Network of Thai Non Governmental Organizations on Natural Resources and Environment on the raids and confiscations at the Tiger Temple
June 10th, 2016
Referring to the actions of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants (DNP) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment at the Tiger Temple from the 30th of May till the 4th of June, resulting in the confiscation and movement of 139 tigers and other protected wild animals that were kept against Thai laws, from the Tiger Temple in Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi Province to facilities of the government, we would like to make the following statement;
The Thai Non Governmental Organizations Network would like to express our appreciation for the way the DNP and other involved agencies have handled the situation, removed the wildlife in a professional way and further investigated and discovered evidence suggesting serious issues of wildlife possession and trafficking as been reported in the media. We are hereby request that the DNP and relevant authorities will press charges against the alleged wrongdoers to the full extent, showing that authorities are serious in tackling the illegal wildlife possession and trade in Thailand.
However, besides the appreciation mentioned above, the Network of Thai Non Governmental Organizations on Natural Resources and Environment would like to express some concerns about the following points;
For the tigers that have been moved from the temple to Khao Son and Khao Prathapchang wildlife breeding centers of the DNP we feel that long-term animal welfare standards and a limited financial budget are of great concern, possibly resulting in an insufficient care.
We therefor would see it favorable to have the DNP allow assistance from and cooperation with Non Governmental Organizations who are ready to help and have experience in caring for wildlife, this under the supervision and leadership of the Department of National Parks. For example an option would be to turn the Tiger Temples premises, after finishing legal procedures and repossession of the land, into an (big) cat education and conservation center as lots of expensive facilities have already been built there. An upgrade of facilities could be implemented to provide a facility up to International standard. Other option are also taken into account.
The discovery of evidence at the tiger temple suggesting illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife parts is that of crimes with profits comparable to the international trade in weapons and drugs. We hereby request to authorities and government to seriously investigate and tackle the international illegal trade in wildlife in Thailand.
– Adjusting legislation by increasing penalties in both civil and criminal law.
– Prioritizing the investigation on wrongdoing in the tiger temple case, setting this case as an example, besides the illegal trade allegations, also on money laundering and corruption.
– Showing International leadership in the Mekong region on tackling the illegal wildlife trade by exchanging information and intelligence with other parties and strict enforcement against organized wildlife crimes.
– Increase financial and logistic support of agencies investigating and enforcing wildlife laws.
– Speed up improved legislation and ministerial laws on zoo standards and animal registration, with the main aim of transparency and the possibility of easy check-ups.
The Corbett Foundation is a charitable, non-profit and non-governmental organization solely committed to the conservation of wildlife. They work towards a harmonious coexistence between human beings and wildlife across some of the most important wildlife habitats in India, namely Corbett Tiger Reserve, Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve and around the Greater Rann of Kutch. Local Communities and wildlife share natural ecosystems and this often raises conflict, so the health and wellbeing of these communities are often directly linked to their willingness to participate in wildlife conservation efforts. The Corbett foundation has implemented its programs in over 400 villages in the last decade.
One specific area the Corbett foundation is working on is the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Open farm wells, dug by villagers, in the buffer zone of the Reserve, are proving to be a deathtrap for wild animals, with several cases having been reported of animals, including tigers and leopards, drowning by accidentally falling into the open wells. Currently around 2500 of these open farm wells exist, many in the core zone of the Tiger Reserve. The Corbett Foundation with the support of Exodus Travels Ltd UK, has initiated a project to install chain-link fencing around such open farm wells to prevent any further accidental drowning. In the first phase of the project, 200 fences have already been built around wells closest to the core of the reserve.
In March 2016, Big Cat Rescue donated $5,000 to assist with this initiative. The cost of one fence is 7500 Indian Rupees so approximately $111, meaning from the $5000 donated, between 40-45 fences can be built.
Part of the problem in protecting big cats in range states is that they usually don’t even know what kind of animal they are. This is a leopard in a well, not a tiger, but our fences would prohibit this from happening.
This is a lion, not a tiger, but you get the idea:
It’s a heart-warming rescue of three adult tigers from Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO), a San Antonio, Texas sanctuary that went bankrupt in 2010.
In 2003, Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) took in 24 tigers that had been living at a New Jersey facility that was shut down by the state. After declaring bankruptcy in 2010, WAO contacted the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and other organizations for help in placing these tigers and the rest of their big cats at other sanctuaries.
WAO struggled for over a year to find permanent homes for all of their cats because it is hard to place a big cat who will cost $10,000 per year in food and vet care.
Amazingly, an anonymous donor couple who had known these tigers as cubs fortuitously stepped in to fund the ongoing care of three lucky tigers who are coming to Big Cat Rescue. Your donation today helps us continue our work to end the trade in big cats and makes it possible for us to rescue others and provide permanent care to more than 100+ big cats who call Big Cat Rescue home.
A couple who had fallen in love with several tiger cubs back in 1996 began an amazing journey 15 years later to find out what happened to them after the facility had been shut down. In 2003 24 tigers had been sent to a sanctuary in TX which then shuttered its doors in 2010.
By comparing stripe patterns on the old cub photos to the adult cats it was determined that the 6 of the 7 of the tigers were a match or partial match to the old cub photos. As the TX facility was struggling to find homes for the last of their many tigers they were elated that this couple stepped in to help arrange permanent placement at Big Cat Rescue for three of them and at another good facility for the other four. These anonymous donors have taken on the Lion’s share of this commitment, but we need your help to raise the funds for transportation and for cage enlargements.
The photos below are NOT where the tigers are now. It is where they were in 2003. They are posted here to let you know what these tigers have endured. You can help bring them to the safety of a forever home at Big Cat Rescue now.
Saved in 2003 from this, but homeless again in 2011
Saved in 2003 from this, but in need of a new home again
Help get them to a forever home at Big Cat Rescue
Note that the Big Cat Rescue logo is on the screen to show that we supplied the images, but the images of abuse were not filmed at the sanctuary. They were filmed under cover, in malls or at facilities where we rescued cats.
How Most Tigers Live in America
Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know about Tigers
It took 2 million years for the tiger to evolve into the biggest and most majestic cat in the world. In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers in the wild (India, SE Asia and Russia) and none in the United States. In 2010 there are only 3,000 remaining in the wild and an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 in the U.S. All the U.S. tigers are bred here and held here in captivity.
Accredited zoos have 236 pure bred tigers in the Species Survival Plan. They also have a few tigers that are cross bred between two subspecies, like Bengal bred to Siberian. These are referred to as “generic” and have no conservation value. Less than 100 tigers are estimated to be used in circuses. A few hundred are in true sanctuaries. The rest, representing the vast majority of tigers in the U.S., are owned by Exhibitors who exploit them for profit, Breeders who make money selling them, or private individuals who have them as “pets.”
Commercial use generic tigers are never reintroduced into the wild because they are not pure bred and they can’t hunt. They are typically not accepted by zoos because they are not pure bred.
For reasons discussed below, the vast majority live in small, concrete and chain link prison cells in conditions that most people would readily perceive as deplorable. Many die prematurely of disease, neglect, starvation, being put down when no longer wanted, or shot in a cage for money.
The photos on the following page and at the end of this document are not the exception, the few “bad apple” owners. They are the rule throughout our nation. This should be an embarrassment to every American.
Up until the 1960s breeding exotic cats was primarily in the hands of zoos and a small number of related breeders focused on preserving the species. In 1972 Siegfried and Roy began their tiger act in Las Vegas. It ran for almost 6,000 performances, ending in 2003 when one of Roy’s tigers bit him in the neck. In the span of 30 years their act popularized the notion that tigers could be trained and white tigers were a rare and special breed. Along with other tiger acts and tigers used in advertising and as celebrity ornaments, the idea of exotic pet ownership took hold with people believing you could buy and care for these cats and they would become your household pets.
As popularity and demand increased, the supply in the form of backyard breeders multiplied as they became purpose driven Breeding Farms.
They breed generic tigers that are used for pay to play sessions where the public pays to pet or pose with a baby tiger. USDA regulations only permit this petting for one month, when the cats are 8-12 weeks old. Once they are too old to use they are usually discarded into the pet trade, warehoused in tiny, barren cells, or may disappear into the black market for tiger parts.
In the wild, a mother tiger breeds about every three years. It takes that long to raise and train a litter of cubs. Breeders now take the baby tigers away from their mothers when they are only a few days old; the mothers are bred again as many as 3 times each year. This takes a huge toll on breeding females and makes an equally harmful impact on the cubs. Tigers are genetically geared to be — and to have — the fiercest and most protective and loyal mothers in the world. After ten years of breeding 20 to 30 litters, the mothers are discarded and often die of breast cancer.
In 1998 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) decided it was too much bother to deal with every back yard breeder who wanted a permit to sell tigers, so they created a “generic” tiger loophole. Tigers, including generic ones, are still considered “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. Normally people who want to buy, sell or transport an endangered species across state lines must register and report on their activities.
Exempting the generic tiger from these requirements means only AZA accredited zoos who breed pure subspecies are registered and have to report. FWS has no idea where the thousands of generic tigers are and has no way to know if they are going into the highly profitable illegal trade in their parts and “derivatives” like tiger bone wine and alleged medicinals.
It was the worst move the U.S. has ever made for tigers. Now the problem is of epidemic proportions with as many as 8,000 tigers languishing in tiny, filthy cages and daily dropping off the radar as there is no one monitoring what happens to them.
Laws that can’t be enforced:
It is impractical to have enough inspectors to properly monitor all these tigers. In the relatively few cases where the agencies do try to enforce the laws, the process typically involves years of citations and then years of court battle. Meanwhile, the tigers spend a major portion of their lives in squalid conditions while that is happening.
Even if there were better laws and unlimited enforcement resources, the problem is that if the agencies closed down all the abusers, there would no place for the tigers to go. The few true sanctuaries have limited capacity, are frequently at capacity, and in some cases may have already taken in more tigers than they may be able to support long term.
Law enforcement agents have an incentive not to shut down a breeding mill or a roadside zoo because they don’t have a place for the tigers to go. They don’t want to go into a facility and euthanize 25 tigers and explain to the community on the evening news just how this happened and why they can’t do anything to stop it.
There are currently 348 facilities in this country that hold USDA licenses to use big cats for commercial purposes (breeding, selling or exhibiting) and there is no public record of what happens to any of them.
White Tiger Myth:
There is no such species as the Royal White Bengal Tiger. That name was invented by exhibitors to sell these cats as a rare endangered species that had to be preserved for future generations.
In the wild if two tigers, both with the specific recessive white gene, gave birth to a cub there is a 1 in 10,000 chance it will be white. It will not survive in the wild because it has no ability to camouflage itself and is genetically inferior to its brothers and sisters.
In the 1970s in a zoo in South Dakota there was a litter with a white cub. That litter was bought by a dealer and sold to a breeder who began inbreeding them (brother to sister, father to daughter, etc.) to produce more white cubs which he sold throughout the country to other breeders. This inbreeding which has been going on for 40 years continues today with their offspring because of the demand for white tiger cubs. They have sold for as much as $50,000. The $30,000 ad below is from the June 2011 of Animal Finders Guide.
Some breeders believe that if they continue the inbreeding they will be able to produce a cub that is pure white (no color and no stripes) that will be worth $100,000.
Animal Finders Guide
Snow Tiger for Sale
In contrast, once the normal golden cubs are too big to exploit in “pay to play” exhibits, they are sold for under $1000 or even given away.
Giving Away Tiger Cubs
Giving Away Tiger Cubs
Because the white gene is so recessive, when two white tigers are bred, most of the offspring are unwanted golden tigers.
Breeders have experienced mortality rates as high as 80% because the gene is a deleterious mutation co-linked to other mutations that cause immune deficiency, scoliosis of the spine, cleft palates, club feet, and impaired vision.
All white tigers have crossed eyes, whether it shows or not, because the gene that causes the white coat always causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain. That is one reason white tigers are such a favorite in tiger acts. They are far more dependent on their masters because they can’t see clearly and their reaction time is diminished due to their genetic impairments. Only 1 in 30 of the white cats can consistently perform.
So the next time you see a tiger perform, keep in mind that for every white tiger you see there may hundreds of tigers who were discarded or died to make that one performing white tiger possible.
Tiger Cubs at Mall
Some exhibitors offer to let you pet a tiger cub for a fee. This happens at the “park”, “reserve”, “preserve”, “zoo” or “sanctuary” (not a real sanctuary), or whatever they call the permanent facility where the animals are kept. Other exhibitors have a mobile exhibit that may go out to venues for a day or travel almost constantly setting up in malls and fairs. The cubs are taken from their mothers soon after birth, a torment to both cub and mother, and then carted around to strange settings to be groped by strangers hour after hour. One such exhibitor had 23 cubs die in 2010. How many other cubs died in the hands of such exhibitors is not tracked.
As noted above, federal regulations only permit cub petting for 4 weeks (from 8 to 12 weeks of age). Florida law allows contact up to 25 pounds. Exhibitors have been known extend the display time by underfeeding or giving pills to cause diarrhea, which keeps the cub as small as possible but can lead to permanent health issues. When used for “photo ops”, the repeated close camera flashes can injure their eyes.
Once the cubs are too old or too big for petting, they are sold, given away, returned to the breeder if they were leased, and almost all spend the rest of their lives, up to 20 years, in miserable conditions. One exhibitor who has both a park and a retail store in a shopping center for cub petting has admitted privately that it requires 200 cubs per year to operate his petting business. He recently stated publicly he has 67 tigers at his facility. Where did the rest go?
Other exhibitors display full grown tigers, again either at their facility or offsite. When offsite, the cats typically are confined to a small wheeled wagon where they can do little more than stand up and turn around, pace, or lie down all day long, often in a hot parking lot.
Exhibitor education is doing more harm than good:
In order to justify their tax exempt status, exhibitors say educating the public about wildlife conservation is one of their goals.
There is no evidence that people who hear these exhibitors talk about conservation take any action that supports preservation of the tiger in the wild. R.L.Tilson, in a research report on private ownership of tigers, reported that, “During the 2002 Tiger SSP Master Plan meeting, there was a consensus among the participants that handling tigers in public places…promotes private ownership and a false sense of security in handling big cats….”
Exhibiting cute cubs gives the impression that these cats do make good pets even when exhibitors say they do not. The message the exhibitors end up conveying is that you should not own a tiger unless you are “special” like they are. The same people “teaching” that tigers should not be pets often sell them or even give them away once they are too big to use for petting.
Many of these facilities are in remote locations, but some are in residential neighborhoods. These operations frequently inappropriately call themselves “sanctuaries” or “rescues” but are dangerous for humans as well as the cats and substandard by any measure, especially cage sizes.
Federal regulations do not even have a minimum cage size. They just have language about being able to make “postural movements.” The only citation for cages being too small known to those we consulted was a woman in Florida who put more than 68 tigers in small cages in one trailer. Unlike federal regulations, Florida law at least defines a minimum cage size: two tigers can be kept for their entire lives in a 10′ by 20′ concrete and chain link box with nothing to do but pace until they are exhausted and then lie down on a concrete floor. And Florida’s law is the most generous we found. A tiger in the wild roams from 9 square miles (Bengal) up to 400 square miles (Siberian) every year. A tiny barren cell is no life for these majestic creatures.
6. Pet Owners:
In many states tigers can be owned as pets. Individuals, often well intentioned and frequently misled by the breeders, acquire a cub a few weeks or months old. New owners are told to have the tiger de-clawed and sometimes defanged. Some sellers will do it themselves without vet supervision. In all cases it is painful and frequently it is done improperly and causes lifelong health problems.
The cat is almost fully grown physically at 3 years old, at which point it is at least 10 times stronger than its owner. The tiger, who cannot be trained NOT to be a tiger, becomes a threat to the owner, his family and neighbors. Enclosures have to be enlarged and strengthened, the tiger may be taunted by neighborhood kids, vet treatment is difficult, repeated tranquilization can affect the cats’ kidneys, and the cost to properly feed and provide medical care can be $10,000 per year. At this point if the owner no longer wants the cat, there are few options. There are no shelters or adoption facilities as there are for domestic cats, and zoos won’t accept it because it is a hybrid. A few lucky ones end up in one of the few good sanctuaries. The rest end up in bad places or dead.
7. Illegal Trade in Tiger Parts and Derivatives:
The illegal trade in exotic animals is second only to the drug trade in the U.S. A live adult tiger can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. It is worth $5,000 dead. The internet sites that advertise tiger parts are called “Dead Zoos”. The tiger’s head, paws, skin, bones, eyes and other parts as well as its meat are sold into the black market. Independent dealers collect up to 10 animals at a time, deliver them to a slaughter house/ taxidermist where they are shot in the cages they arrive in and subsequently dismembered. It takes multiple shots to complete the kill because they will shoot the tiger in the chest to avoid bullet holes in the head.
8. Canned Hunts:
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that another outlet for unwanted tigers is canned hunts. This is where they are fenced into a corner of a ranch and hunters who pay up to $25,000 are guaranteed to be able to shoot a tiger. The cats are kept hungry before the shoot and because they were raised by humans they will approach you for food which makes it easier to kill them. In one video of a lion canned hunt, the lioness is drawn into close range by luring her with her own cubs, then shot leaving the cubs motherless. More advanced variations of canned hunts where remote controlled guns that can be focused and fired from your computer in the convenience of your home or office have taken place.
In the 1990s a few people familiar with the abuse began to form sanctuaries for these cats: places that would provide a suitable place for them to live out their lives, free from abuse and without the obligation to perform or breed and to have enough food and proper medical care.
True sanctuaries accept cats from private owners that can no longer care for them, from circuses when they are too old to perform, as well as tigers rescued in emergency situations when state or county wildlife agencies are left with the cats when a breeder or exhibitor is shut down and the cats are left without a home.
True sanctuaries can only take a limited number of the big cats who need to be rescued. The rest live at substandard facilities or die.
Unfortunately there are no qualifications needed to name or advertise oneself as a sanctuary so most who claim to be sanctuaries are Breeders and Exhibitors that have renamed themselves as sanctuaries to encourage fundraising by selling the story, when in fact their purpose is to generate additional revenue with no obligation to improve the conditions or lives of the cats. Having IRS status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit does not mean a facility is a sanctuary.
Before getting involved with a sanctuary you should research it and if possible go visit in person. If you find a place that breeds, buys, sells, exhibits off site, features cubs (especially white ones), lets you handle them, has animals perform, has cramped enclosures and/or is short staffed, you are in a roadside zoo at best and a breeding facility at worst. Please do not support those facilities.
An accredited sanctuary takes on an enormous financial burden when it accepts a tiger because it commits to provide for a cat for the rest of its life. They are all privately operated nonprofit organizations and exist without government subsidy.
Their ability to take in tigers is a function of their private fundraising. They need your help.
10. WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
A. Become a Big Cat Rescue “Advocat”.
Big Cat Rescue, an accredited sanctuary in Tampa, FL, is a leader in advocacy for tigers and other big cats. They have a very sophisticated online system that monitors laws related to big cats and makes it very easy for you to add your voice. It identifies your representatives for you and provides a template that you can edit and quickly send an email urging better laws or regulations.
Big Cat Rescue also identifies malls, fairs and other venues that permit abusive displays like the cub petting. When a venue is identified, often Big Cat Rescue sends an alert to their Advocats asking them to email that venue objecting to the exhibit. Even if you are not in that geographic market, the volume of emails shows the venue that many members of the general public, i.e. their customers, oppose this abuse. While the exhibit may draw visitors who are not aware of the suffering that these exhibits inflict, the emails show that the venue is offending other customers, which is bad business. Dozens of venues have agreed to cancel these exhibits or not have them in the future after receiving thousands of emails from people like you who care.
Big Cat Rescue also emails a monthly newsletter with updates about events at the sanctuary and advocacy issues. They do not rent, sell or trade your email address to anyone else. This is a great way to help that takes little time and no cost. Over 50,000 people who care about big cats are now Advocats. To sign up, visit bigcatrescue.org/advocat.
B. Periodically Visit CatLaws.com
CatLaws.com is the website where Big Cat Rescue’s system tracks relevant laws and current venue abuse and other issues where your voice can make a difference. Visit the site periodically to see if there are any issues you have not already acted on.
C. When You See an Exhibit or Unaccredited Zoo
Be sensitive to your own patronage of places that add to the problem. When you see a cub or adult tiger exhibit, voice your objections to the management of the venue. Nothing is as powerful as real customers saying I won’t shop here anymore. If you do see a traveling exhibit, particularly one with cubs, report it to info@BigCatRescue.org. When you want to visit an animal facility, make sure it is an accredited zoo or real sanctuary, not a road side zoo or pseudo sanctuary where your patronage just adds to the problem.
D. Call and fax your legislator
When there is a current bill, call your legislator and fax a personal letter. This takes more of your time than the email you sent from CatLaws.com, but if you can make the time, it is far more effective! The reason is that so few people do it. For every person who takes the time to call or fax, the legislator’s staff assumes many, many more feel that way simply because it does take effort that most people won’t make. One day when the Founder of Big Cat Rescue was in the reception area of one of her legislators before an appointment, one of staff ended a call and turned to the other staff person and said “that is the 12th call I’ve gotten today on that issue – people must really be worked up about it!” It takes very few phone calls or non-form letter faxes to make a big impression. If a bill is not ready for immediate vote, you want to ask your legislator to “co-sponsor” the bill. That means they sign on in advance committing to vote for it. If the vote is imminent and your legislator is not a co-sponsor, you want to ask them to vote for the bill.
Canned Hunting Bill. At this writing, the current bill that needs your support is H.R. 2210, The Sportsmanship in Hunting Act of 2011. It would end the horrible practice of “canned” hunting, including Internet hunting, where animals raised in captivity are shot like targets in a carnival booth. To help, read more at http://bigcatrescue.org/2011/hr-2210/ and ask your Representative to co-sponsor this bill.
E. Vote for Legislators who Support Animal Protection Legislation
At election time, support candidates who care about animals. You can see incumbents’ voting records on animal issues in the “scorecard” maintained by the Humane Society Legislative Fund www.hslf.org/humanescorecard/. Preventing cruelty to animals should not be a partisan issue. It should be an American issue.
F. Financially Support a Sanctuary
As discussed above, sanctuaries struggle for financial resources to support the tigers and other exotic cats they take in. You can donate to Big Cat Rescue at BigCatRescue.org. In addition to excellent care for rescued animals, they stand out as a leader in the advocacy work that can stop the abuse and therefore stop the flow of animals needing to be rescued. There are a limited number of other true sanctuaries that you can support. Just be wary of places that call themselves sanctuaries but are really “pseudo” sanctuaries that breed, buy, sell, or exhibit offsite. One resource to research them is the Global Federation of Sanctuaries, the most recognized accrediting body. See www.sanctuaryfederation.org.
G. Tell Your Friends
There is power in numbers! Please share this information with people you know. Ask them at least to join as Advocats and to avoid patronizing abusive venues, which takes little effort. Urge them to take the more proactive steps above and donate if they can.
We should not let our society be defined by a group of inhumane, greedy breeders and exhibitors. We are a better people, we owe it to ourselves to take care of animals that did not choose to be born into captivity in the United States and then be brutalized by their owners.
Did you know that big cats and cubs are exploited and even abused at tourist attractions here in the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world?
What can you do to make sure you don’t unwittingly participate in tourist activities that exploit big cats and other wild animals?
Easy ways YOU and your family can be responsible tourists:
• Never pay to touch or have your photo taken with a tiger or lion cub
• Don’t attend circuses, fairs, or attractions that feature wild animal shows
• Don’t purchase items made from wild animals, such as furs and rugs
• Don’t partake in local “delicacies” made from wild animals, such as tiger bone wine
• Only visit sanctuaries that are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (www.sanctuaryfederation.org).
Sign up here to be kept in the loop when your voice is needed to protect big cats and their cubs: Sign up for big cat alerts and as an added benefit you will be entered for a chance to win our Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation.
As an animal lover, if someone were to make you this offer, would you accept?
You can pet, play with and bottle feed this cub and we’ll take a picture of you so you can share it with your friends – BUT, it means one of the following will happen to this cub once he/she is too big for this anymore:
This cub will suffer the rest of his/her life in a cage without proper food or care.
This cub will be shipped off to a hunting ranch to be shot for a price.
This cub will be slaughtered for the exotic meat market.
This cub will be sold off at auction to the highest bidder, fate unknown.
This cub will be killed for parts and bones for the medicinal market.
We know you’d never say “yes” to any of these. You love animals. That’s why you want this experience. But,that’s exactly what you agree to when you say “yes” to this thrill-of-a-lifetime offer.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about tourist attractions in South Africa, Mexico, or the United States. Sadly, this is the fate for so many cubs bred for money-making ventures like these. An exhibitor in Oklahoma, that Big Cat Rescue sued, said he could make $27,000 each week offering animal interactions like this. It’s obvious, money is what drives the industry – and the breeding.
But someone is surely regulating this, right?
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) feels there should be no contact with cubs under the age of eight weeks since that’s when they receive their first disease-preventing injections. They also feel there should be no contact with cubs over 12 weeks old since they can be dangerous even at that young age. But these are just guidelines, not regulations. If breeders/exhibitors were to follow these guidelines, it means a cub used for public contact would have a “shelf life” of only four weeks! What does this encourage? Rampant breeding and not following these guidelines. Where do they all go when they’re too old and can no longer be used for public contact? Refer to the list above.
Don’t inspectors make sure everything’s ok for these cubs?
In 2011 in the United States, there were only 105 USDA inspectors to monitor almost 8,000 facilities, ranging from slaughterhouses, pet stores, pet breeders and dealers, farm, laboratories and other animal-related businesses. That’s nearly one inspector for every 80 facilities! When traveling exhibitors often move these cubs all over the country to fairs, festivals, and malls, relying on inspectors to ensure quality of care for them is unrealistic. And even when cubs are being exhibited when they’re too young or too old, violators aren’t cited unless an inspector is there to personally see serious harm to the cub – screaming and squirming isn’t enough.
Doesn’t touching a tiger or lion help promote conservation since we’re losing them in the wild?
As more and more of these cub petting attractions spring up everywhere, guess what? Tigers and lions in the wild are endangered and becoming nearly extinct. In fact, touching a cub does nothing to conserve their cousins in the wild.
Tragically, it may be doing the opposite. If you can visit a facility to pet a tiger cub, then why protect them half a world away where you may never see them? Studies have shown that public interaction with captive wild animals has done very little to cause the public to donate to conservation in the wild. And there’s been no successful release of a captive-born tiger or lion to date. When a cub needs to be with its mother for at least two years to learn survival skills, this simply isn’t something humans can duplicate. So, the answer is “no,” touching a lion or tiger cub in no way helps save them in the wild.
What can we do?
Ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act! This would put an end to the private possession and backyard breeding of big cats. Get the factsheet.
Contact the USDAby emailing them at: email@example.com . Let them know you want to see an end to physical contact with big cats, to prohibit public handling of young or immature big cats, and to stop the separation of cubs from their mothers before the species-typical age of weaning.
Never, ever give in to the temptation of public contact with a wild cat. It’s dangerous for you and sentences these big cats to life in a cage – or far worse.
Educate friends, family, and media about the reality of this cruel practice. So few know this is an insidious form of animal abuse, but now you do. Share it through social media channels too.
The next time you see a cub in your town or at some of the tourist attractions you visit while on vacation, we hope you’ll remember the truth and you’ll help raise awareness. When the demand ends, so will those who profit by supplying these experiences.
Together, let’s be their voice and assure no more cubs suffer an awful fate. (Article by Julie Hanan for One Green Planet)
Why Petting Cubs Leads to Abuse
Here our radio ad to educate parents about swimming with cubs:
Hear the highlights from this page:
The Truth About Tiger Cub Petting Displays in Malls
By Howard Baskin, JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL
Breeders who charge the public to pet and take photos with young tiger cubs tell venues and customers some or all of the following lies:
1) That the exhibitors are “rescuers” and operate “sanctuaries”
2) That the cubs have a good life while being used to make money:
a) they enjoy being carted around the country in a semi and repeatedly awakened and handled by dozens of people all day
b) that blowing in the cubs face “calms” them down
c) that dangling them by holding under their front arms and bouncing them up and down “resets” them
Cubs at the mall always = cub abuse
d) that close up photos with flash does not harm the cubs
3) that it is safe for the cubs and for humans, and legal, to allow contact with cubs from when they are only a few weeks old to when they are six months or more old.
4) that the exhibitor must keep constantly breeding and using the cubs to make money because that is the only way he can support the adult animals he keeps.
5) that the exhibitor is doing this to promote conservation in the wild.
6) that the exhibitor is teaching people not to have exotic animals as pets
And the biggest lie of all:
7) that the cubs will have good homes after they get too big to be used to make money from petting
THE FACTS ARE
1) Breeders/Exhibitors are not sanctuaries.
Most sanctuaries are not accredited
True rescuers and sanctuaries do not breed. Breeding more tigers simply adds to the number of big cats that end up living in deplorable conditions or being destroyed to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is the most highly respected body that defines what a true sanctuary is and sets standards of animal care and practices that sanctuaries must meet in order to be accredited. Facilities that breed or subject the animals to the stress of being carted around to exhibit definition are not sanctuaries. For more about the difference between real and “pseudo” sanctuaries, visit the GFAS website at http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/for-public/truth-about-sanctuaries/
In addition to not being a sanctuary because they breed and do offsite exhibits, these people who claim to love animals so much typically operate facilities where the animal care, while it may comply with USDA’s minimal standards, is far below the standards set by GFAS as humane, and in many cases is deplorable.
2) Life on the road means being torn from mother, denied natural behaviors, and mistreated.
The cubs used for petting exhibits are torn from their mothers shortly after birth, causing emotional pain to both the cubs and the mothers. Imagine what that mother tiger experiences after enduring the long pregnancy and finally giving birth, filled with the instincts to nurture her cubs, and then having them snatched away. The breeders take them away and have people handle them so the cubs will “imprint” on the people instead of doing what is natural and imprinting on their mothers.
And what is life like during the months they are used to make money for their owners? Cubs this age want roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. Watch what happens during these exhibits. The cubs are repeatedly awakened so a customer can pet them instead of being allowed the sleep their young bodies need. When they try to wander they are repeatedly yanked back. And where are they when not on exhibit? They spend endless hours in small cages in trucks, hardly a suitable environment for inquisitive, active young cubs.
While used for petting by the public or held for photos with the public, the cubs squirm and try to get away. What do the exhibitors do to control them?
One technique used by exhibitors to get the cubs to stop squirming is blowing in the cub’s face. Contrary to what the exhibitors say, this does not “calm” the cub. The cub does not like this any more than you would. This blowing in the face is a way mother tigers discipline their cubs. It is a punishment. The cub becomes inactive temporarily not because the cub is calm. The cub becomes inactive hoping that not moving will cause the exhibitor to stop blowing in its face.
The other technique is to dangle the cub from under their front armpits and toss them up and down in the air. One notorious exhibitor tells customers this is to “reset” the cubs. Another tells customers that this is how the mother tiger holds the cubs, which is equally ridiculous. Being held under the arms and tossed up in the air is just another unnatural and unpleasant experience that causes the cub stress, making them temporarily stop doing the behavior that is natural, i.e. trying to squirm away from being held.
What happens when the cubs are sick? The video at www.TigerCubAbuse.com shows cubs with severe diarrhea kept on display. The keepers simply follow them around wiping diarrhea off the floor, and then use the same towel to wipe the cubs’ irritated rear ends as the poor cubs scream in pain.
How would you feel if you were their mother and knew this was the life they had been torn from you to endure?
3) Cubs are routinely used to make money both below and above the legal age.
Most big cats endure squalid conditions
While cub displays are inherently cruel for the reasons given in this fact sheet, USDA regulations do allow them, but only for a few weeks. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact with the cubs until they are at least 8 weeks old because that is when they receive their first injections to prevent disease. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact after the cubs are 12 weeks old because they are large enough to be dangerous. So, the only time it is “legal” to have the public pet cubs is when they are between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks.
However, because enforcement resources are limited, exhibitors flagrantly violate these rules, putting the cubs and the public at risk. Videos at www.TigerCubAbuse.com and www.TigerCubAbuse2.com show exhibitors freely admitting on camera that the cubs are under 8 weeks old. The video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE8CXQLKfq0 shows people playing with 5 and 7 month old cubs at G.W. Exotic Animal Park, home base for Joe Schreibvogel and Beth Corley, who operate the most notorious mall exhibit road show. Twenty-three of this exhibitor’s cubs died in 2010.
4) Abusing cubs is not a necessary or justifiable way to make money to support adult cats.
The exhibitors often claim they have no choice, that they must breed and exploit cubs to make money to support their other animals. Joe Schreibvogel posts on Facebook “I don’t think none of us like to be forced to be in the entertainment of animals (sic).” But the truth is that true sanctuaries all over the country support their animals without abusing some in order to make money to feed the others. They do this by providing a great home for the animals that far exceeds the minimal legal requirements and then learning how to attract donors who appreciate the excellent home they are providing. Lacking the ability to do this is not an excuse for abusing tiger cubs to make money. People who are not capable of operating a real sanctuary simply should not own animals. No true animal lover could justify abusing some animals to provide financial support for others.
5) Paying to pet tigers does not support conservation in the wild.
Captive breeding causes more poaching
No money the public spends to pet or take photos with tiger cubs ever goes to support conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a huge and growing market for tiger parts like the skins pictured here, and tiger “derivatives”, i.e. products made out of tiger parts like tiger bone wine. A dead tiger is worth up to $50,000 for its parts. Breeding what US Fish and Wildlife Service calls “generic” tigers like the ones used in the mall exhibits is not tracked. So there is no way to know how many U.S. born tigers are killed to have their parts illegally sold into this trade. And, the more that trade expands, the more incentive the poachers have to kill tigers in the wild.
6) Petting cubs sends the wrong message about exotic animals as pets.
Exhibitors often claim that they are teaching people that exotic animals should not be pets. But what example do they set as they handle the animals and let others do so? Saying that exotic animals do not make good pets while charging people to pet them is a little bit like someone telling people not to use heroin while having a needle sticking in their arm. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not a message that works. The websites of these exhibitors frequently show photos or videos of the exhibitor handling, hugging or kissing adult tigers. This encourages other people to want to be “special” like the exhibitor.
The way to encourage people not to want exotic animals as pets is to set an example by never having physical contact with them. This is what true sanctuaries, people who truly care about the animals, do. Meantime, exhibitors like Joe Schreibvogel actively support of private ownership of exotic animals as pets. He has conducted a fundraiser for an organization devoted to, “fighting for the rights of everyday people….to keep, house and maintain exotic animals”. Schreibvogel’s 2010 fund raising event was attended by people who brought their pet primates. He created an “association” whose website has a page offering baby white tigers for sale. Many of the followers on the “Joe Exotic” Facebook page are obviously exotic pet owners. The G.W. Exotic website actively rails against the steady trend of laws banning private ownership to protect the public and stop abuse of the animals.
Private ownership of exotic animals results in widespread abuse as cute young animals mature and end up being kept in deplorable conditions. While some exhibitors claim they are teaching people not to get exotic animals as pets, others actively promote the trade. But all of them, by their behavior, encourage people to own exotic animals in order to be one of the “special” people who can have contact with these animals.
7) The cubs are destined for a horrible existence after they are too big to use to make money.
Big cats are often kept in concrete & steel jail cells
This is the single biggest reason not to permit cub displays. If asked, exhibitors tell venues and patrons that the cubs will end up in some wonderful home, either at their facilities or elsewhere. Current USDA rules allow an owner to keep a tiger in a concrete floored, chain link jail cell not much bigger than a parking space, often with nothing to do but walk in circles or stare out. Enforcement of the rules that do exist is limited because it would be economically unfeasible to have enough inspectors to adequately monitor the thousands of tigers owned by people licensed by USDA to exhibit animals. These are animals built to live in the wild, roaming and hunting. They are very intelligent and they experience a broad range of emotions.
We treat criminals in prison far better than the way most owners end up treating captive tigers, whose only crime was being bred by a breeder/exhibitor to make money. Attached are photos that are not exceptions. They are typical of the conditions in which the cubs that are bred by private owners will end up.
8) There is potential for disease and liability.
A May 2011 statement from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) recommends that the public be prohibited from direct contact with tigers due to the risk of illness to humans stating” …ringworm in 23 persons and multiple animal species was traced to a Microsporum canis infection in a hand-reared zoo tiger cub.” Zoonotic diseases — those that jump to humans — account for three quarters of all emerging infectious threats, the Center for Disease Control says. Five of the six diseases the agency regards as top threats to national security are zoonotic. The Journal of Internal Medicine this month estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died.
Cub petting has been an evil practice for far too long
PUBLIC IMAGE ISSUE FOR VENUES
Changes in values in our society do not happen suddenly. It took decades of educating and changing people’s minds before women finally got the right to vote, something we take for granted today. A similar progression occurred in the area of civil rights. The same shift is taking place at an accelerating rate with respect to our society’s view of private ownership of big cats.
Compelling evidence of this is found in the trend in state laws. Just since 2005, nine more states have banned private ownership of big cats, generally recognizing that such ownership is dangerous to people and results in the animals being kept in deplorable conditions.
The public doesn’t see how most big cats are kept
Many people innocently support the abuse by patronizing the cub displays. The cubs are adorable, and the exhibitors are skilled at telling their lies. But, increasingly numbers of people are aware of the issues presented in this fact sheet, or on their own simply see the displays and find them repellant. As the number of people of people who find such displays objectionable grows, venues like malls increasingly make a negative impression on patrons in a way they cannot necessarily measure. Venues like Petsmart stores, Alton Square Mall in Alton, IL, and Metro North Mall in Kansas City, MO have led by banning exotic animal displays.
As more and more people become aware of what happens “behind the scenes” and actively object to the cub displays, more and more venues will ban the displays. In the meantime, venues who allow the displays make a negative impression on many customers who care about animals while many tiny cubs are condemned to lifelong misery.
As a venue, you can make a wonderful contribution to society by helping stop this abuse, while at the same time sending a very positive branding image to the many customers who love animals and do not want to see them being abused when they come to shop.
We hope the information in this fact sheet is useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Susan Bass, Director of Public Relations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida at 813-431-2720 or Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org. Venues that these exhibitors lie to in making their pitch to be allowed to display have a critical choice. They can be part of the problem, encouraging this abuse by permitting it, or part of the solution. We hope you will send a positive public relations image to your many animal loving patrons and help save these innocent tigers from abuse by banning such exhibits in your venue.
See more video of the horrible conditions where big cats are kept
This video talks to Big Cat Experts Around the Globe About How Petting Cubs Kills Tigers in the Wild
See a cub man handled for paying guests to get their picture at the mall
Note that the handler stands on the cub to subdue him
How Can You Tell if a Tiger Cub is Too Young or Too Old?
It’s almost impossible for regulatory agents to determine if a cub being used on display is truly within the legal age range of 8 weeks to 12 weeks. This photo composite shows tiger cubs at different ages and in relation to people to give you an idea of what is likely to be a legal size petting / photo op cub and what is not. Note that we do not believe cubs should be used for petting or photo props at any age. Cubs belong with their mothers and in the wild.
Click on the image to see it larger.
Tiger Cubs Ages 2 Weeks to 12 Weeks
The American Zoological Association is the accrediting body for zoos, like the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries is the accrediting body for sanctuaries. Only 10 % of the facilities in the U.S. that are housing wild animals are accredited. GFAS does not condone unescorted public visitation or contact with the captive wild animals and the AZA also states the following (emphasis added): http://www.aza.org/Education/detail.aspx?id=2451
V. Conservation Education Message
As noted in the AZA Accreditation Standards, if animal demonstrations are part of an institution’s programs, an educational and conservation message must be an integral component. The Program Animal Policy should address the specific messages related to the use of program animals, as well as the need to be cautious about hidden or conflicting messages (e.g., “petting” an animal while stating verbally that it makes a poor pet). This section may include or reference the AZA Conservation Messages. Although education value and messages should be part of the general collection planning process, this aspect is so critical to the use of program animals that it deserves additional attention. In addition, it is highly recommended to encourage the use of biofacts in addition to or in place of the live animals. Whenever possible, evaluation of the effectiveness of presenting program animals should be built into education programs. http://www.aza.org/animal-contact-policy/
At a 2002 meeting of the Tiger Species Survival Plan members it was decided that, “A second concern is the relationship between the Tiger SSP and the private sector, where many tigers (mostly of unknown origin) are kept. During the 2002 Tiger SSP master plan meeting in Portland there was a discussion of the appropriateness of handling tigers in public places by AZA zoos. There was complete consensus of all members in attendance that such actions place the viewing public at risk of injury or death, that there is no education message of value being delivered, that such actions promote private ownership and a false sense of safe handling of exotic big cats, and that the animal itself loses its dignity as an ambassador from the wild. As a result, the committee resolved such actions were inappropriate for AZA-accredited zoos, and that the AZA accreditation committee should make compliance of this restriction part of its accreditation process. This opinion statement was conveyed to the executive committee of the Felid TAG for comments and action.”
Mammals: Small Carnivores
In general, due to the potential for bites, small carnivores should be used in contact areas only with extreme caution. Due to the risk of bites, small felids are generally not used in direct contact. If they are, care must be taken that such animals are negative for infection with Toxoplasma gondii. All carnivores should be tested for and be free of zoonotic species of roundworms such asBaylascaris sp. Small carnivores (e.g., raccoons and skunks) obtained from the wild may present a greater risk of rabies and their use should be avoided in contact areas.
Click the image to get the 8 x 10 poster image to post at your school, civic center, on your car, or anywhere else you can reach people who want to save tigers.
Pahrump, NV. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s premier legal advocacy organization for animals, was joined by PETA, and three reputable big cat sanctuaries, Lions, Tigers, & Bears (“LT&B”), and Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue, in appealing the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) issuance of a conditional use permit to Kayla Mitchell to keep ten tigers.
On November 12, the RPC voted 4-3 to issue the permit to Kayla Mitchell despite her role in the ongoing illegal exhibition of big cats and improper interstate transport of tigers without a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) license on behalf of Big Cat Encounters, a business that makes tigers available for direct contact and other exhibition in exchange for a fee. The groups argue that permit issuance to Kayla Mitchell is improper given that her husband, Karl Mitchell, their business, Big Cat Encounters, and their landlord, Ray “Flagman” Mielzinski, are currently under a Nye County District Court order to remove the tigers from Pahrump. The Mitchells refused to comply with the court’s order, issued following the county’s revocation of Karl Mitchell’s permit due to his violation of its conditions—including illegal exhibition of tigers without a USDA license.
ALDF, PETA, LT&B, Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue have offered to rehome the big cats to reputable sanctuaries.
Two of Mitchell’s cats were sent to Big Cat Rescue back in the 1990’s. Founder, Carole Baskin said, “Two of the worst cases of physical abuse I have ever seen came from Karl Mitchell. Back in the 90s we rescued a black leopard, named Shaquille (photo above) and a cougar named Darla from him. When they arrived their faces were bloodied beyond recognition. Darla’s injuries resulted in a fungal infection of the brain that later killed her. Shaquille’s eyes constantly teared from the malformed healing of his skull. When my late husband called Karl to ask what had happened to them, he said Karl told him that he had to take a baseball bat to them and that’s why he didn’t want them any more.”
Big Cat Rescue’s policy for the last 18 years has been that if they take a cat it must either be a government confiscation or the owner must agree to never possess another cat.
“The Mitchells have played fast and loose with the law for long enough,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Instead of acting in the best interest of the cats they use as entertainment props, they continue to defy federal laws and a local court order meant to keep the animals and community safe. ALDF is calling upon Nye County Commissioners to reject the Mitchells’ latest attempt to circumvent the law, and overturn the permit that the RPC improperly issued.”
Nevada is one of six states (NV, AL, NC, SC, WI, IN) that currently does not regulate the private ownership of inherently dangerous animals. ALDF, PETA, LT&B, Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue all advocate against the use of big cats for pets or entertainment, and have worked with localities in Nevada that aim to institute basic public safety and animal welfare measures.
Copies of the appeal are available upon request.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, ALDF files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), founded in 1980, is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than three million members and supporters. The organization’s mission statement provides that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or exploit in any way. For more information, please visit peta.org.
About Lions, Tigers, & Bears
Lions Tigers & Bears is a no kill, no breed, no sell rescue and educational facility that allows the big cats and bears in its care the opportunity to live out their lives with dignity in safe, species-appropriate habitats. The sanctuary, located on 96 acres outside of San Diego, Calif., is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), which recently awarded the Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence to LT&B Founder and Director, Bobbi Brink. For more information, please visit, lionstigersandbears.org.
About Keepers of the Wild
Keepers of the Wild, located approximately two hours east of Las Vegas in Valentine, Ariz., provides life-long care for more than 140 exotic and indigenous wild animals who were rescued, surrendered by an owner, or rehomed by other animal welfare agencies. The sanctuary is engaged in public education and collaborates with several organizations to help pass legislation aimed at curtailing the use of exotic animals in traveling circuses and exhibits. Keepers of the Wild has been the recipient of numerous commendations and awards from animal welfare groups and government agencies, including the Nevada Wildlife Federation and the Arizona Attorneys’ & Sheriffs’ Association. For more information, please visit keepersofthewild.org.
About Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue, located in Tampa, Fla., is a GFAS-accredited sanctuary for tigers, lions, and other exotic cats who have been rescued or confiscated from owners who can no longer care for them. Big Cat Rescue has emerged as a leading national voice in advocating for state and federal legislation to end the exploitation of big cats for entertainment and use as pets. The sanctuary pursues its vision of ending the exploitation of captive exotic animals and promoting legitimate species conservation by providing lifelong care to big cats and public education. For more information, please visit bigcatrescue.org.