controlled by the DEA. Usually the facility we are dealing with has burned every vet in a six county radius so finding a vet who has any big cat experience, and who will come spend a day at a dangerous capture site, and who will order the right drugs, in the right strengths and quantities, is a very hard person to find. We had found one, but he didn’t have enough drugs and had to go round up more. It was stressful day, culminating in a long road trip back from Mississippi to Tampa, Florida.
I’ll never forget Cottondale Florida because that’s where the borrowed semi broke down. Being stranded anywhere is a pain, but being stranded in no-where-ville, with two tigers and a liger, who are just sick of traveling, is the kind of thing that makes you rethink your vocation. As the big cats voiced their frustration with sitting still, in the parking lot of the cheap motel, I had to keep telling those who passed by that there was nothing to see. The last thing we needed was for this to become a three ring circus.
Naturally, the parts needed to repair the old truck were not to be found in Cottondale and we were told it would be days. I began the search for a substitute rig to bring us the rest of the way home. My mother really was right when she said, “You can fix anything, if you throw enough money at it.” Half a day later we were enroute again, but it was dark when we rolled through the big iron gates at Big Cat Rescue. We decided to leave the cats in the trailer until dawn rather than try to deal with them in the dark. It was cool out, so we fed and watered them again before grabbing a few hours of sleep.
Last on, first off is how it goes in a big rig full of cats, so Alex was first. His roar as we opened the door just about sent us scrambling. He was full on TIGER and the only thing still cute about him was his face. Alex’s stripes and big eyes were a mask of what looked to be perpetual surprise and delight. You couldn’t help but smile when you looked at him, because he looked happy, even when he wasn’t. The fog was thick that morning as we rolled him off the trailer and out to his new home.
By the next day Alex was over it and was happy with the endless supply of food and adoration. He loved the pool and spent a lot of time in it. He was 12 years old and a youngster compared to most of our cats. Everyone loved him. They loved his antics, his exuberance over enrichment, and how he delighted in operant conditioning. The first thing we had to teach him was to NOT leap up at the fence at people, but channeled that into standing up for a treat on a stick. For the next 7 years Alex would bask in the warmth of our love and we were blessed to have him.
Even after losing both Freckles and Cookie, guests still learned their story because Alex was a favorite on the tours. His story, and theirs, was told and retold to the tens of thousands of visitors who met him over those seven years. In 2015 Alex Tiger was 19 and was starting to chew as if his mouth hurt. We had a dental specialist join our own vets to remove several rotting teeth in October. Diagnostics showed his kidneys to be failing and a shadow of something around his heart. Without a sonogram machine, we couldn’t aspirate the mass, without the fear of hitting his heart. We decided to fix what we could and see how he did.
The same day we did the same thing for TJ Tiger. Immediately after the dental surgery TJ was back to his happy, crazy self; chasing golf carts and hamming it up for anyone who would talk to him. Alex was healing more slowly, but seemed to be coming around. About a month after the surgery, Alex started declining rapidly and stopped eating for two days. We had seen drainage from his chin, so we wanted to be sure that there wasn’t anything we could clean up or fix up that might get him back on the road to recovery.
Nov 16, 2015 we sedated him again, and check the drainage and his mouth. All of that was healing nicely. There were a few small teeth that we had to skip the first time, due to the time constraints for having him under anesthesia. Those were removed, diagnostics were run again, he was given copious amounts of fluids and he was quickly returned to the transport to wake up. Except that he didn’t…not fully anyway.
Thus began a 48 hour vigil of trying to get him to at least sit up or roll over.
Going back a little…On Oct. 19, 2015 Alex Tiger had three bad canines removed. Because of significant periodontal disease they had to be extracted instead of a root canal. TJ Tiger had root canals done the same day. Dr. Wade Gingerich and technicians, Jennifer Dupre-Welsh and Denise Rollings, of the Pet Dental Center joined our own vets, Dr. Liz Wynn and Dr. Justin Boorstein to do the surgeries back to back. TJ recovered, and rebounded immediately and now has new spring in his step. Alex began to recover, but then seemed to relapse this past week. He stopped eating, so we knew we had to do something.
On Nov. 16, 2015 Dr. Wynn and Dr. Boorstein examined him again. The sites where his teeth were removed was mostly healed. They were flushed out and sutured closed. The draining tract in his chin was also cleaned up and sutured mostly closed leaving a small hole for drainage. His blood work was rechecked and his kidney values have increased significantly which could be the cause of him not being interested in food. His meds were changed and we rolled him back out to his enclosure at about 10PM.
The next day Big Cat Rescuers spent all day trying to wake him up. He was still in the transport because he couldn’t stand up yet. He was virtually non responsive and we feared the worst. At least we knew that we had done everything for him, that we possibly could have done for a 19 year old tiger. If we had to euthanize him now, it would be with a clear conscience that there was nothing more we could do. And then a miracle happened…
As I was walking out to check on him, one more time at the close of day, I thought to myself that at least his nearby companions had something to sing about. In a duet, that I’ve never heard before, Amanda Tiger and Joseph Lion, who live near Alex, were roaring back and forth. It was haunting and yet exhilarating to hear the power in their calls. My heart was so heavy over Alex, but their song was comforting. Amanda was in the cage closest to Alex and when I arrived she saw me and stopped her song. I looked to Alex and saw him struggle to upright himself, for the first time since being sedated the day before. It was as if he had been enjoying the melody and wanted to see why it had stopped.
Overjoyed I ran to him to help rock him into a sternal (upright) position. I texted the photo of him sitting up to our vet team who were equally elated. They gave him more fluids, to help flush out his kidneys.
Despite the encouragement we felt from Amanda calling Alex to sit up with his front legs, he wasn’t using his back legs at all and it was starting to rain, so we rolled him back to the Windsong Cat Hospital where we could bring him in under the canopy. The next morning he ate about 20% of a meal, had some water, but then began failing. We thought that maybe rolling him back out to his enclosure would encourage him to stand, but it didn’t.
We used a ratcheting strap, passed under his waist, and pulled him up so that his back feet could be positioned under him, but the toes just knuckled backwards. He had no strength to stand, even with us supporting all of his weight. Despite all that we were doing to move his legs and paws into position, he seemed pretty much unresponsive. We drove him back to the hospital and asked Dr. Justin Boorstein to come see Alex. By then the lab work we had sent out had returned and it showed Alex’s kidneys to be in the final stage of failure.
Jamie and I agonized over the decision for hours before Dr. Justin arrived. We had been so happy about his progress and just couldn’t believe he could be taking such a turn for the worse. As we discussed it with the vets, it appears that the fluids we gave him, made him feel better temporarily, but there was no way Alex was going to let us give him sub q fluids every day and even if he did, we were only prolonging the inevitable. Nothing we could do was going to make him better and none of us wanted to see him suffer.
We made the hard decision to help him pass over to the other side. It seemed like he was stranded between two worlds for a couple of days now, and he seemed ready…even if we were not. We did a necropsy afterwards, which showed the kidneys to be in very bad shape. The mass by the heart was the size of a tangerine and was removed and sent off for testing. There was a blackish red pus in the huge arteries that supplied the mass that will be tested as well. In retrospect we know we did the right thing, but it’s always a hard decision to make.
Now Alex is with Cookie, and Freckles, and all of the others like him who were bred to be used as profitable cubs, and then relegated into back yard cages. We will make sure that his story never dies and will work diligently to stop the abuse. Please honor Alex by contacting your member of congress and ask them to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act. That’s HR 3546 in the House and the Senate version will be introduced soon.
Big Cat Bailout
Our federal government allows the private sector to trade in big cats, but when times get tough and the owners can’t feed the cats, who eat 15 lb of meat a day, it isn’t the government bailing them out. When you hear the term, “too big to fail” they aren’t talking about 500 lb cats and too many of them, but maybe they should be. All over America there are back yard cages, full of starving lions, tigers and leopards.
How did they get there?
Little to no oversight allows just about anyone to breed and discard big cats. They are only profitable as cubs when they are used for photo ops, petting sessions and stupid pet tricks. Places that advertise you can have your picture made with a lion or tiger will help you feel good about something you know is wrong by telling you that you are helping save the tigers by doing so.
Where do the big cats go?
Once they are a few months old they are too hard to handle and are discarded to unwitting pet owners, shot in canned hunts, cut up for their parts or relegated to tiny back yard, or “off exhibit” cages. Because of the lack of oversight and no requirement to report the death or disposal of these endangered species, they quietly disappear.
A few lucky ones end up at Big Cat Rescue. In December 2008 when the airwaves were all a-chatter about the government bailouts, Big Cat Rescue was bailing out a failed sanctuary formerly known as Cougar Haven. Driving away from the abandoned house, with its row upon row of now empty cages, ended a chapter in the 12 year history of David Mallory’s dream to be a big cat rescuer. Once lauded as a hero and now disgraced as a quitter, Mallory’s story is repeated frequently across the nation. It happens so often; that it barely makes the news any more and that alone is noteworthy.
In 1996 a big cat collector by the name of Catherine Gordon Twiss, who was convicted on 73 counts of cruelty, ended up with her 86 lions, tigers and bears selling at bankruptcy auction. Twiss had changed names and had fled from Indiana, to Arkansas, to Texas and finally to Mississippi. In each case Twiss would partner with some local who wanted a zoo or collection, but she would soon be thrown out for the wretched conditions in which she kept the animals. For example, an adult cougar was confined to a feces filled oil drum with barely enough room to turn around. (USDA standards only require the cage be big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around) As cubs continued to be born for fundraising purposes, like the photo ops mentioned above, the adults were crammed into tighter and tighter quarters. Lions and tigers were kept in small, urine soaked muddy cages with putrid buckets of drinking water. Many of her cats bore facial scars from fighting for their lives in these unnatural groupings of animals that are hard wired to be solitary. In Defense of Animals tried to help rescue some of the cats and, with the help of Mallory and a generous benefactor named Dr. Jim Cook, set up Cougar Haven in the backyard of a house at 39 Dobbs Road in Gore Springs, MS.
At its peak Cougar Haven was home to 38 big cats but there was never much local support for the sanctuary. It was seen as an eccentric’s private collection as a tunnel was built through the house so that guests could sit in the living room and watch cougars pace through. The open topped chain link cages were less than 8 feet high and as you can see in the photo, the cats could nearly reach the top. The owner reported that there had been escapes and people had been chased by loose tigers. Mallory was in the lumber business and things were good during the housing boom, but when that came to a screeching halt in 2007 conditions for the cats began to worsen. When the benefactor Dr. Cook died, his wife Rhonda cut off all income to the rescue and things really got bad.
The food was cut to just the cheapest chicken cuts and just often enough to keep them alive. The vet could no longer be employed. Cats began to die. By 2008 there were only 14 cats left and they were dying fast. One cougar bled for 12 days with no medical attention before suffering a cruel death. Mallory bought a topless bar 70 miles away and moved to be near it, leaving the remaining dozen big cats unsupervised most of the time. With no locks on the perimeter fence, neighborhood children could walk right in and stick their arms into the cages of lions and tigers. He quit paying Rita Montgomery, the cats’ caretaker, in May but she loved the cats too much to just walk away and leave them to die. Sometimes Mallory would send food, but when he didn’t, Montgomery did her best to scavenge what she could for the cats.
Rita called Doll Stanley who put out a desperate plea to Vernon Weir of the American Sanctuary Association in search of someone who could rescue these remaining cats. (The Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries had ignored the call for help.) ASA member Tammy Quist, contacted Lynn Cuny of the Association of Sanctuaries (now called the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) and Lynn rescued the two lions in October of 2008. By the time Big Cat Rescue heard about the situation all but three of the remaining cats had died. Nine had passed away in just the past year. The last cats to remain were Freckles a 15 year old liger, Cookie a 14 year old tigress and Alex a 12 year old tiger. Freckles had a hole in her jaw that had gone untreated for a long time. It is not known if this is an abscess or cancer. All of her canine teeth were broken off from chewing at the chain link of her enclosure. Now, at Big Cat Rescue, she is finally getting the vet care she had been denied. They may not have much time left, but their last days will be their best days ever.
Big Cat Rescuers drove all night, through a fog as thick as pea soup, and arrived at Cougar Haven the morning of Dec. 18th. Scott Lope, Cathy Neumann, Chris Poole and Carole Baskin met up with Don & Rita Montgomery to assess the layout and prepare for the move. The cats’ vet, Dr. Abernathy, donated his services to issue the health certificates and to bring the tranquilization drugs in case the cats could not be coaxed into the transport cages. The transport team, Mike and Jamie, drove the Humane Train owned by Animal Sanctuary of the United States and arrived around 4 PM. Doll Stanley and Eric Phelps from In Defense of Animals came to see the cats off to their new home. Doll provided these photos and commiserated that, “People think that when they call a rescue group we can somehow just wave a magic wand and fix the problem.”
With only an hour to work before dark the team quickly secured the transport to the first gate and tried to coax Alex in with a piece of meat. He was hungry and within minutes had leaped into the cage to grab the meat, but when he spun to leave he leaped up and hit his head on the top of the wagon. Between hitting his head and the noise of trying to shut the transport door, which had jammed, Alex freaked out and ran from the cage. We would try again later, but you only get one chance to trap a cat. They learn quick and starving or not, they don’t want to be confined to a small area.
We moved the transport over to the front door housing Freckles the liger. The flimsy dog kennel styled door on her cage was barely containing her as mudslides had washed away a hole at the bottom large enough for her to stick her head under to try and bite the feet of anyone walking by. She had just watched Alex and was wary of the situation, but in true cat style seemed to believe she too could grab the meat and get out of there. To paraphrase Ginger Rogers, Freckles implied “If Alex can do it, I can do it backwards and in heels.” Unseen to Big Cat Rescuers, David Mallory entered Freckles cage from the rear and as she was considering her big move, he nudged her forward and we shut the door. We know that entering a cage with a big cat is just an accident waiting to happen. People get away with it for years and then one day they get killed. We were horrified by Mallory’s reckless action but this was his yard and his rules.
We turned our attention in the waning light to secure Cookie the tigress. The transport had been rolled almost into place when Mallory opened the door of her cage and body blocked the charging tigress. I nearly dropped the camera as Mallory was now the only thing between an adult tiger and all of us. He moved aside and then pushed Cookie the last few inches into the transport. You can believe that door was shut quickly as it was now the only thing separating Cookie from the 12 human course dinner that she could have had. We stood there in stunned silence, shocked at the stupidity and thankful that the cat had not chosen to take advantage of it. By the time her transport was rolled up the hill to stand in line next to Freckles it was nearly dark and we still had to load Alex.
Several fruitless attempts were made to coax Alex into the wagon. We knew that there was very little chance of succeeding, but we had to try. Cats often respond very badly to sedation. It can kill them and it builds up in their system, taxing their kidneys, and is a big contributor to why zoo cats often only live half as long as our cats do. Most of our medical care can be done using operant conditioning, where the cat will let us draw blood or give shots while getting treats. This takes a lot more time and patience, but pays off in longer, healthier lives.
Another distressing factor was that the cages were deep with mud and pools of bone chillingly cold water. If Alex dropped in the water he could drown before we could get to him. There was a section of the cage in the back that was drier than the rest, so Alex was solicited into this area and then sedated. The challenge to this smaller area was that we could not get the transport anywhere near the door and if the door was opened and Alex wasn’t completely asleep he would be in immediate contact with all of us. Unlike the shows you watch on TV it takes about 20 minutes for a big cat to pass out and they frequently come to rather unexpectedly. In this half dazed state they are even more dangerous because they lash out even when it is their nature to be easy going.
Shaking in the cold, the flash lights were the only illumination. We couldn’t see our own hands in front of our faces. Scenes flashed through my head of headlines that read, “Dozen Die in Big Cat Killing Spree” or “Tiger Flees Rescue and Attacks Kids at Bus Stop.” I kept trying to picture all three living their new life at Big Cat Rescue, but the scary headlines kept whizzing through as well. Then, as now, I am angry that there is even an opportunity for such awful consequences. If our government would take responsibility, as the U.K. has done, and ban the private possession of big cats, we wouldn’t be risking our lives and others while bailing out failed facilities.
Once we were certain that Alex was sleeping we loaded him onto a human stretcher and carried him around the back and side of the enclosures to the front yard where we slid him into the transport wagon. When we first arrived we thought that rolling the transports up the slimy slope to the road where the Humane Train was parked would be the hard part. After what we had just gone through that was the easy part.
The cages were all rolled up into the modified car carrier and plywood was placed between them for privacy. Before hitting the road we had to wait for Alex to wake up enough to know that he wasn’t going to die from the drugs. The vet forgot to bring the reversal agent and it was 2 hours before he was able to return to his clinic and back. We cannot legally transport these drugs across state lines so we are dependant upon local vets to help. The reversal worked and Alex was awake enough to travel by 9PM. Not only was he awake, but he was mad. Really mad. The madder he got, the more he scared Cookie and Freckles with the sound of his roars of displeasure. It was so sad to see big cats experiencing fear. These animals are at the top of the food chain and should never have to experience a single day of human induced fear.
Seeing us off, Rita said, “I will miss them, but I am so happy they will finally go someplace where they will get the care they need!” A truck pulled up along side us as we were closing the doors and said that he would miss their morning roars but that his wife, who had spent days in the hospital after being bitten by one of the cats, probably wasn’t going to miss them. We report on big cat attacks that make the news, but there is no way to know how many such maulings go unreported in the press.
The crew decided to forego sleep and drive straight through the night back to Big Cat Rescue. Mike and Jamie drove the Humane Train carrying the cats and Big Cat Rescuers followed in two cars. We made good time until we pulled off for gas in Cottendale, FL (near Marianna) where the Humane Train broke down. Prepared for the worse, Jamie and Mike hired a wrecker, at four in the morning, to tow the trailer to a motel where the generators kept the cats comfortable. They had the truck towed to the nearest Ford dealer. Knowing that the dealer wouldn’t even be open until much later in the morning we opted to get a little shuteye so we could hit the road as soon as the truck was repaired.
Coaxing the mechanics off their butts turned out to be harder than coaxing the three big cats into boxes. It was their last day of work before Christmas. By noon we gave up and began looking for a truck that could pull a 40 foot goose neck trailer. In a town that only has 881 residents, there aren’t a lot of options. We were pulling away from our last chance, a gas station that had a couple of unventilated box trucks to rent, when we were chased down by the owner with an afterthought. Turned out the proprietor had just remembered the name of a man in nearby Marianna who hauled horses that might be able to help. We had called horse haulers from Tampa to Gainesville and one of our Green level Keepers, Susan Mitchell was already enroute from Tampa, but that would add seven hours to the cats’ time on the road, so we looked up Greg Scott and plead for help.
Much to our amazement Mr. Scott was on the scene within an hour and we quickly hooked up the trailer and were back on the road. By the time we reached Tampa it was dark again. It just wasn’t worth the risk to life and limb to try and unload the cats in the dark given that our entire crew had been awake for two days straight with only the cat nap in Cottendale. We all got some sleep so that we would be fresh for the move from trailer to Cat-a-tats at the first light of dawn. Scott slept on a picnic bench in the parking lot so that he could listen for any trouble in the trailer. I guess after being kept in a box in the middle of a wild pride of lions, in Lion Feeding Frenzy on Discovery channel, Scott is sensitive to what it is like to feel trapped and surrounded by unknown wild animals.
The unloading went about the same as the loading, but without the crazy aspect of someone risking everyone’s lives by coming into contact with a big cat. Dr. Wynn, our vet, and Jarrod took off from work to come out early and help us unload. Freckles, the liger, was first off and couldn’t wait to step out into her big new enclosure. She settled down behind a log to watch her friends as they were wheeled in.
Cookie was next and she chuffed nervously the entire wagon ride from the parking lot to “tiger row.” She immediately took to her new surroundings and has been right at home from the first minute off the truck. Her neighbor, India the circus tiger, chuffed her welcome to Cookie. Of the group Cookie was the first to start eating, the first to start hanging out with keepers as they cleaned and has proven to have a wonderful disposition.
Alex was still mad and was determined to rip his way out of the transport wagon if we dared come near him. That wasn’t a possibility but he could break off teeth in the process and we decided the only way to keep him from inflicting severe injury to himself would be to sedate him for the move. It would give our vet, Dr. Liz Wynn, a chance to see if he had done any harm to himself during the move. We wheeled the transport and sleeping tiger up to the gate but had to lift him into his new home. He surprised us all by raising his head during the move but we tossed a blanket over his head and he quickly fell back into slumber. We took the opportunity to give him IV fluids and a physical exam before reversing the sedation. He woke up quickly and sauntered over to his new den.
Alex and Freckles spent their first few days evaluating their new home from the safety of their big rock caves. Their dens are larger than a lot of cages that lions and tigers live their entire lives in elsewhere. From this dark, cool spot they can watch both ends of their enclosures. By the third day Alex was hanging half in and half out of the den to watch everything around him. He would chuff as keepers came up to talk to him, but wasn’t quite ready to expose his entire body. Alex and Freckles would only come out at dinner and after dark at first, but each day gave them a little more assurance. The tour routes have been roped off so that they are only dealing with a few keepers in the area. We won’t expose them to tours until they are happy being around people.
Cookie would have been ready to meet her adoring fans that day, but since she is living right next to Alex and Freckles, she will have to wait. All three are adjusting to their new and improved diets and have had the experience of getting whole prey for possibly the first time in their lives. The whole rats and rabbits are fed dead, but the new “wrappers” are as much fun as the new food is nutritious and tasty. Thursday mornings are always the hardest days to clean as the prey fur is plucked and scattered all over 40 acres here. Many of us are card carrying “bunny huggers” too so it is hard to witness the aftermath of whole prey night, but the benefit to the cats is worth the damage to our psyches.
Rescuing Freckles, Alex and Cookie gives us and our supporters the instant gratification of knowing that we saved lives. It gives our lives meaning to know that we spend our time and resources so that cats like these can experience compassion for once in their lives. It makes our hearts well up with pride, but it is just a small drop in the bucket. In 2008 we had to turn away 85 big cats and there are so few decent sanctuaries out there who can take big cats that we know most of them ended up dying or in horrible, overcrowded conditions where they will be allowed to “accidentally” breed more and more cubs. Pseudo sanctuaries almost always have cubs to use as photo props or pay to play schemes, and yet they ask you to believe that they were the result of “accidental” matings year after year after year.
The people who make money from cubs and full grown big cats want to dump them when they are no longer useful and just keep breeding and abusing. We do not accept animals from places that are just continuing to breed, sell, trade and exploit big cats. Many places do, because they rely on the new rescues to keep donations coming in. If the breeders and dealers were shut down, there would be no big cats to rescue and thus no reason for them to exist. Very few sanctuaries are trying to end the problem at its source and will say that they don’t like to get involved in politics or that they cannot because they are a non profit but that just isn’t true. Laws to end the trade in big cats are the most effective means to end the suffering.
With just food, medicine and cage maintenance costing $5000/year per big cat, if these cats live to age 20 the total cost will be $95,000! Your support is critical to each of our cats, but it also goes a long way in helping us solve the problem of so many discarded big cats. Even people who cannot afford to donate much in the way of money can still be a huge part of the solution by educating others. By telling others about the plight of captive big cats, writing your lawmakers, and sending letters to the editor when you read about big cats in the news you are saving thousands of big cats from being born into lives of confinement and deprivation. Our goal is a world where all big cats live free and with your help we can do it.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.