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NY: Advocates buy some animals at animal park auction

Zoo-bound Boom Boom will stay in touch
Web cam planned as Catskill Game Farm rhinos land homes; claims rejected that hunters bid on animals

By DAN HIGGINS, Staff writer

First published: Friday, October 20, 2006

CATSKILL — Boom Boom the white rhino won’t be stamping and snuffling on the plains of Texas, after all.

The 35-year-old rhinoceros from the Catskill Game Farm was purchased for $11,000 by a consortium of buyers and will be placed in a zoo by ecko unltd. Ecko, one of the groups that put up money for Boom Boom, is a clothing company founded by artist Mark Ecko that supports a group called the International Rhino Fund.

Jon Gerszberg, a veterinarian representing ecko, said his company was glad to find a home for Boom Boom, even though they lost him to another bidder at Wednesday’s auction. They succeeded in purchasing Jack, another male rhino, Wednesday for $8,500.

“We know these animals are beloved and we want to assure people that they are both going to be taken care of,” Gerszberg said.

He said his company hopes to find sanctuaries for the animals in the next several weeks. He also said ecko wants to set up a Web cam on each rhino so that Capital Region residents can keep tabs on the animals through the Internet.

Catskill Game Farm auctioned off about 1,000 of its animals Wednesday, from iguanas to pigeons to the 2-ton white rhinos. The game farm closed for good earlier this month after 73 years in business.

The man who originally purchased Boom Boom for $5,500 agreed to sell the rhino to ecko unltd. for $11,000, Gerszberg said.

But the buyer, and his original intentions for the rhinoceros, remained unidentified Wednesday. Animal welfare activists claimed he was a trophy hunter who is involved with canned hunts, where hunters pay big money for the privilege of shooting at fenced-in big game.

Kathie Schulz, the Catskill Game Farm’s owner, said none of the approximately 200 bidders was a hunter or person who otherwise planned to have the animals killed or harmed.

“I’ve been in this business a long time and I did not recognize anyone as a hunter or unscrupulous dealer. I know people worry, but I’m confident,” she said.

Still, Schulz admitted there were people bidding Wednesday, including the man from Texas who originally bought Boom Boom, whom she had never seen before.

And television footage from Wednesday’s event clearly showed a van belonging to a taxidermist at the auction.

State DEC officials said that they checked licenses of potential bidders to prevent them from being purchased as pets, but they could not stop anyone from legally transporting an animal to another state, where things like canned shoots are legal.

On Wednesday, a group called the Coalition for Catskill Game Farm Animals issued a news release announcing it purchased a number of animals that otherwise would have wound up in the hands of trophy hunters and taxidermists. They used donated money to purchase two African porcupines, four Vervet monkeys, a wart hog and European boar, among others.

The identities of the bidders remained confidential, so there was no way to confirm their claims.

The animals have already begun to be removed from the game farm property. Those that weren’t for sale, including some cougars and camels, will remain at the Catskill Game Farm under Schulz’s care.

Higgins can be reached at 454-5523 or by e-mail at dhiggins@timesunion.com.

http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=527242&category= REGIONOTHER&BCCode=LOCAL&newsdate=10/20/2006