DOB 6/17/97 Armani arrived at Big Cat Rescue with her sister, Jade. Armani, being the gorgeous leopard that she is, has done commercials for Venus Swimwear and has also appeared in a fashion photo for Glamour Magazine and for People Magazine.
Armani knows that to change a man you must change his perception of himself. There was a time when we thought we were reaching more people by taking her out in public. We perceived our actions as being educational because we spoke about the plight of the cats. Armani showed us that our perception of our role, and hers were very wrong. We no longer take our cats out in public or out on leashes for any purpose.
No matter what we say about these animals not making good pets, if we make them look like pets, people will want to own them as pets. The photo at right is of Armani in her old cage before the laws changed requiring a roof.
When a lens luxated due to old age it became very irritated and had to be dealt with right away. Dr. Miller, Dr. Wynn and Dr. Boorstein all came in to the Windsong Memorial Hospital to see if the eye could be saved. Stay tuned.
What do you do when a lion needs a vet?
Call in a team of experts for a lion size house call.
Keepers reported that Joseph the lion wasn’t eating and was wobbling when he walked.
It was a Sunday afternoon and there is no place nearby that we could take a lion for X-rays.
Dr. Justin Boorstein and his friend, Dr. Tim Jones sedated Joseph lion to draw blood and do a physical exam.
Jamie’s home made, lion size gas mask enabled the transition from drugs to gas.
Interns held the Y-stick on Joseph, in case he woke suddenly and pumped fluids into Joseph as he slept.
Dr. Justin Boorstein listened to the lion’s breathing and heart beat as Dr. Tim Jones kept an eye on the anesthesia.
Every intern had their job, from protecting the vets to logging each drug, each change in vitals and giving fluids.
That is a lion size heart monitoring cuff!
Dr. Fay Herrero, from Odessa Equine Clinic brought out his portable X-ray machine to make sure there were no broken bones.
Dr. Fay Herrero had been making house calls all day for horses, but this way probably his only lion call of the day.
The portable X-ray was not powerful enough to penetrate Joseph’s abdomen.
We tried to find a vet with a portable sonogram machine, as well, but had no such luck.
Dr. Justin, Cody and Michael lift Joseph so the X-ray pad can be positioned under the sleeping lion.
Dr. Fay Herrero will be on speed dial until our own X-ray machine is up and running.
Despite all of the diagnostics, we still do not know what is causing Joseph to feel bad.
Hopefully his blood work, which usually takes a few days, will let us know how to proceed.
When Dr. Herrero left he said, “You have an wonderful group of people here!”
A Lion Pride of a Different Stripe
It took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt (aka Cziraky) and her Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords, Donnalynn and Christian Laver were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats who had been used for years as props in Diana McCourt’s “tiger training” scheme.
By the end of the ordeal eye witnesses said that the cats were starving and they still have inadequate shelter from the elements.
Even though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she still continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers.
The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats.
To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. (Joseph still has his canine teeth) Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.
Most cases that 6 years or more to prosecute so animals suffer most or all of their lives waiting for help to arrive. The only way to put an end to the suffering is to end the private possession of big cats and eliminate the USDA loophole that allows people to keep big cats if they have a $40 USDA license. It is too easy to get and too hard to lose to provide any sort of enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.
In May of 2007 Diana McCourt emailed Carole Baskin asking if she could move her operation to Tampa and bring her cats to Big Cat Rescue. Our response was that her cats were welcome here but her brand of animal abuse was not. By August McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions. Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats increases our annual budget by $45,000.00.
When Sarabi, our lioness died, her half acre enclosure was opened up so that Nikita our only other lioness could have the run of both half acre enclosures. This large enclosure has an open roof and is only suitable for lions because they don’t climb, or very old, declawed tigers, who would be unable to climb. Taking on two lions, age 9 and 13, who have a 20 year life expectancy means a cost of $15,000.00 annually and $150,000.00 in the long run. Lions often end up in canned hunts, especially males who are coveted as wall trophies, so we felt certain our donors would help us rescue these two cats. Our board convened and agreed that the lions would be rescued as soon as we could make travel arrangements for them.
Calling with the good news, that at least the lions would be spared, we were told by the landlord, who has been caring for the cats since evicting Diana McCourt, that the male tiger, Nikita, would be heartbroken that his best friend in the world, Joseph the lion, would be leaving. As the conversation unfolded it appears that for the last 13 years, two tigers and two lions have shared a cage. (Joseph only coming along in the past 9 yrs) Instead of being elated for the lions, we now felt sick that they would be separated from the only pride (albeit tigers) they had ever known. And thinking about how they would feel, of course, led to thinking about how the tigers left behind would feel.
We appealed to our supporters, asking if they would be willing to help us rescue all four cats who have lived together and the response was an overwhelming, “YES!”
On Oct. 19th Big Cat Rescue’s President Jamie Veronica, VP Cathy Neumann, Operations Manager Scott Lope and Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM flew to Columbus, OH to rendezvous with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) staff and a driver and vet tech from the Animal Sanctuary of the United States (ASUS) at the Columbus Zoo at 6 am on the morning of the 20th. From there the entourage drove an hour to the Gambier, OH facility and met with the property owner and the Knox County Animal Control Officer, Rich Reed who had been granted possession of the six cats.
Within just a few hours all of the cats were safely loaded and on the way to Florida where they arrived at 6 am the morning of the 21st. While the weary drivers slept, the Big Cat Rescue team unloaded Nikita, Simba, Sasha and Joseph into their new enclosure, which is a little more than half an acre of lakeside living with high grass, cave like dens and hills from which they can survey their new kingdom.
We let you know that the rescue would cost us $34,000.00* and 294 of you responded. As of 11/16/07 $29,435.00 has been raised to save these four cats. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue the last two cats and IFAW paid to transport all six cats to their final destinations. That saved us $4,000.00! We are now only $565.00 short of what this rescue will cost us in the first year. Thank you everyone who has helped so far! If you haven’t helped yet, keep in mind that your donations are tax deductible and that these cats rely entirely on your generosity.
Come along with Carole Baskin using Google Glass while catching a bobcat, caring for an elderly tiger, shaving a bobcat, watching staff building the “Bobcat Tower of Terror,” talking with Simba Leopard on vacation, catching and sending Sabre Leopard out on his first vacation, checking in on the feisty little Cypress bobcat, a sneak peek at Genie the sandcat, Joseph lion taking a long, cool drink and more: http://bigcatrescue.org/cat-chat-45/
Sabre was 3 years old when he arrived at Big Cat Rescue on 7/20/95. Though he was only supposed to be here temporarily, his former owner moved and left no forwarding address.
This could have been another sad ending as most are in the exotic pet world. Luckily, we had taken Sabre in and he will have a home here for life. He is very playful and fun loving and always has a mischievous look on his face. He loves to act very silly, running about his cat-a-tat and jumping on top of his mountain den.
Sabre, like many of our cats, has been relocated to new cat-a-tats a few times. The change of scenery and new neighbors to interact with provide another form of enrichment for our big cats. Sabre has enjoyed the time he has spent among other cougars, tigers, leopards and bobcats. The only thing Sabre probably hasn’t enjoyed is his recent neutering. But now he is back to his old energetic self loving his new location.
Sabre the Black Leopard Tumor Removal
Sabre the black leopard is 22 years old, which is about 10 years longer than most leopards live, but a tumor has begun to grow under his chin and could make it hard for him to swallow, so the difficult decision is made to remove the mass surgically. The surgery could kill him, but the mass could too. This is graphic surgery video so don’t watch if you have a weak constitution.
Appx. DOB 1/1/2009
Rescued on 5/5/2013
Ginger is approximately four years old and was bottle raised from a kitten. She did not have a name, so in keeping with the Gilligan’s Island theme she was named Ginger. Ginger was kept in a cage about 9′ x 12′. On one side of her two cougars were housed and on the other was an empty cage about half the size of hers.
That empty cage housed another serval who died a few months before the rescue. Sadly the serval had become wedged in between the door panels and died. It is unknown how the serval died. The dead serval was left in the cage for weeks before it was removed and dumped in an open pit just a few feet from the cage.
Ginger was the first cat at the Kansas property to be captured. She was netted by Big Cat Rescuers so volunteer veterinarian Dr. Justin and the Kansas City Zoo veterinarian could examine her. Despite living next door to two large intimidating cats, witnessing the death of her serval neighbor, and living in complete filth, Ginger was surprisingly calm during her capture and exam, and quickly adapted to her new found comforts at Big Cat Rescue.
Since he is one of the first black leopards you see at the sanctuary, Jumanji is used to quite a bit of attention. Most days, he can be found in the shadiest part of his cat-a-tat lounging on his fern-covered tree log. It is very easy to see how well black leopards camouflage themselves in the jungle since most people walk right by without noticing him there. People magazine certainly noticed Jumanji though. His photo was featured in an article written about Big Cat Rescue.
Jumanji is also known as quite the superstar achiever in our Operant Conditioning Program. He learns very quickly and always wants to please, especially when treats are involved. If the keeper is not quick enough with the reward, Jumanji will offer other behaviors to see if maybe the keeper wants something else. He makes it easy to capture and reward other behaviors, which he will then subsequently remember. The adage that leopards have the longest memories truly applies to Jumanji.
Jumanji was born here back before we learned that no privately held exotic cats serve any sort of conservation purpose. Back then, in the pre-Internet era of the 90’s, the only people we could turn to for advice were breeders and dealers who lied to us about the necessity of breeding exotic cats to save them. As soon as we learned better we stopped breeding and began campaigning to end the abuse of breeding wild cats for life in cages.
On 2/3/09 Panther International pledged to donate $20,000 to Jumanji’s life time care.
February 15, 2016 – Jumanji is sedated for treatment. http://bigcatrescue.org/jumanji-leopard-and-bongo-serval-surgeries/ Jumanji had dental surgery, as well as had the mass on his forehead removed. The mass was sent to lab for testing. It appears as though Jumanji got a stick stuck across the roof of his mouth causing two of his molars to go bad as well as neighboring molars. So now he does not have any upper molars and cannot chew. He will be on a soft food diet forever. His food must be cut up in pieces small enough to just swallow. He will recover in the concrete hospital cage for five days before returning to his enclosure. This will help keep his stitches clean. Also found during his exam was significant spondylosis, arthritis, in his spine. He will be on pain medications for the next week to see how it helps.
A woman in NY was battling cancer, her sister had run off leaving her with her three children ages 6-17 and her home was in foreclosure…. She also had five servals living in her basement!
She would never be able to rent an apartment to keep her five servals and was left no choice but to try and find them a new home. After careful consideration we decided that we were able to rescue the 5 servals and immediately went into action. All the servals currently at the sanctuary live alone which they prefer as they’re solitary by nature, so in order to house 5 servals in one enclosure we had to get creative. We joined two existing enclosures together which made one huge 3000 sq ft space that the servals could roam around in and enjoy.
On top of joining the enclosures together, we added platforms, den boxes, hideaway areas and we were told they had a waterfall as kittens and loved it, so we also added a pool! We received the import permits, loaded the van with carriers and equipment then started on the long drive to New York while others finished preparing the enclosure.
We arrived in Cohoes New York, just north of Albany to a typical residential neighborhood, the 5 servals had been kept in the basement of the house which had been converted into a living room and except for a few escapes over the years including an incident where one of the owners was bit and in hospital for a week, they’d never spent any time outside. There were 4 males, Santino, Doodles, Zoul and Zimba and 1 female Zouletta, all 5 had been declawed and were between the ages of 12 and 14 years.
All the servals except for Doodles are related and had been purchased from a pet store in Latham NY, Doodles was added to the serval pack at a later date and ironically belonged to a man in Florida who’s wife told him to choose between her and the cat!
It was a kind of a bizarre and an uneasy experience to walk into the basement area and see the 5 servals hanging out in front of the fire, by the TV and on top of the hot tub! It is hard to imagine that these cats spent much time out of their concrete floored cell because the furniture and hot tub cover were not chewed and these five love to chew! But most of all it was just sad to see these 5 wild cats in such cramped unnatural conditions. The owners obviously loved the cats and had planned on them being a part of their life, they’d constructed a caged area with a drain in the floor so they could clean more easily and shut them off into the area when they had company or weren’t in the house. The cats weren’t living in filthy conditions, it was obvious they’d been fed as they all looked overweight, the owners recounted stories of them playing on pool tables and with their air hockey game, but it didn’t change the fact that their ignorance had led to the cats living on concrete in these dungeon like settings for over a decade….
Of course life has lots of surprises and circumstances change and the owners are now unable to afford or house the servals any longer…
So the rescue began…
With the help of the owners we managed to get four of the five servals into the carriers quite easily, but Doodles wasn’t impressed with these strangers invading his territory and wouldn’t go into the carrier even after we tried using food to lure him in, so he had to be netted.
Sedating cats is always the last resort, certain cats can react badly to the drugs, so we never do this unless it’s absolutely necessary…
With all 5 servals safely loaded into the BCR van and the last tearful goodbyes said, we began our long drive back to Tampa, we drove straight through the night and over 20 hours later arrived back at the sanctuary!
More staff members were waiting to help unload the cats, we weighed all the servals on the way to their new enclosure, they weighed between 31 and 42lbs, ideally they should have weighed between 20 and 30lbs.
We lined the carriers up and prepared them so we could simply unlatch the doors when we were out of the enclosure. Santino, easily recognizable with his old injury of a broken ear was the first to emerge from the carriers and explore. One by one the other servals finally began to follow his lead and introduced themselves to the outside world and their new home.
The only way we can continue to rescue cats in need like Santino, Doodles, Zimba, Zoul and Zouletta is through your support. Stay tuned for future updates on all 6 servals and how they’re adapting to life at Big Cat Rescue. You can help us change the way people treat big cats by donating at the top right of the page.
These are a few of the photos from the rescue of five servals who had been kept in a NY basement for more than 12 years.
Doodles enjoyed 5 years of living outdoors in the shade of oak trees with lots of ferns and butterflies to entertain his hunter spirit. Doodles the Serval survived emergency surgery 7/13/16 to remove a mass that had left him unable to move. He had shown no signs of being ill, and then last night he laid down and just would not move, no matter how much he didn’t want us near him. Dr. Justin Boorstein removed the mass, but it was attached to an artery, so his prognosis was not good. Doodles is 17, which is the average age our servals live to be, and is 5 years older than they usually live elsewhere. We had to see if removing the mass would give him a few more years, but unfortunately this is the end. He passed on this morning. Thanks for all the kind thoughts and prayers.