“We applaud USDA for taking this first step to put roadside zoos and the public on notice that federal law prohibits using infant cubs for photographic opportunities and interactive experiences,” said Anna Frostic, senior attorney for wildlife & animal research at The Humane Society of the United States, “but it is imperative that the agency take additional action to prohibit public contact with big cats, bears and nonhuman primates of any age.”
As documented in the petition, dozens of facilities across the country routinely breed and acquire exotic feline species – all of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act – to produce an ample supply of cubs for profit. “Both animals and people are put in harm’s way when big cats are used for public contact exhibition – young cubs are particularly susceptible to disease, especially when deprived of necessary maternal care, and cubs quickly grow into dangerous predators that can cause serious injury to adults and children,” said Jeff Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
In contrast to zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, “there are thousands of big cats in private menageries in the U.S., and these facilities do not have the resources or expertise to safely and responsibly care for dangerous wild animals,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society. Conservation professionals agree that endangered and threatened species like tigers, lions, and apes should not be bred for commercial purposes.
“The insatiable demand for cubs and baby primates used at interactive exhibits fuels a vicious cycle of breeding and exploitation. It is standard in this horrific industry to separate babies from their mothers, and then discard them when they grow too big for handling,” explained Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA.
The mass propagation of tigers in the U.S. has resulted in a captive population that is nearly twice the number of tigers that exist in the wild. “Cubs used for petting, if they survive, typically spend many years living in substandard facilities and the few who are lucky enough to eventually end up at good sanctuaries typically arrive with medical issues caused by deficient care,” said Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue.
In addition to these animal welfare, public safety and conservation concerns, “the surplus of exotic animals in roadside zoos and other substandard facilities puts an enormous financial burden on the accredited sanctuaries that provide lifetime care for abandoned and seized animals,” according to Michael Markarian, president of The Fund for Animals.
Investigations have revealed that using tiger cubs for photo ops and play sessions can yield over $20,000 per month for a roadside zoo, fueling demand for more and more cubs – but once the cats mature, their future is uncertain. “There is just not enough space or resources at accredited sanctuaries to support the demand created by this irresponsible breeding,” said Kellie Heckman, executive director of Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Further, “the fate of captive tigers in the U.S. has serious implications for the conservation of tigers in the wild,” said Leigh Henry, senior policy advisor for Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund, “strengthened regulation of U.S. captive tigers will help ensure that captive-bred tiger parts don’t enter the black market and stimulate the demand that drives the poaching of wild tigers.”
While there is still much more work to be done to fully address the coalition’s petition to completely prohibit public contact with big cats, bears and nonhuman primates of any age, this is a significant step forward for the U.S. to improve its oversight of captive tigers and lead by example to encourage other countries, like China, to reduce the demand for tigers and tiger products.
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.
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.
There are four whole months before the big day. Plenty of time to organise something.
Start by sharing this newsletter with your family and friends.
Then have a glance at our suggestions below. Any event will do. Big march or small Fun Run. Up to you.
Reflections on the march
A Triumph for Animal Welfare.
The success of the global march exceeded all expectations. A synchronised march in 62 cities around the world was simply unprecedented. With little or no help from the lamestream media, thousands turned out in support. The numbers were all the more remarkable because the whole organisation rose up from grassroots, with no chain of command. The real enjoyment of the day by marchers is captured in Hein Ungerer’s video of the Cape Town march.
There were too many heroes to name here. All the organisers – hundreds of them – were heroes. The Auckland marchers who braved the cyclone to march. Dr. Ambrosini, the respected IFP MP, who left his sick bed, suffering from Stage 4 lung cancer, to stand on the steps of Parliament toreceive the Memo of Protest from the Cape Town marchers on behalf of Parliament. Global White Lion Trust and Vier Pfoten (Four Paws). The Norwegian girl who went in to the forest and set up a shrine for lions, candle and all, because she could not find anyone to march with her.
Every one of the marchers who gave up their time and made the effort to come out, in all kinds of weather, to support the lions of South Africa. We salute your passion and commitment.
Take a look at the photos and march reports on the organisers’ page of our website. Just be inspired by the passion and commitment of so many people all around the world – all marching for our lions.
Send protest emails to all conservation structures in SA. We’ve listed them all for you in thisGlobal March page.
On the same page you’ll see the Message to Marchers and other info that you can copy and paste in to your protest emails.
Make your voice heard.
Forget Press Conferences and the lamestream media. They made themselves irrelevant. We have the Internet. The power to inform millions at the touch of a button is unprecedented in human history and we must learn to use it effectively.
Tweets,Tweetdeck,Tweetstorms etc – how important it was to have social media experts assisting us to get our message out. Neytiri and the other social media gurus like Monica Gilbert added a whole new dimension to the event.
Interestingly, the marches generated intense interest from TV and radio. On the day I must have given a dozen TV and radio interviews.
But take note: the media only took an interest after the events had created their own newsworthiness. It was the spectacle of the march that hooked the media; not the serious message that inspired the march.
The way forward
1. The media belatedly came to the party, but the lesson learned is clearly that it is the Internet, not the Press, that will bring the sordid canned hunting industry to an end. Just as the hunting industry lobbyists pump out a stream of propaganda to whitewash the hunting fraternity’s squalid activities, so we need to keep up the pressure by posting relevant context to all our social media. Two can – and must – play at the public relations business.
2. Raising awareness by itself is not enough. Decision makers need to be brought in to the struggle. Not only politicians and conservation officials but also corporate sponsors. If corporate sponsors began transferring their sponsorship away from the big pro-hunting NGO’s like WWF, you can bet that WWF’s policies would change. Money can change the debate.
3. Hard work. Campaigning and lobbying is hard work. But someone has to do it. Volunteers are needed to help take on this task. For example, we could petition airlines not to carry hunting weapons or trophies.
4. Code of practice. We need to collaborate on producing a Code of Practice, based on the five freedoms set out in the UDAW (Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare) which could be adopted by tourism authorities, volunteer placement firms, tour operators and the travel business as an industry standard.
Volunteer organisations who send their clients out to Africa to volunteer at wildlife sanctuaries need to be informed that they are only feeding the hunting industry when they send their clients to unethical destinations.
How does one know if the facility is unethical?
Easy! If the so-called ‘sanctuary’:
a) breeds predators in captivity
b) offers cub petting, or
c) offers lion cubs for volunteers to hand rear, or
d) offers walking with lions
– then avoid it.
What did we achieve?
1. We raised awareness like never before. The complacent world of conservation has never been rattled like this before.
2. We have built a strong, united global community that now has a real sense of purpose, to tackle this important wildlife issue.
3. Hundreds of volunteer organisers who knew very little about canned hunting – beyond the cruelty that shouts out from a Melissa Backman kill photo – have now been educated. Both CACH and Lionaid took time and made the effort to turn mostly uninformed volunteer organisers into experts on how and why lion farming and canned hunting functions. Hundreds of people worldwide are now able to see through hunting industry public relations.
4. We have exposed the lie propagated by the hunters and parroted by conservation authorities and pro-hunting NGOs, that canned hunting (as artificially defined by them) is illegal in SA.
To show how shell shocked conservation structures are by our march, the Department of Environmental Affairs pulled out of a radio debate with me on the popular SAFM Morning Live show yesterday, citing ‘unpreparedness.’
That left me alone on national radio for a whole half hour to explain to a national audience of listeners how conservation in SA is nothing but a protection racket for the hunting fraternity.
World Lion Day – 10th August
Some suggestions for you if you’d like to join in.
Organising an event need not be a frightening thing. No one expects you to organise a million man march.
But surely you could get your friends and family to do something?
Play golf? Organise a sponsored golf day for the lions.
Enjoy cycling? Get your cycling cub to join with other cycling clubs and have a Fun Ride for the lions.
Anything that raises awareness of the plight of both wild and captive lions.
You could hold a small event in your city. A Fun Run? A dog walk? A motor bike ride for the lions. A cycle race for the lions. Gather at a shopping centre with some placards.
Carole’s Note: We had such great feed back on our March for Lions event, so maybe a similarly structured day at the sanctuary would be appropriate for World Lion Day. It takes a lot of work and planning, so anything you can suggest now would help us as we consider such an endeavor.
Also: Our local media was far from lame. We had more news coverage leading up to the event than after and it was great coverage. And, I know there are a lot of animal welfare organizations that don’t like the WWF, but the WWF has been helpful to the Big Cat Coalition in our efforts to end cub handling, stop white tiger breeding and end the private possession of big cats. Their connections and expertise have been an important part of our success.
Some heartening news from Botswana, and we very much hope South Africa and other countries will follow their lead…
ADI is delighted to hear reports that Botswana intends to ban canned hunting – in a statement made last week the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism said it “does not tolerate cruelty to our wildlife in any form.” The move follows the implementation of bans on both trophy hunting and the export of wildlife (excluding pets) in January of this year.