regarding DEW Haven and Yankee Jungle in South Portland on Saturday, August 29th, 2015
Hello Maine supporters of Big Cat Rescue! We are assisting local Maine big cat lovers who are organizing a protest in South Portland next Saturday, August 29th, from 11 am to 2 pm at 8 Cottage Road, South Portland, Maine 04106.
These big cat advocates — lead by Kris Snyder and Karen Coker — will be demonstrating to Maine residents that animal lovers don’t want to see DEW Haven (formerly DEW Animal Kingdom) buy, sell, trade, breed and exhibit big cats and other animals.
As you may be aware, DEW Haven is featured on the program Yankee Jungle, which airs on Animal Planet. The protest will be on the sidewalk outside the office of Lone Wolf Media, producers of Yankee Jungle. Big Cat Rescue joins these animal lovers in seeking to raise awareness about the sad reality of what’s happening at DEW Haven and why the animals should not be further exploited in a television program.
Learn more and sign up to attend the peaceful protest here: https://www.facebook.com/events/570814466392088/
Bring your own signs or just show up. They will have extra signs for your use!
We hope you will add your voice and stand up for the cats and cubs being exploited and used as entertainment at DEW Haven. We are the only voice these animals have!
Feel free to email me any questions you may have. THANK YOU!
Director of Public Relations
Big Cat Rescue
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.
When the phone stops ringing from people trying to abandon their exotic cat, our job will be done. Thanks to all of you who write letters and fund our mission, that day is getting closer and closer to being a reality. Saying “no” is the hardest thing we do here, but our commitment is to a life time of care and we won’t jeopardize that by taking on more big cats than we can safely handle or feed. In just the last few years there have been 16 big cat facilities that have gone under where they had from 10 to 60 big cats at the time. We know that it will cost us about $10,000.00 per big cat, per year to care for them until they die of old age. In most cases people are trying to get rid of last year’s cubs that they cannot use any more. With proper care those cats will live another 20 years.
People often ask if it is hard to start a sanctuary and it is not. What is hard is doing it in a way that doesn’t add to the problem. When people found out we had rescued the cats from the fur farms back in 1993 they started calling and asking us to take their lions, tigers and leopards that they had foolishly obtained as pets, when they were cute little cubs, but now did not want.
By 2003 we had to turn away 312 big cats that we did not have the finances to rescue for their 20 year lives. Every other year that number was doubling. We knew that if we couldn’t take them in they would almost always end up in miserable conditions or thrust back into the breeders’ hands to create more animals that would be discarded the following year as they matured.
It was heartbreaking to have to be turning away a big cat almost every day. It made all of the hard work we were doing to care for a big cats seem pointless when the bad guys were increasing the number of suffering cats faster than we could raise money to save them. A bill had stagnated for six years in Congress that would have stopped a lot of the problem, but it is hard to get lawmakers to hear a bill about protecting big cats when there are so many other issues vying for their time. We used every opportunity to inform our volunteers and visitors about the importance of the bill and in Dec. 2003 the Captive Wildlife Safety Act passed.
One Law Saved More Big Cats Than All of Us Combined
The Captive Wild Animal Safety Act made it illegal to sell a big cat, across state lines, as a pet. There were a lot of parameters but the breeders must have seen the hand writing on the wall, and many stopped breeding. The following year, instead of turning away, what we expected to be 500-600 big cats, we “only” had to turn away 110. By 2011 that number dropped to 15 as 10 more states have banned the private possession of big cats and many more are cracking down on an industry that has been largely left to run wild. There have been a couple of spikes in numbers since 2011, but it is usually from “sanctuaries” who rescued their way to bankruptcy, who then became part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Now the number one reason for unwanted big cats is that they are used as pay to play props and as a way to attract the public to zoos, pseudo sanctuaries and con artists who assure the public that the cats have been bred to save the species from extinction. None of these back yard breeders are involved in any real conservation efforts and there are no release programs for big cats because there is no appropriate habitat reserved for them. Cubs are bred, used and then discarded as yearlings to well meaning rescuers who love being able to help a big cat. These same “rescuers” often post pictures of themselves petting the big cats, silently saying to the world, “Do as I say, and not as I do,” while proclaiming, “These animals don’t make good pets.” And so the cycle of abuse continues.
Fewer Big Cats in Peril
A couple years, and a hundred big cats later, these pseudo sanctuaries realize that they can’t rescue their way out. A rescue brings in money up until the day the cat gets to the sanctuary. After that most donors and volunteers are usually looking for the next “feel good” event where they can rescue a big cat. This lack of planning for the long term quickly reaches a tipping point. The animals already rescued begin to go without vet care, regular meals, and their cage space is filled with more and more big cats, often causing injuries and death. Before long the pseudo sanctuary is calling around the country looking for someone to take all of their “rescues” off their hands. But there is no place for them to go.
The state and federal government don’t intercede until the situation is so dire, that public outcry won’t let them ignore it any longer, because they know there is no where for the cats to go, and they don’t want to be perceived as bad guys stepping in and seizing a bunch of charismatic tigers. We have seen abuse and neglect that will turn your stomach in facilities that are currently “in compliance” with all state and federal agencies. Recently Ohio and New York have really cracked down on back yard breeders and have seized big cats. We have assisted in those raids and in placement of the animals they take, but sometimes the cats have to be held in state facilities while the owners drag it out in court.
Just this week we have offered to help take in or place animals from seven exotic owners who were given their last warning in Ohio. We make the offer first to the owners, if we can find them, such as Kenny Hetrick of Tiger Ridge, and then to the authorities, to let them know there is a safe place for every cat they seize. Just last month we offered to take in and help place 27 white tigers, owned by John Cuneo of the Hawthorn Circus. In that case I spoke with his tiger manager who said they currently spend about a quarter of a million dollars a year just on food and vet care for the cats, which is what it would cost us. I told him that Cuneo was made rich off the suffering of these tigers and can afford to provide for them until they die of old age. He had tried to dump them in Ohio, right before Ohio passed their ban, so now he was getting desperate to unload them so he can retire to his mansion in Sarasota. The jury is still out on whether or not he will set up a trust fund for their care and let them come here, or go to a good sanctuary, but I’m not holding my breath.
The number of big cats in peril have been dropping dramatically and others in the sanctuary field have reported similar findings. Two of the most telling are that some sanctuaries are dropping the reference to feline (cat) in their names and are turning their attention to wolves and bears. (A similar bill the the Captive Wild Animal Safety Act is expected to pass soon that will restrict the primate trade, which is sure to decrease the number of monkeys in need of rescue.) Valori Russell, CEO of the American Tiger Rescue said during a recent visit to Big Cat Rescue, “I was getting 50 calls per year from 2004 – 2007. I’ve only had 2 calls by mid 2008 but by the time I returned their call they had all ready placed the cats.”
Scratching Emotion From the List
Big Cat Rescue adheres to a strict Acquisition Policy. It is a set of guidelines we developed to take the emotion out of the decision and use facts. Two key facts for us to consider are: Can we afford to take this cat in and care for him until he dies? The other is: Who is going to clean his cage and deliver his food each day? We have an excellent safety record because we require two years of training and a commitment of at least 8 hours per week for our Keepers to be allowed to care for Leopards, Lions and Tigers. Up until then, they care for the smaller cats of cougars on down.
Of the 62 cats who were abandoned in 2014, we took 9 and offered to take 16 more but there was one issue that kept us from taking those 16 cats; the owners refused to sign an agreement that they wouldn’t just go right back out and buy another one. We aren’t ending the problem if we just allow irresponsible people to dump last year’s baby on us, so they can go out and buy or breed more.
There is a Solution and YOU can be a part of it
There is a solution and we are making that legislative agenda a priority. The ultimate answer is to end the practice of keeping big cats captive and we have been championing a bill before congress during the last two sessions. We hope to have it reintroduced soon and will be asking you to help us take it across the finish line this year. It will ban the private possession of big cats. Owners can keep the cats they have, but cannot buy or breed more. Once this passes, 99% of the abuse will end, because cubs won’t be bred for pay to play sessions and then discarded. Once we have ended the problem at its root we can take on more animals without the need for the contracts because the owners won’t be allowed to continue buying and breeding more big cats for life in cages.
Make sure you hear from us when your voice can help persuade a lawmaker by signing up for our monthly emailed Big Cat Newsletter. Take the pledge to be Circus Free and you will be added to our mail list. Don’t worry, we won’t share your info.