You remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, don’t you? It was a crazy, popular way to raise awareness about Lou Gherig’s Disease, that started in 2014 and has already raised more than 100,000 million dollars for ALS research. Just yesterday Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—and challenged Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to do the same. A full year later this form of public activism is still grabbing headlines.
What if the cats had such a successful campaign to raise awareness about the suffering they endure for tiger selfies, lion selfies and liger selfies?
You KNOW we could end the pay to play schemes, once and for all, if everyone knew that posing with tiger cubs was Cruel NOT Cool!
The Tiger Selfie Challenge is a lot easier than the Ice Bucket Challenge. (Cats wouldn’t want any part of dumping ice water on anyone) All you have to do is buy the .99 cent Tiger Selfie App, snap some selfies, pick from an array of tiger photos in the app and post it to social sites. The image you post tells your viewers why posing with real cubs is so cruel. You aren’t asking your friends to donate huge sums of money; just to buy the app and share their own tiger selfie images to raise awareness.
The app developer has committed to donating half of the money to tiger sanctuaries to make sure the tigers have safe places to go once the world figures out that they should never support any organization that allows cub handling.
The big cats need YOUR help in promoting the Tiger Selfie Challenge. If Cecil the Lion touched your heart, then the Tiger Selfie Challenge is something you can do, right now, to end the abuse. LionAid reports that 99% of the lions shot as trophies in S. Africa were born in cages. The cubs are pimped out there, just like is done at tiger breeding mills in the U.S., and then when they get too big to use for the pay to play schemes they are turned out into a fenced area to be shot by trophy hunters.
The lions, tigers and ligers that are born in the U.S. tiger mills just disappear off the radar each year. It is suspected that they end up being killed for their skins, bones, and teeth as well, but it is a network of criminals who operate with very little over sight.
YOU can end the abuse by taking the Tiger Selfie Challenge today and sharing it with everyone you know. People love to share photos of themselves and the tiger overlays in the app make an image that they will want to share.
Think how easy it will be to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Act this year if everyone in Congress has heard of, and maybe even taken, the Tiger Selfie Challenge! This is an easy and fun action that you can take, right now, to make a difference!
Be sure to use the hashtag #TigerSelfie so we can see your power in reaching the masses with this educational app.
Sorry, this is only available on iPhone, but visit TigerSelfieApp.com to let the developer know that you want it for Android.
Below is an example of how your tiger selfie can look. In social streams, such as Facebook and Instagram the graphic changes from your image to the tiger cub handling message automatically, but on a web page you would have to click the play symbol.
Have fun and save big cats at the same time. The Tiger Selfie app has been updated to be both fun and educational.
Be sure to use the hashtag #TigerSelfie so we can see your power in reaching the masses with this educational app. Sorry, this isn’t available on Android yet.
Find out how this app came about:
I didn’t know what to say to him.
I thought it was one of those genius ideas, that could create a viral cyber storm of education to end the one thing that causes more big cat abuse than anything else. I wanted him to know that his spark of brilliance was appreciated, and yet, I knew I would have to tell him that we couldn’t be associated with it. I would have to explain that we couldn’t profit from it, nor promote it, because it would make us look bad. That was even harder for me to say, because I was pretty sure he would hear it from every legitimate big cat protection group. It was unfathomable to me that we might collectively crush his innovation when it had such huge potential.
Let’s go back a couple of days.
On May 27, 2015 Chris wrote to Big Cat Rescue:
My name is Chris Wilson. I created an iOS app called Tiger Selfie. It allows you to take a picture (live or from your camera roll) and place a tiger on it. Actually, as many tigers as you want. Different types and combinations. And then you can save it to your camera roll or tweet it, text it, or email it. You can learn more about it at www.tigerselfieapp.com or view it on the App Store at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tiger-selfie/id951750724.
When I initially started showing it to people, many people said I should charge for it and donate some of the profit to Tiger Sanctuaries. I didn’t realize there were so many tigers in need of rescue, so it was an eye opener to do some research. I was immediately in love with the idea and am now working on getting the word out. Your facility appears to be one of the best ones, so I thought I’d reach out to see if you’d be interested in some cross-promotion.
What I’m thinking is that you could drive downloads (and thus donations) by pushing Tiger Selfie via social media. I see that you have a very strong presence on Facebook. Also, a banner on your website could also be effective.
Is this something you’d be willing to discuss? I would be happy to get on the phone with someone in your organization to work out the details of a partnership.
Please just let me know. And thank you for what you’re doing. Regards, Chris Wilson Austin, TX
My Staff Hated The Idea
I brought it up at the next weekly staff meeting and most of the staff hated the idea. They said it sent the wrong message and that our enemies (tiger cub pimps) would use it against us. They made valid points about the problem with viewers seeing the images and that driving them to want to go pay to play with real cubs, to post images of themselves with real tigers. I was vastly out numbered, but couldn’t quit thinking about the potential this app had. I decided to write the letter, declining his offer, but hoped to do so in a way that Chris would see that he was really onto something here.
So I wrote to Chris Wilson:
Thanks for considering Big Cat Rescue with your tiger selfie app. It has caused quite an uproar here because it is such a controversial approach to educating people about why it is so wrong to pose with wild animals.
I appreciated your app description saying that the app was for the purpose of “impressing your shallow friends.” I think that could be made stronger, and thus more palatable, to those of us who see cub handling and the number one cause of big cat abuse, if it were to read:
Posing with big cats or their cubs is the leading cause of abuse and never serves any conservation value. Use this app to educate your shallow friends who might think the real thing is cool.
I think your idea is VERY clever and helps reach an audience who might not understand how abusive it is to take cubs from their mothers and use them as photo props, only to be discarded as adults. I am also impressed by your technical ability in the creation of the product. I tried it out and it was easy to use and appeared to be easy to share, although I didn’t because I haven’t quite figured out how to do so in a way that doesn’t alienate those who do understand what a cruel thing it is to pose with captive wild animals.
If you follow us, you know the bad guys, the ones who breed and exploit big cat cubs, are always trying to twist things against us. While we know they are being deceitful, there are still a lot of uneducated people out there who might not understand that the use of your tiger selfie app is akin to CGI in movies. It is meant to replace the use of wild animals, not stimulate demand for more wild animals in entertainment.
We would not want to be a beneficiary of the app monetarily because that would just fuel the liars who would say we sold out our principles for monetary gain. We would like to see that money spent on saving wild cats in the wild, but you run into the same issue there, I think. WWF or Panthera, who are the leaders in that area, would probably have the same concerns we have in lending our name to something that makes us look bad, even though the ultimate goal is to stop the use of real cubs.
If your tiger selfie app takes on a life of its own and becomes hugely popular, then you don’t need us, and you can do amazing things to educate people about why your app is a much better solution to image enhancement than hurting cubs and conservation.
I do think you have tremendous potential for getting the word out this way though, so I’m still wrestling with it. At the very least I’d like to write an article about your app, to our existing supporters, explaining this dilemma we have with the idea, to get a feel for what impact it might have. The side benefit is that anyone reading the article may be curious about your app and may see the benefit to recommending it as an alternative.
If that sounds good to you, I’ll write up the article and let you approve it before it goes live. For the cats, Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
Chris Called Me About the Letter
I had written Chris again, suggesting that maybe the app could have a link to a page about why it is so abusive to pet cubs and he called me. He launched into the call with a solution that was even more amazing than the app. He said that he could turn each Tiger Selfie image into an animated gif. (At first I pictured dancing cubs, and thought to myself that this conversation was going to be harder than I expected, if he thought THAT was the answer.)
Before I had the chance to interrupt, he continued saying that he could make the tiger selfie photo appear briefly, but then it would dissolve into the key message we wanted to get across.
The Purr-fect Solution!
If the tiger selfie image automatically turned into the educational message there was no way this app could be mis-used or mis-interpreted! The tiger (or other exotic cat) photos could be derived from sanctuary cats in order to make sure that no money inadvertently ends up in the hands of those who rent out their cats for photo shoots. Everyone who used the app would learn the truth about how cruel it is to pose with wild animals for selfies AND would turn them into advocates (we call them AdvoCats) for change. I can’t think of anything that has more potential to reach more of our target audience than the Tiger Selfie App.
The ad campaign possibilities are endless. The Tiger Selfie App allows you to share immediately to your email, Twitter and Instagram and you can save to your camera roll for posting to Facebook and other sites. Billboards, using imagery that can be created in the app, with just the link to TigerSelfieApp.com are bound to make people wonder what that is about, and learn something when they check it out. Online photo ads, print ads, and television ads that have the inviting images (for those who need to be educated) and a simple link. Chris Wilson deserves recognition by the animal protection community for taking a simple and trendy idea and turning it into a method that may well save the tiger.
That may sound grandiose, but we can’t save tigers in the wild until we end the captive trade in them, that creates the legal smokescreen for illegal poaching. The Tiger Selfie App has that potential.
On August 11, 2015 the app was updated to reflect the new animated gif message. Get your Tiger Selfie App now, and start sharing Tiger Selfies to save tigers: http://www.tigerselfieapp.com
Be sure to use the hashtag #TigerSelfie so we can see your power in reaching the masses with this educational app.
Tell us what you think of using tiger selfies that don’t use live cats and that includes a message about the evils of cub handling in the comments below:
I have a theory. I can’t prove it, but it feels right to me. Tell me in the comments if it makes sense to you, or what you believe.
I believe that we all are part of one universal consciousness that is becoming enlightened through this dance of perceived time, space and sense of individuality. I think we sign up for our lot in life before we ever arrive on this stage, with the intent of playing our role toward the end goal of nirvana. Maybe it is just a coping mechanism, meant to protect me from utter despair, which fosters hope that Cecil signed up for his heroic role too.
Centuries of humans destroying the planet and everything that is beautiful and magnificent, to pursue personal wealth and status, has brought on the sixth mass extinction, with lives being extinguished at rates that are 10,000 times the norm. The mounting evidence, of the destruction being caused, hasn’t been enough to make the masses stop and take notice, but Cecil did.
When Cecil the lion was lured from a protected area, onto private land to be brutally shot with a bow and arrow, caused to suffer for 40 hours as he ran for his life, only to be gunned down by a rich American, so that his head and skin could be stolen as a trophy; it was an act so egregious that just about everyone was outraged.
For days his plight made every media outlet even though animal abuse is rarely discussed in mainstream media, for fear of offending industries who profit from animal suffering by being massive advertisers.
Social media first broke the news of Cecil’s torture and slaying, and the public outcry was so enormous that mainstream media couldn’t ignore it. Jane Velez-Mitchell from CNN passionately spoke about how we have finally reached a tipping point in our attitudes toward animal protection at the Animal Rights Conference 2015 in Washington, DC on August 1.
“The evolution revolution is a process; not an event and we are headlong into that process.” said Jane Velez-Mitchell
I’ve been busy providing interviews to CNN, ABC and Fox, as well as a number of newspaper reporters and documentarians, but in between educating them about the nature of lions and their plight, I’ve been trying to look at this from the 30,000 foot level. What is it about Cecil’s story that so moved everyone? What made this lion different from the hundreds of thousands of lions who have been massacred since the 1940’s when there were estimated to be 450,000 of them in the wild?
I can’t help but think about how many of us first learned to read by following the heroes in comic books like Batman. We grew up loving the storyline of a hero bringing the evil villain to justice, for his crime against a sympathetic victim. All we had to do was shine that bat symbol on the night time sky (expose the issue) and we knew that justice would soon be served. From what I’ve seen, most people want their part in Cecil’s justice to be that they easily sign their name to a petition and lions will be protected. That’s a start…but it’s only a start.
Thanks to Cecil we are all shining the light on the issue. But here’s the mind bending part. We are all Batman. We are all the victim. We might all be the villain as well. That’s the part I can’t quite wrap my head around. Do some of us sign up before we enter this life to be evil incarnate, just to cause the massive mind shift that is necessary to become our better selves? Or are we all on a path, to realising that we are really all ONE, and those that we perceive as evil aren’t really a part of the collective soul, but rather are a projection we make to fool ourselves into action? Sort of like the endangered species that were projected onto the Empire State Building on August first 2015. The images were to make us think about what we are doing.
Some things we don’t know and can’t know; but there are some things that we do know.
We do know that most people (96% of Americans) care about protecting animals from cruelty and that every year that number grows as the older generations, and their outdated beliefs die out.
We do know that now vegetarians outnumber hunters. A 2011 poll showed that 13 million Americans are hunters and that has been a dying sport. Hunt clubs have been desperately trying enlist children under the age of 16 and battered women, in an effort to bolster their numbers. A 2014 poll revealed that there are 15 million Americans who proclaim to be vegetarians 100% of the time and 50 million who say they are vegetarians 50% of the time. 400-500 million fewer animals were eaten in the past few years as a result, despite climbing human populations.
But why isn’t the outrage as strong yet, against those who perpetuate the exploitation of cubs, as it was against the dentist who poached Cecil the lion this summer? Cecil had the benefit of being raised by his own mother and living free for 13 years. Lion, tiger, liger and leopard cubs who are bred and pimped out by outfits like the GW Zoo, Kevin Antle’s TIGERS, Dade City’s Wild Things and others never had the benefit of being raised by their mothers or living wild and free.
Maybe the difference is that their ultimate plight is hidden from view? Being shot with an arrow and then with a gun are a pretty gruesome way to die, but the public isn’t privy to the suffering, neglect and disposal of captive cubs when they grow up. They quietly disappear behind closed gates and doors.
Maybe it is because we didn’t know their name? T.S. Elliott famously opined that regardless of the names we may give a cat…
“But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover –
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”
I don’t know why we have been so slow as a people, to protect lion and tiger cubs, but I think, if we did, we could end the practice of keeping wild cats in cages. I may not know if Cecil signed up for this awakening, but I do know that he made a difference, and YOU can too.
The World Wildlife Fund just launched a campaign to restrict and regulate the trade in tigers called “Tigers Among U.S.” It updates the information gathered for their “Paper Tigers” report from 2008 with data collected by Big Cat Rescue and other International Tiger Coalition partners. It is clear that the virtually unregulated trade in captive bred tigers in the U.S. provides a legal cover for illegal activities that are causing the wild tiger to disappear at a rate of one tiger per day, with less than 3,200 tigers left in the wild as of 2015.
The reason tigers are so openly bred and traded in the U.S. is because according to an online poll that asks, “Did you know that having your picture made with a cub will result in that cat living a miserable life in a tiny cage, or that he may end up being killed for his bones, skin and meat?” 54% of the respondents said they were unaware of the abuse that such an activity inflicts. Back in the 1980’s the US Fish & Wildlife Service experienced so many applications for permits to breed tigers for circus acts, roadside zoos and sales that they did not have the manpower nor funding to process all of the permits. In what turns out to be the worst decision ever made for tigers, they decided to create a loophole called “generic tigers” so that they would not have to deal with the paperwork and deemed that any tiger that was not purebred, and thus of no value to real conservation, could be bred without a permit.
The charlatans who were already breeding tigers in captivity now had virtually no oversight on their activities and could purposely inbreed tigers in order to fill the public’s demand to see white tigers. The public’s demand for seeing white tigers and ligers is waning because of Big Cat Rescue’s decade long educational outreach via the Internet about the truth about white tigers. In light of the information being made easily available on Big Cat Rescue’s website, even the American Zoological Association had to crack down publicly on their member zoos that were inbreeding and cross breeding. Now the only places that still breed white tigers are the worst of the worst.
Nowadays the main cause of tigers being bred, used and discarded is because of the public’s demand to touch the wild. The same breeders, dealers and exploiters of tigers are churning out tiger cubs by the hundreds each year, under the guise of conservation, because it is easy to deceive the public into doing something they really want to be able to do with a clear conscience.
The way Big Cat Rescue combats this abhorrent practice is a multi-pronged approach. They only allow visitors to the world’s largest accredited sanctuary that is devoted entirely to cats on guided tours. During the tour the guide educates the guests about how the animals ended up needing rescue and what they can do to end the cause at its root. This method can only reach a small number of people each year though, and the problem in global.
The website gets nearly 3 million visitors per year and is another educational tool that provides the information about what it really means to pet a tiger cub and gives the viewer easy ways to become part of the solution in saving tigers, rather than leading to their demise. The Internet has become the best way to reach the most people with information about why it is wrong to pay to pose with a tiger or pay to see a tiger cub, or pay to swim with a tiger cub or pay to play with baby big cats.
This is how it is done.
Google alerts are a great way to find out what people are talking about right now and join the conversation. Search.Twitter.com is another and there are unlimited ways now to have the information about tiger displays, circus acts and magic acts that exploit tigers, lions and other big cats sent right to your desk. As those alerts from google come in, Big Cat AdvoCats all around the world leap into action.
When some traveling act that uses lions, tigers or other exotic cats posts on a community calendar that they are bringing the big cats to fairs, flea markets, malls, parking lots, festivals and other off site venues that information is acted upon right away. The same goes for any misguided press they receive from reporters who are part of that 54% of people who are ignorant to the abuse, although they could easily change that by just googling the name of the exhibitor, in most cases. Unfortunately, exhibitors change their names frequently to avoid detection.
Big Cat AdvoCats will then call the owner of the venue or the manager of the event and explain to them why bringing a big cat exhibit to their place shows they do not understand about the abuse behind the scenes and why it will offend their patrons who do know better. Almost half of the public does know that big cats belong in the wild and that big cats do not belong in cages, traveling wagons, or other cramped quarters where they are deprived of everything that makes them such magnificent animals who inspire awe and respect. In many cases, once the owner of the venue knows the facts behind the hype the abusers have given them, in order to gain access to their crowds, the owner will cancel the act immediately.
In some cases though, the owner or manager either doesn’t care or doesn’t want to believe that there isn’t some redeeming factor to having big cats at their event. They are either embarrassed to have advertised something they won’t provide, or they don’t believe the public will know why it is such a bad idea to bring big cats out in public. When that is the case, Big Cat Rescuers will reach out to other volunteers and ask them to call, mail or email the venue owner to show them that it isn’t a matter of a personal feud between a real sanctuary and a pseudo sanctuary, but rather is about animal abuse and how allowing these abusers to set up camp in their midst associates all of the evil they are doing to animals with the venue owner.
Sometimes, a few dozen such contacts are still brushed aside, or the venue owner will refuse to speak with Big Cat Rescuers about the situation at all. When that is the case, Big Cat Rescue relies on their huge database of people who care about animals and the online advocacy product CatLaws.com hosted by Salsa which now can be accessed directly from Facebook. The people who have refused to listen or believe the initial callers will be targeted by the alert in such a way that anyone who discovers their affiliation with a person who uses cubs for petting and photo ops will be emailed, phoned or will get written letters by thousands of people who are in that 46% who do know better.
As Facebook and other online social networks increase in popularity it provides yet another way that the educated individuals can reach out to inform those who are still in the dark about big cat abuse. In a recent situation a bar owner had promoted on Facebook that he was having a live, baby tiger cub to be brought to the bar. Within hours he was contacted by Big Cat Rescuers, but did not return calls and emails. The next day his Facebook page was filling up by the minute with thousands of people who were asking him to cancel the display. “My email inbox kept crashing due to the volume of email. I got 55 calls this morning and when some of them even turned out to be my own longtime customers, who said they would be offended by such an act, I decided to cancel the tiger cub.” said the manager.
When a backyard zoo that offers opportunities to pet baby cougars, baby white tigers and swim with tiger cubs recently decided that Facebook wasn’t getting them enough paying customers, they went to PetSmart to drum up some business. They had been run out of a mall just months before for bringing a tiger on a leash that was too big and dangerous, so they acquired four more cubs who were just weeks old to exploit. They managed to kill one within weeks as young cubs were never meant to be ripped from their mothers, bottle raised and handled for hours on end.
When Big Cat Rescuers and their supporters complained to PetSmart, this forward thinking company took immediate action. According to corporate spokesperson Margie Wojciechowski at the Phoenix, AZ headquarters, she confirmed she had just come from a meeting and the company has “reinforced with our managers that no exotic pets are allowed on store premises. There will be no live display of exotic animals for events.”
There has been a tremendous shift taking place now that the world is becoming more interconnected and news is being reported in real time. As more people learn about the abuses behind breeding lions and tigers for lives of deprivation and confinement they will not pay to see cubs who have been bred into this morally corrupt industry. For those who want to have their cake, and eat it too, there is no such recipe for captive tigers. No legitimate facility, be it zoo or sanctuary or rehab center, allows public contact because it never turns out well for the animal and often leads to injury of the public. There are no legitimate breeding facilities for lions, tigers or other big exotic cats for conservation nor return to the wild, despite a lot of money making enterprises who use those phrases to fool the public.
If you love tigers and other wildcats there are lots of things you can do to protect them in the wild because now you are part of that 54% who know that big cats don’t belong in cages.
There are a some lion and tiger cub exploiters still making the rounds at fairs, flea markets, parking lots and malls who are charging the public $10 – $25 to pet a baby lion cub or to play with a baby tiger cub.
USDA regulations should over ride state regulations on this matter, but in Florida the FL Wildlife Commission has set its own standard that may differ a bit, but not much from USDA’s ruling.
Here is what the law says about that:
Cubs should not be handled by the public before the age of 8 weeks because they are not old enough to have had their first kitten vaccination. Cubs need to be vaccinated at 8, 10 & 12 weeks of age to build up an immune response, so it is really irresponsible to allow contact before 12 weeks. USDA cites the prohibition on contact with cubs under the age of 8 weeks in their Big Cat Q & A download.
USDA defines a juvenile big cat as being any cub over the age of 12 weeks and does not suggest public contact with cubs over the age of 12 weeks. Despite the fact that touching cubs between the age of 8 weeks and 12 weeks is potentially deadly to the cub, USDA does currently (2015) allow public contact with cubs over 8 weeks and under 12 weeks of age.
In USDA vs Palazzo the courts ruled, “…it is now manifestly clear that USDA has changed its position, finding there to be “an inherent danger present for both the viewing public and the exhibited animals(s) where there is any chance that the public could come into direct contact with juvenile or adult big cats”…and finding that…”For regulatory purposes, APHIS generally considers big cats to become juveniles when they reach 12 weeks of age. 11 CX 20 goes on to explain that “According to Dr. Gibbens’ testimony, the policy precluding direct public contact with juvenile tigers was in effect in 2004 & was placed on the USDA’s website in 2005.
Florida law only allows contact up to 25 lbs for exotic cats. This works out to roughly the same 12 week limit that USDA has imposed, but Florida law does not protect cubs under that weight limit, despite age.
(a) Public contact and exhibition.
1. General: All Class I, II or III wildlife that will be used for contact with the public shall have been evaluated by the exhibitor to insure compatibility with the uses intended. All wildlife shall be exhibited in a manner that prevents injuries to the public and the wildlife. The exhibitor shall take reasonable sanitary precautions to minimize the possibility of disease or parasite transmission which could adversely affect the health or welfare of citizens or wildlife. When any conditions exists that results in a threat to human safety, or the welfare of the wildlife, the animal(s) shall, at the direction of a Commission officer, be immediately removed from public contact for an interval necessary to correct the unsafe or deficient condition.
2. Class I wildlife shall only be permitted to come into physical contact with the public in accordance with the following:
a. Full contact: For the purpose of this section, full contact is defined as situations in which an exhibitor or employee handler maintains proximate control and supervision, while temporarily
surrendering physical possession or custody of the animal to another.
Full contact with Class I wildlife is authorized only as follows:
I. Class I cats (Felidae only) that weigh not more than twenty-five (25) pounds; https://www.flrules.org/gateway/readFile.asp?sid=0&tid=7515480&type=1&File=68A-6.0023.doc
Further the US Fish & Wildlife Service defines a sanctuary as a facility that does not allow contact between the animals and the public.
Accredited wildlife sanctuary means a facility that cares for live specimens of one or more of the prohibited wildlife species and:
(1) Is approved by the United States Internal Revenue Service as a corporation that is exempt from taxation under § 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, which is described in §§ 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of that code;
(2) Does not commercially trade in prohibited wildlife species, including offspring, parts, and products;
(3) Does not propagate any of the prohibited wildlife species; and
(4) Does not allow any direct contact between the public and the prohibited wildlife species.