2006 Big Cat Rescue is International in its Scope of Services
Big Cat Rescue’s vision is a world where the animals we share it with are treated with respect and caring and where habitat is preserved to insure the indefinite future survival of these wonderful gifts of nature. In creating such a world, we hope the same principles of respect and caring will carry over to the way humans treat each other.
Care of our cats. The narrow mission of Big Cat Rescue is to provide the best permanent home we can for the cats in our care. We do this by building enclosures in a very natural habitat with foliage and shelter on our 45 acre site, by providing the best nutritional and medical care possible, and by having active operant conditioning and enrichment programs to provide for their physical and psychological well being.
Education. The broader mission of the sanctuary is to reduce the number of cats that suffer the fate of abandonment and/or abuse and to encourage preservation of habitat and wildlife. We urge people to behave in a way that will support these goals by teaching people about the plight of the cats, both in the wild and in captivity. We accomplish this through educational guided tours, educational programs for young people, and by maintaining a website that we believe is the world’s largest and best resource for information about exotic cats.
In order to reach these goals we provide a number of services. We provide a permanent retirement home to over 100 exotic cats who were unwanted, abandoned or abused. This facility is known, world wide, as Big Cat Rescue and located inTampa ,Florida . The animals who live here were rescued from fur farms, circus and night club acts, pet owners, zoos and research laboratories. Unlike any other big cat sanctuary our residents all live in spacious enclosures that typically exceed 1200 square feet and which include trees, bushes and lots of things for a busy cat to enjoy.
Volunteers: We have 107 volunteers, but it only takes one, like Daphne Butters, who lives inEngland and has been coming to Big Cat Rescue annually since 2001, to make a big impact internationally. Whilst here, she works on site, but more importantly, she takes her experiences and knowledge gained at Big Cat Rescue and uses it in various educational environments inGreat Britain .
She started by writing articles about her experiences for publication in cat magazines, including The Maine Coon Cat Club Newsletter, Norwegian Forest Cat Club Newsletter, Seal & Blue Birman Cat Club Magazine and most recently, Our Cats Magazine. As well as being entertaining, these articles were written to educate cat lovers about the plight of unwanted exotic cats in the USA. This was particularly alien to British readers, since the laws in the UKare much stricter and individuals cannot own an exotic cat without a specific license, making it impossible for most people to own a big cat. Articles have appeared in the following Maine Coon Cat Club Newsletters: Spring 2002, Winter 2003, Winter 2004, Spring 2005 and Winter 2006. According to feedback, these articles have been very informative in terms of the difficulties of keeping big cats. The first issue of a series of her Big Cat Rescue articles appeared in Our Cats magazine, issue 1102, 3rd November 2006, catering for a wide audience inEngland who are interested in domestic cats.
Daphne works at Fir Vale School , Sheffield, South Yorkshire , a school catering to children aged 11 to 16 years. Many of her students come from poor areas, some are refugees and a considerable number have English as a second or alternative language (ESOL). This means that engagement in the classroom is often difficult since the children do not understand the English language well. Most have no pets and have never touched a domestic cat. They care little about the environment or the effect of poaching, climate change or deforestation on the planet. Solomon’s Cat, a play by David Holman which follows the adventures of a young Tanzanian boy as he tries to save a leopardess from poachers and fur traders, is widely used in her school as a teaching book. After finishing the book, Daphne is invited into the class to talk to students about Big Cat Rescue (aided by photographs and video that she has taken at the sanctuary, since visual aids are vitally important to ESOL students). She then discusses extinction and conservation, finishing off by asking students to visit the Big Cat Rescue website, choose a cat and prepare a PowerPoint Presentation on the animal to include diet, size, habitat and vulnerability in the wild. This encourages students to carry out independent learning, improves their English language and their IT skills. Students become passionate about their chosen cat when they deliver their presentations to the rest of the class during the following lesson. In some students, this instigates an interest in animals, which the school supports by running a zoology club, under Daphne’s supervision.
In both 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years, Daphne taught a course on animal care to a group of low ability students, who were incapable of following a standard curriculum timetable, either because of language difficulties or behavioral problems. This included a module on animal welfare including wild animals in captivity and conservation in the wild and much of the module was based on information from Big Cat Rescue, including cage construction and enrichment. As part of this, the students had to design an enrichment toy for a cat. This was done after watching video taken at Big Cat Rescue, showing cats being given various forms of enrichment including pumpkins, balls, and scent impregnated paper bags. The students all successfully gained an OCN Level 1 qualification in Improve Own Learning and also an ASDAN Bronze Award qualification (UKrecognized qualifications). For most, this was the only qualification they left school with, and it helped to build up their esteem and encourage them to apply to go on to further education as well as develop an interest in animal care.
All state run schools in theUKfollow the National Curriculum. At Key Stage 3 (11-14 years) an area of study is ‘Living Things in Their Environment and Feeding relationships’. Within the science department at Fir Vale, Daphne teaches students about this subject using examples of animals at Big Cat Rescue, such as why wild cats are living closer to civilization because their natural habitat is being destroyed (e.g. Faith the bobcat’s story). Using true stories and actual video from Big Cat Rescue helps the children to understand the impact of human civilization development and has proved to be much more effective than using the textbooks alone. They particularly like Faith’s story since it has a positive ending when she is released back into the wild. It has been noted that exam results in this area have improved since this teaching method was included.
Daphne says that thanks to the knowledge and experiences gained at Big Cat Rescue, hundreds of students have benefited educationally over the last five years and are now much more aware of conservation issues worldwide, including ethical and financial problems, such as the plight of snow leopards and humans in theHimalayas. She has organized debates between groups of students relating to this subject, and in particular, students at Fir Vale have a special interest in this area of the world since many are of Pakistani background.
Other schools in theSheffieldarea are now becoming interested in the work that Daphne does at Fir Vale and she has been invited to visit other educational establishments to give talks about the zoology club and conservation, again giving presentations on the work of Big Cat Rescue. After discussion with the school’s senior management, it was felt this educational area would be of interest to many schools and Daphne is currently in negotiations with other schools inSheffield, enabling her to give talks to younger pupils (5-11 years) to help them to understand and develop an interest in conservation and correct animal care, from an early age.
Something which started as a visit to an exotic cat sanctuary back in 2001 has now impacted on children in the UK, as well as adults though articles they have read. Daphne hopes to continue to expand her use of Big Cat Rescue resources to engage people, especially children which are our future generations, in developing a much greater interest in conservation worldwide. The most important thing to note here is that Daphne is just one volunteer who has taken that passion out to other countries to share it with her kinsmen.
Interns: Big Cat Rescue hosts up to a dozen interns from around the globe for three month sessions. There is no charge to the intern and housing, transportation and one night a week of social integration into the world outside our gates is provided. An on site volunteer serves as a “den mother” to be sure that they eat, clean their rooms, do their laundry and have a great time.
During their time here, interns not only learn the best practices in animal care, they learn compassion for the animals as sentient beings and they learn how to get along with each other. They learn each others customs and how to appreciate the value that each brings to the situation. Before their time is up, they will have learned responsibility, gentleness, teamwork, self reliance, proper feeding and handling methods of wild carnivores and operant conditioning. Interns are encouraged to stay current on conservation issues, and are taken out weekly to learn how to track animals in the wild and learn the names and uses of the plant species they encounter. Interns will be capable of leading tours, public speaking, gift shop sales duties, customer services and a host of other skills that will enable them to earn a living that will enable them to give back to the animals and nature. It is the best way that we can seed the planet with people who have respect and consideration for all life.
The following is a list of interns from around the globe in 2004-2006 who were selected by Big Cat Rescue as the best candidates to come spend 3 months on site. Service dates are listed.
S.A.F.E. in the Wild: Saving Animals From Extinction in the Wild is a program whereby Big Cat Rescue supports conservation efforts around the world. Our web site addresses local and global concerns about environment and has over 7500 pages of information, movie clips, sounds, safe interactive online games with a conservation theme and photos. The web site gets more than 250,000 hits per day and in any given week the visitors will be roughly 34% from countries outside of the U.S. as you can see from this breakdown from a random week in 2006: United States 25,620, United Kingdom 3,861, Canada 2,708, Australia 1,993, India 435, New Zealand 341, Germany 253, South Africa 225, Netherlands 131 and France 124. The information provided has helped wildlife rehabilitators identify animals and obtain proper care instruction, helped officials in smuggling cases to identify rare species of exotic cats being illegally traded and those are just a few of the ways that we know the site has had an impact this year.
In addition to providing information about conservation efforts around the world, Big Cat Rescue has actually funded some and provided services in others. In 2005 5% of the proceeds from our annual gala, The Fur Ball, were donated to these conservation projects and the same is being done in 2006. It is our intent to do so every year.
Africa: In 2005 and 2006 Big Cat Rescue has provided both funds and volunteers to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy inKenya . Lewa relocates problematic wildlife to protected areas and provides education to children in the area who would not otherwise be able to read or write. In addition to the funds that Big Cat Rescue donates, we also provide aU.S. market forKenya ’s craftsmen and send clothing with our volunteers to distribute when they visit. Our volunteers, just like Daphne Butters above, take their skills and attitudes of compassion for all life into these barren regions and share a message of hope.
China , India , Kyrgyz Republic , Mongolia and Pakistan : Every year since 1997 Big Cat Rescue has donated to the countries that are home to the Himalayan mountain range where the elusive snow leopard is found. One whole corner of the gift shop explains how the sale of items made by the villagers helps save the snow leopard in the wild. In 2006, Dr. Tom McCarthy, the Conservation Director for the Snow Leopard Trust, came to Big Cat Rescue to explain just how crucial each sale was to protect of these exquisite cats. On September 27, 2006 the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, Brad Rutherford, came to Big Cat Rescue to tell us more about the work that is being done to save the snow leopard from the aspect of building relationships.
The snow leopard lives in regions where the average person makes the equivalent of $1.00 per day. Most of the people who share the same highlands with the snow leopard are herders and to them, the loss of one sheep or goat can mean the difference in their survival. Most of the snow leopards that are killed are retribution killings; meaning that the cat has been blamed for killing one of the herd and the herdsman has killed the next snow leopard he saw. The herdsman can eat the cat and sell the hide for 25.00 which for them is a month’s wage. There are many other middle men along the way who are anxious to get their hands on a snow leopard pelt or penis for the Asian medicinal trade or for the black market. The pelt dramatically becomes more valuable as it goes down the line and can cost $5,000.00 or more to the final buyer. Brad pointed out, that it is a good thing that the dead animal is worth so little to the people who are most responsible for killing them however as that makes this practice far more financially feasible to stop.
The Snow Leopard Trust members inChina ,India ,KyrgyzRepublic ,Mongolia andPakistan work closely with the local people to find out what they need. In some cases, they can create handicrafts like those we sell and make five times what they can make from herding. Over the years, the Snow Leopard Trust has brought in marketing people and craftsmen to show the local people how to create items that are marketable.
The programs are structured with reducing reliance on Snow Leopard Trust funds for each consecutive year and to remain in the program the community must ensure that no snow leopards are killed. If anyone in the community kills a snow leopard, the entire community risks losing their right to participate in the program for a year and that is enough to keep everyone watching out for the snow leopard. Their claims of protection must verified by the game wardens and governmental agencies who actually have incentives to discover poaching because they are often paid a portion of the confiscation if they can catch a poacher.
Brad told us that next to his organizations’ founders’ zoo in Seattle, Big Cat Rescue is the largest retailer for Snow Leopard Enterprises.
Guyana, South America: In 2005 Big Cat Rescue President, Jamie Veronica, Marc Johnson, of Foster Parrots and paying eco tourism guests returned to Guyana to continue talks with the Amerindian people about the need for a wildlife protection and addressing this issue through the further development of an eco-tourism project. They met with Guyana Member of Parliament Shirley Melville. An Arawak Amerindian and a strong advocate for Amerindian rights, M.P. Shirley Melville had also been highly active in conservation and environmental protection issues. Embracing the project with tremendous enthusiasm,NappiVillage has dedicated 250 square miles of tribal territory as protected conservation land and was chosen as the site for the first eco-tour lodge complex.
The country ofGuyana , famously rich in bio-diversity, is one of the least populated tropical countries in the world with a population of only 850,000 inhabitants. With only three percent of its 80,000 square miles inhabited it is, unfortunately, one of only two countries inSouth America that still legally exports parrots and other wildlife for the pet trade. In fact,Guyana has been one of the top exporters of wild parrots in the world and remains active in trapping parrots, wild cats, primates, reptiles, sea turtles and various other land and sea animals.
Trapping and exportation of native species has been, for generations, one ofGuyana’s only means of generating income for the indigenous people. However, closer examination of the trade in wildlife reveals grim realities of the animal export trade; decimation of native wildlife species and habitat is leading to irreversible elimination of the very source of income. The native people, who are essential in the harvesting of these resources, earn an abysmal fraction of the value of the exported animals. In a country where the average annual income is little more than $1,000.00, the income derived through the capture of wildlife and habitat destruction remains attractive.
The native Amerindian tribes ofGuyana , now becoming aware of the need to protect their forests and wildlife, are expressing the desire to take control of the ecological destiny of their country rather than bow down to the exploitation of animal trades, miners and loggers currently at liberty to devastateGuyana ‘s natural heritage.
ProjectGuyanaenables us to take the first steps towards protecting and preservingGuyana’s native wildlife by offering a more financially attractive and culturally desirable alternative to poaching. Through the development of this viable eco-tourism project entire Amerindian communities can benefit from the income derived from hosting visitors, who are often sympathetic to their needs. Eco-tourism will create sustainable employment opportunities for the indigenous people ofGuyanawho can bring their acute knowledge of their natural resources and their many skills and crafts to a new and exciting international market. It will not only lend economic strength to participating communities, but will provide a canopy of protection for the native species whose values as wild animals far exceeds the cost of a destructive and self-serving exotic pet trade.
Eco-Tour Attractions: Visitors to Guyana will have a choice of tour itineraries ranging from an ambitious 3 and 4-day Kanuku Mountains hike that will bring them to the realm of the Harpy Eagle, to more leisurely tours that will encompass sightings of Red Bellied, Scarlet, Red and Green, Blue and Yellow Macaws, Giant Anteaters and a wide variety of primates. Horseback and canoe excursions will let tour groups experience the wilds ofGuyanaat an intimate level. Visitors can also travel toKaeiteurFallsto witness one of the world’s tallest single-drop waterfalls of 741 feet. Construction on the first of two planned lodge complexes, located inNappiVillage, has been completed by the local tribes with funds from Foster Parrots and Big Cat Rescue.
In 2006 funds have been earmarked again for this project and BCR President, Jamie Veronica will deliver them when she returns in the spring. On her last visit she set camera traps to learn the migratory routes of the native cats and taught the villagers how to change the film and send it to her via an Internet café 7 hours away. Meanwhile native handicrafts are being sold in our gift shop just like we are doing forAfricaand the Snow Leopard Trust. Big Cat Rescue will continue to assist ProjectGuyanaby arranging eco tourism adventures where all of the proceeds go to the Amerindians to enable them to protect their native wildlife and their heritage.
Brazil : In November 2005 Big Cat Rescue donated funds to Dr. Jim Sanderson , Ph.D, a world renown field biologist to assist him in his study of the Pampas Cat inBrazil . The funding helped purchase the camera traps, telemetry collars, microchips and other equipment necessary to study the Pampas Cat in the wild, helped pay the local people that will be trained to monitor the equipment, helped in processing of samples and development of film, helped to supplement the diets and medical needs of the Pampas Cats in the program who are producing viable offspring.
The purpose of our involvement is to make people aware of the beautiful Pampas Cat and cause them to care about its survival, to learn about the needs of the Pampas Cat for survival in the wild so that the people of Brazil can incorporate those needs into their reforestation plans, and to ultimately see the Pampas Cat, and all of his wild cat cousins, living “Safe In the Wild.”
Big Cat Rescue has been in the press 318 times, in 16 states including GA, CO, IO, IL, MN, DC, NC, NY, OH, MT, OK, NJ, MA, WA, CA & FL and 25 programs of national or international coverage or in countries other than the U.S. Only the largest national and international stories are listed below:
260 5/18/06 Julie Hanan and Carole Baskin were quoted extensively by Ruth O’Kelly Lynch in the Royal Gazette about the circus side show operated by Kay Rosaire of Sarasota , Florida coming to Bermuda now that 90% of the people polled are expressing disgust for these types of animal shows.
259 5/13/06 Shere Khan was featured on the cover of the USBorne Discovery Internet Linked book called Big Cats by Jonathan Sheikh-Miller and Stephanie Turnbull in Ireland .
244 3/15/06 Travel Smart listed Big Cat Rescue as one of the Top Ten Travel Destinations inFlorida and featured us in their special pull out guide. They are the oldest travel consumer guide in the industry with more than 30 years of providing information with no advertising.
241 2/13/06 Big Cat Rescue was featured on the Geraldo At Large show in a story about the exotic pet problem inAmerica . This aired all across the Fox News network.
223 January 2006 issue of Glamour Magazine did a follow up on the August photo with a 1/3 page about Big Cat Rescue with photos of Carole, Howie and Bailey the bobcat.
199 August issue Glamour Magazine ran a photo of Carole and Howard Baskin on a recent trip toNew York City .
193 7/28/05 Ford ran an article about Jaguar of Tampa’s Rob Elder and his sponsorship of the Jaguars and Cheetaro the Leopard at Big Cat Rescue.
186 2/22/05 Big Cat Rescue was on CNN Tuesday Feb. 22 7PM (EST) in Anderson Coopers 360 Black MarketAmerica .
181 2/6/05 Carole Baskin quoted by Sapna Magazine about the disappearance of the tiger from the wild.
165 10/18/04 Animal People gave us the lead in story in their recap called, “Four Hurricanes in Six Weeks” by Merritt Clifton
162 10/11/04 The Animal Planet ran an episode of The Most Extreme called Killer Cats featuring Big Cat Rescue. This runs repeatedly and can be bought in our gift shop. (This may not have been the exact air date.) Animal Planet also runs episodes of the Jack Hanna show that was filmed at Big Cat Rescue.
130 6/8/04 the BBC One’s Mikala featured Big Cat Rescue in their series called Really Wild.
124 3/28/04 CNN ran this for us pro bono: “Sometimes thrill seekers need a break from the long lines and wallet-breaking prices of mega-amusement parks. One alternative is the world of roadside animal parks and wildlife sanctuaries. While these places can’t offer the high-speed kick of roller coasters, tourists will learn there’s certainly never a dull moment. “Big Cat Rescue” inTampa ,Florida , is a nonprofit “retirement home” to more than 170 exotic cats. At “Big Cat Rescue” you can “stand just 3 feet from tigers and lions” and get so close to the cats “that you can feel their hot breath on your skin.” A night tour is also offered where “you become the hunted rather than the hunter.” Unbelievably, there are also opportunities to hand-feed cougars and tigers.”
bigcatrescue.org: We maintain a web site that is considered THE source on exotic cat information that includes information on all 35 species of wild cats with photos and their sounds. Because we are home to the world’s largest and most diverse collection of exotic cats we provide photos that depict animals most people have never seen. Our photos are often downloaded by other animal related organizations who are doing their part to raise awareness. Our cats’ images have been included in documentaries, books, CD-ROMs, calendars and even towels. All of this is encouraged to educate the public about the plight these animals face.
Our web site includes information that saves lives. We get calls and e mail from all around the world, at all hours of the night, from people facing a life or death situation with an exotic cat. From newborns to the geriatric, we have documented virtually every life threatening experience a cat can face, and all of the general questions about nutrition, vaccines, cage design, and animal husbandry that we can answer. With a mouse click we can direct the animal’s care giver to the solution they are looking for. Over and over again we are told that by having this information immediately available it has saved animals lives.
The web site uses all of the latest in cutting edge technology and incorporates many interactive games, puzzles and videos about exotic animals and the issues they face in captivity and in the wild. Some of the pages are presented in Spanish and we devote a lot of our resources to telling the animal’s stories via photos, slideshows and videos that are capable of transcending language barriers. We are currently converting some of the key pages into audio to assist the blind, the illiterate and the very young.
Big Cat Rescue’s web site includes free teacher’s resources, including age appropriate study guides in reading, writing, math and science at bigcatrescue.org/teachersresource These include study materials, tests, and activities to make learning fun and memorable.
In 2006 153 of our online supporters sent letters to Marthinus van Schalkwyk in South Africa urging him to ban the shooting of captive wild animals in cages for sport. They did this through our sub site at www.CatLaws.com This interactive portion of our web site has enjoyed continued growth and influence in legislative matters both in theU.S. and abroad.
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