Big Cat Rescue’s partnership with Tampa, Florida, schools


Published: April 8, 2009

CITRUS PARK – Your grocery bill might be $250 a day, too, if you towered over a 6-foot-tall man and had paws the size of dinner plates.

Flavio, a 20-year-old retired circus tiger, showed off his bulk last week when he leapt to his hind legs to snag a quarter of chicken that Scott Lope held over his head.

Lope, the operations director at Big Cat Rescue, was feeding the lions and tigers in front of a tour group of Hillsborough County educators who hope to raise money for the cats.

About 40 teachers and administrators visited Big Cat Rescue recently to learn about the nonprofit organization’s mission and how donations would benefit it. They will take the message back to their schools to try to raise $250 per school throughout April, an amount that covers the cost of feeding the lions and tigers for a day.

The local chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, a professional educators association, is coordinating the charity drive.

Bonnie Kirstein, a student intervention specialist and one of the organizers, said many of the children she works with at Davidsen Middle feel frustrated because they see their parents having a hard time economically. Raising money for Big Cat can show them they can still make a difference, she said.

For Big Cat, which cares for 140 exotic felines that have been abused, abandoned or neglected, the effort exposes more students to its mission. Volunteer Denny Mitchell said he enjoys giving children tours, so they can appreciate why the cats should be protected.

“I like to bring kids because it’s a great place to start with the message of conservation,” Mitchell said.

Dana Clements, a third-grade teacher at Westchase Elementary, brought two of her students with her to the tour. They had studied lions and tigers in class and attended a field trip to the 45-acre sanctuary. They experience the animals there in a way they can’t in books or television.

“There’s no fluff,” Clements said. “There’s no cartoon animals.”

Instead, her students learn facts about the dangers of adopting exotic animals at home and disappearing wildlife.

Grayson Leal, 9, said he could see the appeal of smaller cats, such as a bobcat or lynx, but wouldn’t want one.

“They look really cute, but Big Cat Rescue told us that wasn’t the right thing,” Grayson said. “They get too powerful or are mistreated.”

Cameron Wiebe, 8, said it was a cool place for children to learn about wild cats. He discovered a surprise namesake on his trip, too.

“When I saw one of the lions named Cameron?” he said. “I thought that was very interesting.”

Students at the schools that participate in the fundraiser will have a chance to do a podcast with Big Cat Rescue and attend a field trip where they can watch the lions and tigers get fed.

The teacher, principal and area director of the class that raises the most will receive a three-day weekend in a Jaguar and two-night stay in St. Pete Beach, thanks to corporate sponsors.

Kirstein did not yet know how many schools were participating.

Reporter Courtney Cairns Pastor can be reached at (813) 865-1503.


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Animals in Bulgaria zoo shiver without gas heating

Date: 09-Jan-09
Author: Anna Mudeva

SOFIA – About 1,300 animals in a Bulgarian zoo were left without gas to heat their enclosures on Thursday, the latest victims of the Russia-Ukraine supply row.

The zoo in the capital Sofia rushed to switch to electric heaters to keep its elephants, monkeys, parrots, rhinos and hippos warm in the sub-zero temperatures.

“About a third of the animals are vulnerable to cold,” said the zoo’s director Ivan Ivanov said. “Only the Siberian tigers feel comfortable in these temperatures.”

All Russian gas supplies to Europe were halted over a price dispute a day earlier.

Heating was sharply reduced in snow-covered Sofia and hundreds of thousands of people across the Balkans were left in the cold as the impact on the hardest-hit region grew.

Bulgaria and the western Balkans rely almost entirely on Russian gas supplies which are crucial in the winter because utilities use gas to heat homes, offices and factories.

(Reporting by Anna Mudeva)


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Description of model’s attack by lion at 60’s press conference

[NOTE: The description of the attack is bolded about half-way through the story]

Auto Models Rev Up To Sell At Detroit Auto Show

All Things Considered, January 8, 2009 – Car sales are in the tank, and two of the Detroit Three automakers — General Motors Corp. and Chrysler — are teetering on the brink of collapse.

But that won’t stop hundreds of thousands of people from flocking to Detroit this weekend — as they do every year — for the North American International Auto Show.

One group of people getting ready for the big event is the professional auto show models, the women who use their talents — and their looks — to make cars on the display seem much more appealing.

With the evolution of women’s rights, there’s been a natural progression of how women show off the autos, according to Margery Krevsky, who runs Productions Plus talent agency in Michigan and has been selecting and training auto show models for years.

Krevsky also has a new book, Sirens of Chrome, which depicts models vamping across cars since the early 1900s. The book shows women swimming in the bed of a dump truck filled with water, a model dressed as a mermaid on the hood of a Plymouth Barracuda, even BMW model Nell Theobald posing with a 225-pound lion in 1966.

“It was going along very nicely and the lion was a very bad kitty cause he all of a sudden sunk his jaws into her thigh,” Krevsky tells NPR’s Michele Norris. “Fortunately the handlers removed the jaws of the lion from her thigh, and from that moment forward you do not see many wild animals at press conferences anymore.”

When Krevsky entered the business in the mid-1980s, she says, she saw that women could play a bigger role than eye candy.

“Actually I had friends and models that worked for my company that did the auto show and I would go to see them and I would ask them questions about the car, and they would say, ‘Oh, I’m not allowed to talk about the car, but I do know about it,’ ” Krevsky says. “And so I presented to several automotive manufacturers an idea of product specialist — highly trained men and women and people of diversity who could talk about cars and become real gear heads.”

The idea evolved, and now her company has a class called Auto Show 101 that teaches the models what consumers are looking for.

“They give the voice to the car,” Krevsky says. “And these are not the magnates that are running the companies; these are the people that are right there — where the rubber meets with the road — with the American public.”


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Letter on truck stop tiger: Do they really need that tiger?

Do they really need that tiger?
December 23, 2008

Fifteen years ago the lawmakers in Iberville Parish saw fit to pass a law making it illegal — among other things — for someone to exhibit a live tiger at a truck stop. Given that, I am not sure why a judge blocked Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries from removing the tiger.

Tiger Truck Stop has a cafe, a country store and video poker. What proof does the owner have to support his claim that a “… large portion of the business at Tiger Truck Stop comes from customers stopping to view the tiger exhibit …”? How much research has he done to determine the number of potential customers who don’t visit the truck stop because they don’t want to support a business that would use an animal in this manner?

Somehow I can’t imagine the owner would go out of business if the tiger is removed. He seems like a very capable businessman — certainly as capable as the many others who manage to run profitable truck stops without tiger exhibits.

There is a wonderful sanctuary in Florida (Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue: that has offered to provide the “truck stop tiger” a permanent home — one where he’d have a large enclosure with grass he can run on, vegetation he can sleep under and a pool he can lounge in if he wants to.

I pray Iberville Parish and the courts uphold the law that’s been on the books since 1993. It’s the legal thing to do — and in the tiger’s best interest.

Patricia Massard


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Judge issues order in tiger case – Louisiana

Advocate Westside bureau
Published: Dec 16, 2008 – UPDATED: 11:23 a.m.

PLAQUEMINE – A district court judge signed a temporary restraining order today that blocks state wildlife officials from seizing a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger from a Gross Tete truck stop pending a hearing Dec. 29.

The ruling by 18th Judicial District Judge J. Robin Free was in response to a lawsuit that Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin filed against the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Iberville Parish officials.

State wildlife officials had given Sandlin a deadline of today to move “Tony” from his cage at the Gross Tete truck stop.

The temporary restraining order means Sandlin will be able to keep the tiger at the truck stop until a hearing Dec. 29 on Sandlin’s request for a permanent injunction.

Sandlin is trying to buy time to get changes made to an Iberville Parish ordinance on exotic animals, which would allow him to keep the tiger.

“A large portion of the business at Tiger Truck Stop comes from customers stopping to view the tiger exhibit,” his suit states.

“Mr. Sandlin will suffer irreparable harm if he is required to relocate his tiger according to the Dec. 16, 2008 deadline,” the suit states. “If he is forced to relocate the tiger or if the tiger is seized then he will most likely be prevented from bringing it back to the State of Louisiana.”

Sandlin has long been under fire from animal welfare advocates who say the tiger does not belong in a barred cage with a concrete floor and cement block “den” as a roadside attraction.

Sky Williamson, an animal rights advocate who has campaigned to move the tiger, said she is disappointed Sandlin filed the suit.

“It makes me sad to see that Tony will remain at the truck stop through the holidays, when he could be in a humane sanctuary and, for once in his life, be taken care of properly,” Williamson said.

Sandlin’s attorney, Joseph B. Dupont Jr., had asked state wildlife officials to extend the Dec. 16 deadline for removing the tiger. The request was rejected in a letter dated Monday.

Sandlin plans to ask the Iberville Parish Council to amend a 1993 ordinance that prevents him from getting a state permit needed to keep the tiger, Dupont said.

The 1993 parish law prohibits an individual from keeping any “wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes.”

The local rule went unnoticed until Sandlin tried to apply for the state permit. The permit requires him to comply with all local ordinances and regulations.

“It is clearly impossible for Mr. Sandlin to comply with Wildlife and Fisheries regulations &hellip as written,” the lawsuit states.

It says further that Sandlin has exhibited tigers at the truck stop for 20 years without escapes or injuries to humans.

Dupont said Sandlin should be “grandfathered” out of the 1993 parish ordinance dealing with exotic animals.


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