Ted Mashima and Rowena Watson
Big Cat Rescuers of Another Stripe
In July Big Cat Rescue hosted Drs. Ted Mashima and Rowena Watson from Washington, DC for a VIP tour led by Barbara Frank. Ted Mashima is a zoological medicine veterinarian who currently serves as the Associate Executive Director for Research and Academic Affairs for the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, which coordinates the affairs of all North American veterinary colleges. He is on the faculty of Envirovet Summer Institute in White Oak, FL, which trains veterinarians aspiring to work in conservation. Ted co-edited the Rhino with Glue-On Shoes (Random House, 2008), a compilation of 28 stories written by zoo and wildllife veterinarians from around the world. Rowena Watson is a wildlife conservation consultant, whose main area of focus is international wildlife trade, covering legally and illegally traded species. She began working on big cat conservation and international policy when she was a science and diplomacy fellow at the US Department of State, where she often covered CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and biodiversity conservation issues.
Rowena has a particular interest in wild tiger conservation, “There is a global political landscape to consider now for wild tiger conservation. In addition to maintaining adequate ecosystems and habitat for wild tigers — there are serious policy implications resulting from the varied non-wild tiger populations. For instance the direct links between domestic tiger farming in China and the wild tigers left in neighboring countries, especially India. If China lifts its ban on domestic trade in tiger parts, it will provide a legal end market for poached and smuggled tiger parts and products coming out of the few remaining wild populations.
Another direct connection is the burgeoning population of “pet” tigers, especially in the U.S. The existence of this market affects U.S. policies and funding capacity, in addition to our international image and the U.S. negotiating position. Many average citizens are not aware of the high biodiversity value wild tigers provide and that captive tigers usually have no conservation value and could not even survive in the wild. I was encouraged to meet Carole Baskin and visit Big Cat Rescue by my colleague Judy Mills, moderator of the International Tiger Coalition. I am impressed with the clear educational messaging BCR brings to the public about the downsides of breeding big cats and the exotic pet trade. ”
Dr. Mashima added on to this, “Let us just consider the tiger for a moment–arguably one of the most charismatic animals in existence. It is simply not enough to admire and adore them–their future existence depends on the active engagement of so many layers of our society. Academicians, international government and corporate leaders, nonprofit organizations are all working on behalf of the tigers… Rowena and I have worked with many of these entities. BigCat Rescue is a unique part of the solution–working to provide the best possible outlet for these beautiful creatures after they have been confiscated or abandoned and an avenue away from commercial use. ”
Volunteer Committee Member, Barbara Frank said “The most wonderful compliment was when Dr. Mashima said he has never heard so much chuffing from captive tigers before.”
L-R Barbara Frank, Dr. Ted Mashima, Dr. Rowena Watson, Big Cat Rescue Board Member Jennifer Ruszczyk