TJ was the youngest of four tigers who were rescued in 2007 from a breeding facility in Center Hill Florida called Savage Kingdom. He is quite playful and loves to crash through all of the high grasses in his enclosure. TJ has a particular fascination with water and will splash in and out of his pools or the pond, when he is on vacation in the Vacation Rotation enclosure. He seems to delight in the way the light moves on the surface of splashing water.
Savage Kingdom was run by an ex circus performer named Robert Baudy who had been famous for his big cat act in the 1950’s. He boasted that the way you trained a big cat was to chain them to the wall and beat them without mercy until they learned that no matter how much they tried to retaliate, they could never succeed. Once they were broken they were safe to use in performances.
Times have changed, and so has public opinion about how to treat animals, but tiger taming hasn’t changed. Cats are routinely beaten, deprived of food and deprived of space in order to make them perform on cue. Tiger trainers have figured out that no one will pay to see an abused animal, so they make a big show of giving the cats kisses, pats on the head and treats, and tell the public that they only train using love, respect and positive reinforcement. It is a lie.
We do positive reinforcement and clicker training to get our cats to do things like lay down, show us their paws, etc. to make it easier for us to deal with their medical needs. At Big Cat Rescue the cats have the choice of doing the interaction with us and our vets, and if they don’t want to do it, they can walk away.
If the “show must go on” then you can bet the cats were abused behind the scenes to make them reliable performers on stage. Please never pay to see big cats perform.
Savage Kingdom Rescue: TJ, Bella, Modnic and Trucha
A hundred times or more a year Big Cat Rescue is contacted by someone trying to unload a tiger, lion, bobcat, serval or some other exotic cat who has outlived his usefulness. In most cases the people calling are those who have used the animals to support themselves, or to make themselves more popular, and now the cat no longer serves their needs. Then the cat has to go.
Big Cat Rescue can only take in a limited number of big cats each year because each cat is a 10-20 year commitment. Most of the cases do not meet Big Cat Rescue’s criteria for accepting a cat as they will not assist these irresponsible owners in continuing to breed and use animals by being a dumping ground for last year’s babies.
This case at Savage Kingdom was different. Robert Baudy was world renown for producing what are commonly referred to as “throw away tigers” because they are so often lame and cross eyed from the inbreeding that goes into producing the white tigers that will fetch a big price.
When USDA finally shut down the 84 year olds’ breeding activities in August of 2006 an era of abuse came much closer to an end. A friend of Baudy’s had managed to place all but four tigers by May 14, 2007. If she could not find a home for these last four tigers she was going to have them euthanized on May 18th because she could no longer afford the time and resources needed to care for the cats.
TJ, Bella, Modnic, and Trucha were the last four cats that needed a home and Big Cat Rescue stepped in to provide one. On May 18th, 2007, Rescuers transported the four to their new home at BCR. They now have spacious grassy enclosures with shrubs and trees, large mountain dens, and pools to cool off in.
Fatal Attractions – Tigers Unleashed, about TJ and Bella tigers: http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/fatal-attractions/videos/tigers-rescued-deleted-scene.htm
Common Name: Geoffroy’s Cat Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Felinae (Oncifelis) Species: geoffroyi Misc: Geoffroy’s cats are strong swimmers that regularly enter the water, and have been recorded frequently swimming fast flowing rivers 100 feet wide. Geoffroy’s cats were named after the French naturalist Geoffroy St. Hilaire.
F.g. salinarum (once believed to be a separate species)
Size and Appearance: One of the small cats about which little is known, this cat has a uniformly patterned coat of small black spots of nearly equal size and spacing. The ground color tends to be more of an ochre color in the northern part of their range to a gray in the southern part. Black (melanistic) individuals are common. Males weigh an average of 10 pounds, and females average 8.
Habitat: They occupy a wide variety of habitats, from the pampas grasslands and arid Chaco shrub and woodlands, up to alpine saline deserts. It is absent from tropical rain forests, broad-leaved forests, and open areas. It occupies the same areas as the Pampas Cat, but the Geoffroy’s sticks to dense ground cover which separates the two ecologically.
Distribution: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 72-78 days, females produce a litter of 2 (sometimes 3) kittens. They weigh 2.25-3.5 ounces at birth and will begin to walk between 14-21 days old. They are weaned around 3 months of age, and attain sexual maturity around 18 months for females and 24 months for males (in captivity).
At Big Cat Rescue, Geoffroy’s cats have lived over 20 years, compared to 14 being the oldest elsewhere.
Social System and Communication: They are solitary in the wild, and the females will have overlapping home ranges, males however, will not. They are nocturnal and partially arboreal. The males and females will come together for mating. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: The primary diet of this cat consists of rodents, hares, fish, reptiles, birds, and various small mammals.
Principal Threats: The biggest threat has been the exploitation of its pelt for the fur trade, which sadly still exists. The good news is that commercial hunting has virtually ceased, and the kills from which the pelts are derived are from cats killed as pests and livestock predators. This has helped reduce the numbers from what was an average of 55,000 animals per year to considerably less (exact figures not known). Deforestation from human encroachment is also a problem facing this little cat, but since so little is known of its habits, the extent of the damage is unknown at this time.
Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Not listed.
Felid TAG recommendation: Geoffroy’s cat (Oncifelis geoffroyi). Once common in zoos and the private sector, this easily kept species has disappeared from both types of holders because of poor management. Due to its Appendix I status under CITES, additional specimens from range countries are not easily obtained. Without new founders, the extant population is nonviable. The TAG recommends Phase-Out for this species. At the Annual AZA Conference (September 1999), the following four species were recommended by the Felid TAG to be ‘down-graded’ to a Phase-Out populations. For the jaguarundi, tigrina, and Geoffroy’s cat, these recommendations were made because of limited space available, the limited number of founders in these populations, and limited potential for acquiring additional founders.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 54 worldwide, with 52 being in the U.S.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.
Most people are not intimidated by the Geoffroy’s Cat’s size, but they should be. They have not ever been fully domesticated, and are a truly untrustworthy wild cat.
Nakita is a large tiger weighing in at nearly 600 pounds at his prime. He had been raised with Simba, Joseph, and Sasha and the four shared an enclosure prior to coming to Big Cat Rescue. When the group initially arrived they remained together, but over time the tigers and lions became less tolerant of each other.
Joseph and Sasha were given their own spacious enclosure as well as Nakita and Simba. The two pairs lived a glorious life of luxury for many years. Sadly both Simba and Sasha have since passed away leaving behind Nakita and Joseph.
Nakita and Joseph have been moved to neighboring enclosures, but have shown no interest in a reunion. Nakita has undergone eye surgery on both of his eyes. While his eyes appear cloudy he can still see quite well thanks to specialist Dr. Miller.
Nakita is a big swimmer and absolutely loves his time in the Vacation Rotation Enclosure where he can cool off in a large pond or splash in the water fountain. The Vacation Rotation Enclosure is a 2.5 acre playground with lots of trees, a swimming pond, jungle gym platforms, and lots of dens and climbing hills. Each of our lions and tigers is on a rotating schedule and gets to spend two weeks at a time in this fun space.
It took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt and the Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats that had been used for years as props in a “tiger training” scheme. Even though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers. The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats. To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.
In August 2007 McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions. Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats would increase our annual budget by $45,000.00. We agreed and took two tigers, Nik & Sim and two lions, Joseph and Sasha. The remaining two tigers were placed with another sanctuary in Texas with the help of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
A Lion Pride of a Different Stripe
It took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt (aka Cziraky) and her Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords, Donnalynn and Christian Laver were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats who had been used for years as props in Diana McCourt’s “tiger training” scheme.
By the end of the ordeal eye witnesses said that the cats were starving and they still have inadequate shelter from the elements.
Even though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she still continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers.
The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats.
To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. (Joseph still has his canine teeth) Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.
In May of 2007 Diana McCourt emailed Carole Baskin asking if she could move her operation to Tampa and bring her cats to Big Cat Rescue. Our response was that her cats were welcome here but her brand of animal abuse was not. By August McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions. Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats increases our annual budget by $45,000.00.
When Sarabi, our lioness died, her half acre enclosure was opened up so that Nikita our only other lioness could have the run of both half acre enclosures. This large enclosure has an open roof and is only suitable for lions because they don’t climb, or very old, declawed tigers, who would be unable to climb. Taking on two lions, age 9 and 13, who have a 20 year life expectancy means a cost of $15,000.00 annually and $150,000.00 in the long run. Lions often end up in canned hunts, especially males who are coveted as wall trophies, so we felt certain our donors would help us rescue these two cats. Our board convened and agreed that the lions would be rescued as soon as we could make travel arrangements for them.
Calling with the good news, that at least the lions would be spared, we were told by the landlord, who has been caring for the cats since evicting Diana McCourt, that the male tiger, Nikita, would be heartbroken that his best friend in the world, Joseph the lion, would be leaving. As the conversation unfolded it appears that for the last 13 years, two tigers and two lions have shared a cage. (Joseph only coming along in the past 9 yrs) Instead of being elated for the lions, we now felt sick that they would be separated from the only pride (albeit tigers) they had ever known. And thinking about how they would feel, of course, led to thinking about how the tigers left behind would feel.
We appealed to our supporters, asking if they would be willing to help us rescue all four cats who have lived together and the response was an overwhelming, “YES!”
On Oct. 19th Big Cat Rescue’s President Jamie Veronica, VP Cathy Neumann, Operations Manager Scott Lope and Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM flew to Columbus, OH to rendezvous with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) staff and a driver and vet tech from the Animal Sanctuary of the United States (ASUS) at the Columbus Zoo at 6 am on the morning of the 20th. From there the entourage drove an hour to the Gambier, OH facility and met with the property owner and the Knox County Animal Control Officer, Rich Reed who had been granted possession of the six cats.
Within just a few hours all of the cats were safely loaded and on the way to Florida where they arrived at 6 am the morning of the 21st. While the weary drivers slept, the Big Cat Rescue team unloaded Nikita, Simba, Sasha and Joseph into their new enclosure, which is a little more than half an acre of lakeside living with high grass, cave like dens and hills from which they can survey their new kingdom.
We let you know that the rescue would cost us $34,000.00* and 294 of you responded. As of 11/16/07 $29,435.00 has been raised to save these four cats. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue the last two cats and IFAW paid to transport all six cats to their final destinations. That saved us $4,000.00! We are now only $565.00 short of what this rescue will cost us in the first year. Thank you everyone who has helped so far! If you haven’t helped yet, keep in mind that your donations are tax deductible and that these cats rely entirely on your generosity.
The cougar “cubs”, Ares, Artemis and Orion get an armadillo and Gale has to save him. Jamie & Vern plan some big cat cages and moves. Tommie Girl is up on her new platform made by Jen & Darren Holley. The kittens escape! Nakita Lion gets enrichment made by summer campers. Joseph Lion gets a watermelon. Nikita Tiger goes on “vacation.” A rare conversation with the family matriarch, Barbara. Jamie & Carole talk about getting the newsletter done.
Tiger Toys Calling Senators from Walmart Brandy Singalong
Michael and Joey at Octane One donated some Tigerific tubes for the cats, so I pick up the last two, then go get some paint at WalMart, but call my Senators while waiting for the paint tech, to ask them to NOT vote for the ridiculously named Sportsman Act, then kitten check ups, all #ThroughGlass 2014 07 07
Jamie, Gale and Carole at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls with Jamie and Gale on May 26, 2014. We had to go to NY a day ahead of time to rescue the tigers from JnK, but were told not to go into the little town of Sinclairville until the warrant had been served.