2015 Annual Report
This is a playlist of our most recent videos and an easy way to see what we have been doing at Big Cat Rescue.
With your help we are winning in the battle for compassion! Up until 2003 the number of requests for rescues we had to turn down due to lack of space or funds had roughly doubled each year, to 312 that year. We feared it would double again to over 500 in 2004. Instead, it has steadily declined since then thanks to the passage of a federal bill and several state bills that restrict the ownership of exotic cats. This year there were “only” 19 big cats who came to our attention as being abandoned. We were able to take in 4 tigers, 1 leopard and 7 rehab bobcats.
We offered to take 3 more of the cats if their owners would contract to never own another exotic cat. The cats we did not take were those whose owners refused or another sanctuary offered space first. There is no point to our taking in cats just so an owner can go buy another cute cub to use and discard.
Another great result of more bans on private ownership is that the number of killings, maulings and escapes are on the decline in the U.S. as well. In 2015 there was one mauling in NE, 6 escapes (CA, IN, MI, NC, OK & WA) and 13 confiscations (OH). These events involved 14 tigers, 1 lion, 1 liger, 1 leopard, 1 cougar, 1 cheetah, & 1 serval.
2015 was the second best year for big cats. “Only” 19 calls for rescues came to our attention and the only year with fewer was 2011. As more states pass bans and partial bans, fewer and fewer big cats end up in peril.
Rescued 12 exotic cats, including Tigers: Emily, Jessica, Lily and Teisha, a Leopard named Shadow and Rehab Bobcats: Journey, Phoenix, Captiva, Rain, Dancer, and Mr and Mrs. Claws. Emily, Jessica, Lily and Shadow are still part of a lawsuit, so they are just boarded here until it is resolved. We were called out on a total of 12 bobcat calls this year, which is three times higher than any previous year.
Newborn kittens who are brought to Animal Control are routinely killed because with their immature immune systems they do not survive in the shelter environment. So we began a foster kitten program with our interns as the fosters in 2013 We have saved 275 kittens from being killed. We raise them until they are 2 pounds and healthy, then bring them to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to be fixed and adopted out. You can watch our foster kittens in their play room live every day at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-kitten-cabana
By the end of this year, we have 88 exotic cats and 66 of them are over the age of 12. 56 of those are over the age of 15; and 20 of those are over the age of 20. This is well beyond how long they are designed to live in the wild and much older than most zoo cats. This is a testament to the excellent animal care we provide, but we are dealing with many more age related illnesses and are losing more of our big cat friends every year.
Sadly we had to say “goodbye” to these great friends:
You can read their tributes here: https://sites.google.com/site/bigcattributes/home
Windsong Memorial Hospital
Thanks to the generous donation of an X-ray machine, followed by many donors chipping in to fund a proper building for it, the Windsong Memorial Hospital broke ground in 2014 and had its first big patient by January 2015. We have had over 90 veterinary procedures since then, further validating the need for this wonderful hospital. Thank you to everyone who helped build and outfit it so that our cats don’t have the stress and danger of travel to an off site clinic. We still need a sonogram machine to be fully self contained, but that requires specialists to operate them, so it was last on our list.
Award Winning Sanctuary
Top Rated Non Profit at Great Non Profits
We have received this award every year since they started awarding it in 2010 due to the many great reviews we get from visitors and donors each year.
2015 Give Day Tampa Bay is the winner of the most prize money and winner of the most donors on that day.
We again received Charity Navigator’s highest four star rating and are the highest rated wild animal sanctuary in their numeric scoring system.
Outreach: Education & Advocacy
In 2015 we hired Jennifer Leon as the Director of Outreach. Jennifer manages our education programs, advocacy campaigns, and community outreach activities.
We gave 70 educational tours to school and community groups last year and did dozens of on-site presentations at schools throughout Tampa Bay, including 27 presentations provided by senior BCR volunteers through Hillsborough County Public Schools’ SERVE Volunteers in Education program. We once again participated in the Great American Teach-In. Big Cat Rescuers spoke to over twelve hundred students between kindergarten and eighth grade at schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, and Manatee counties.
We also engaged with students from across the country and globe assisting and collaborating on school projects and university research papers, as well as facilitated school and scout fundraising projects to help the cats and education students.
In an effort to educate broader audiences about the plight of captive big cats and reach those who can vote for and promote legislation to protect big cats, Big Cat Rescue was represented at conferences across the United States. We were very successful at actively engaging new supporters and getting wide spread support for our federal bill.
Prior to bringing back the Call of the Wild in Fall of 2015, visitors to the sanctuary had two opportunities to advocate for big cats. At the start of the year our guests submitted hundreds of comments to the FWC in support of stricter regulations for captive big cats in Florida. Throughout the Spring and Summer, 2,670 guests took the Pledge to be Circus Free upon returning from their tour. These actions are in addition to the thousands that signed the pledge online and hundreds of AdvoCats who submitted comments electronically to the FWC.
We have also expanded engagement with our AdvoCats. There is now an active AdvoCats Facebook group where AdvoCats can be part of the big cat community, posts action alerts, discuss the issues, and take action on alerts and activities led by Big Cat Rescue. It has also become a forum for us to highlight the many successes of our AdvoCats – from hosting protest rallies and tabling events to publishing books and blogs promoting the welfare of big cats.
Big Cat Rescue continues to be a valued member of the Tampa Bay community. We participated in a variety of free family events such as EcoFest, VegFest, and St. Francis Day blessings. We’ve had the honor of speaking at various philanthropic clubs and collaborated with groups throughout the state for the benefit of big cats and community.
BigCatRescue.org gets about 2.5 million unique visitors per year. Our website is primarily an educational tool and according to Alexa we are ranked 113,078 worldwide and 34,572 most visited website in the U.S. in 2015 which was more than doubling of our site’s popularity over 2013. We have 998 other sites linking to us.
Some of the pages that were the most popular were:
Our web site addresses local and global concerns about environment and has over 10,359 pages of information, movie clips, sounds, safe interactive online games with a conservation theme and photos. In any given week the visitors will be from more than 200 countries outside of the U.S.
The information provided has helped wildlife rehabilitators identify animals and obtain proper care instruction and helped officials in smuggling cases to identify rare species of exotic cats being illegally traded. Those are just a few of the ways that we know the site has had an impact this year.
The steady increase in legislation banning private ownership represents recognition by our society that private ownership leads to widespread abuse. Social values evolve. It took decades to ban slavery in England and for women to win the right to vote in America. Those ideas started out as “radical” and were held by a small minority. Gradually more and more people understood and agreed until they became a part of our value system that we take for granted today.
The same trend is happening with private ownership of exotics. Gradually more and more people are realizing that this simply leads to widespread abuse of these animals. The best evidence of this is the accelerating trend in state laws. Just since 2005 nine more states have passed some level of ban. Internationally 40 countries have banned or restricted the utilization of big cats in circuses. It is time for the U.S. & South Africa to do the same!
We invited our on site guests to call their Senators and Representatives asking them to support the Big Cats and Public Safety Act this year, resulting in 1,100 calls made from guests at Big Cat Rescue and many more that they made from home afterward.
One of the most painful things we did this year was to change service providers for our advocacy and customer management. We really liked Voter Voice and Blackbaud, but the two platforms just didn’t play well together and after much agonizing we decided to move our entire database of visitors and donors and all of our advocacy work into Salsa. That happened in May, so the figures below are only from about June through the end of 2015.
While we wish that more than 14% of animal lovers on our mailing list would take the time to speak up for the animals, the ones who did were awesome.
Some of the wins from these campaigns were:
1. 46 Representatives joined the 2 bill sponsors by co sponsoring the Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR3546)
2. Delta agreed to stop shipping in big cat trophies.
3. A lion cub who was being beaten up by his father at a backyard zoo was transferred to another facility.
4. More than 2,000 people spoke up for the Florida Panther when the Florida Wildlife Commission tried to abandon their recovery.
Imagine what we could have accomplished if just 25% of our mailing list were to take action for the animals? This is an easy, no cost way for us to have a huge impact collectively. If you have not yet been active in taking action when we send alerts asking you to email a legislator, regulator or venue hosting an abusive animal exhibit, please make 2016 the year you join in. You CAN make a difference – the many supporters who do send these emails have proven it!
The most vivid example is our having gotten owners of over 200 malls to agree not to allow cub petting exhibits, saving all those cubs from a miserable life on the road and being sleep deprived as they are handled or restrained for photo opportunities hour after hour. You can make ending big cat abuse part of the legacy of your life with just a few emails each year.
Big Cat iBooks and eBooks
LaWanna Mitchell is an amazing woman. She started out as a volunteer and became a remote contractor for us years ago. She lives in Missouri, out in the country with her horses, and I get emails from her telling me that she just spent the last two hours, up on a step ladder with a blow dryer trying to melt the ice off her antenna because she doesn’t want to lose another day of working online. On those days when she is just completely snowed in, she just can’t stop working and has taught herself how to build books in iBooks for iTunes and for Amazon.
The iBooks currently in iTunes are:
Common Myths That Fuel the Cruel Big Cat Selfie Trade
The Dunking, Two Tigers & A Lesson in Friendship
The Elusive Sand Cat
The Black-footed Cat
Shaquille Shattered Dreams
Who Is Big Cat Rescue?
Tigrina or Oncilla
Black Panthers Fact or Myth
China Doll Loves Her Pumpkin
What Do You See?
Meet JoJo a Wildcat Hybrid
Lions of Big Cat Rescue
Bobcats of Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Attacks
Big Cat Care: How To Start A Sanctuary
The African Wild Dog
The Kindle Books currently in Amazon are:
Bobcats of Big Cat Rescue
The Elusive Sand Cat
The Black-footed Cat, Big Cat Attacks
Lions of Big Cat Rescue
What Do You See?
The African Wild Dog
Look for all of the titles above as More by Big Cat Rescue in iTunes
Wins for the Big Cats in 2015
11/3/15 WA voters on November 3, 2015 overwhelmingly approved Initiative Measure 1401, introducing state-level felony penalties for the purchase, sale, and/or distribution of products made from elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, sea turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.
10/22/15 Elkhart, TX passes a ban on dangerous wild animals, including nonhuman primates, skunks, jaguars, leopards, lynxes, tigers, lions, panthers, bears, coyotes or any other carnivorous wild animal or reptile within the city limits or one mile of the city limits. This ordinance is retroactive with no grandfather clauses and that the fees are also retroactive as well.
9/25/15 Netherlands became the tenth country to officially ban the use of wild animals in the circus! The ban, which was drafted back in 2014, went into effect this week and includes big cats, elephants, giraffes, zebras, sea lions and primates.
9/22/15 Shriner and head of “Fun Time Shows” Bill Cunningham joined forces with PETA to stop using wild animals at the Shrine Circus. http://cw33.com/2015/09/01/shriners-peta-heated-battle-over-animals-in-shrine-circus/ Cunningham said the trailers that had been used to haul wild animals to shows will now emptied and covered in banners to advocate against the use of wild animals in performances.
9/15/2015 Missoula, MT is the first city in Montana to ban the use wild and exotic animals in shows and non-educational displays. The City Council approved the measure on an 8-3 vote, saying it was time to apply what “we know versus what we do” regarding the treatment of animals.
8/3/2015 “Effective immediately, Delta Airlines will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight.” VICTORY!! Big Cat Rescue asked you to let Delta Airlines know that animal lovers do not want international airlines to continue to transport exotic animal trophies such as Cecil. More than 5,000 of you took action for the big cats!!! And today Delta has finally agreed. This is fantastic news for all endangered and threatened big cats and other animals being hunted across the globe. Its announcement came as a group of airlines including Air France, KLM, Iberia, IAG Cargo, Singapore Airlines and Qantas signaled last week they would ban the transport of trophy-hunting kills.
8/1/2015 Zimbabwean wildlife authorities say they have suspended the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in an area favored by hunters following the killing of Cecil the lion.
6/27/2015 Costa Rica just became the first country in Latin America to ban hunting for sport. Costa Rica’s Congress voted unanimously to approve the ban, which will protect the country’s wildlife – including several species of native big cats. Any hunters caught breaking the new law will face jail time or hefty fines.
3/14/2015 South Dakota became the final state (50th) to enact a felony provision for animal cruelty. These laws typically do not protect wild animals or farmed animals, but it’s a start.
2/4/15 Hollywood Animals announces they are getting out of the big cat rental business because CGI has replaced their industry.
2/5/15 Asheville, North Carolina for banning circuses with wild animals! Read an article about it: http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/02/04/asheville-animal-cruelty-circus-ban-us-cellular-center-elephant/22889259/
2/5/15 Graystone Ranch in GA surrenders their USDA license and gives their wild cats and other animals to sanctuaries citing that they are tired of the business.
Fundraising and Marketing
We continue to be very happy with Zerve as our ticket retailer. In 2014 Zerve sold 18,553 tickets that netted the sanctuary $712,093.00. In 2015 Zerve sold 22,494 tickets that netted the sanctuary $871,626.90. The increase was due, in part, to selling more of the higher priced tours.
Big Cat Rescue was reported favorably in the news 280 times in 2015. Some of our national press has included shows on CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery and the History Channel in addition to such publications as USA Today, National Geographic and the New York Post and major media coverage in several other countries as well. Big Cat Rescue has been in the press in 42+ states including AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, GA, FL, HI, IA, ID, IO, IN, IL, KY, LA, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, VA, VT, WA, WI & WV and dozens of programs of national or international coverage or in countries other than the U.S.
YouTube and Discovery’s Revision 3 continue to send us a lot of traffic. Thanks to this partnership and cross promotions with Animal Planet, we are experiencing more than 3 million views of our YouTube videos per MONTH! By 2015 year end we had 602 videos with 262,474 subscribers and 124,022,664 views.
YouTube Mini Clip Site: DailyBigCat was launched Nov. 20, 2010 to provide a channel for the mini clips we upload directly from our iPhones. By year end this site had 685 videos, 11,946 subscribers and 2,320,523 views.
Facebook: We surpassed 1,836,499 fans on Face Book
Google +: This is a new social site for us in 2013 and we have already reached 473,854 fans on this venue.
Our Education Director took on Twitter to ramp it up and ended the year with 17,100 followers.
A huge shout out to everyone who has donated items from our Amazon wishlist and who has chosen Big Cat Rescue as their charity of choice in https://smile.amazon.com/
Got Roku? If you do, then you have more than 600 episodes of Big Cat TV waiting for you for FREE in the Channel Store! Series include our best videos from each year going back to 2007. Big Cat Vets, Cat Chat Show, and Big Cat Rescuers, our weekly big cat reality show.
Final financial numbers are at this link.
Big Cat Rescue has an Endowment Fund to provide a secure future for the cats. The Fund resides at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Periodically the Community Foundation offers a matching program where the nonprofit sets a fundraising goal and when 75% of the goal is reached, the Community Foundation provides the remaining 25%, which effectively is a 33% match of the funds provided by donors.
Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats
In 2015 Big Cat Rescue donated $23,100.00 to conservation programs.
$3,000 to Build a Boma via Nat Geo initiative in S. Africa (from our Wildcat Walkabout event)
$3,000 to Lion Guardians in Africa (from our Wildcat Walkabout event)
$9,100 to the Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation
$8,000 to Felidae Conservation Fund
Plus we are the largest retailer of Erbis Enterprizes products which are made in snow leopard regions, by local craftsmen. The funds they get from our gift shop sales of their handicrafts enables them to sustain periodic loss of livestock. Villages must ensure that no snow leopards are poached in their areas in order to benefit from the program, so it makes everyone a park ranger.
Helping Other Animal Groups
Saving Lions. Our Wildcat Walkabout may have just seemed like one heck of a party, but thanks to everyone who came and fundraised for the event, we were able to net $6,066.63 and we wanted to spend it on ways to help lions outside our gates. $3,000 was donated to Nat Geo’s Build a Boma Project and $3,066.63 was donated to Lion Guardians to protect lions in the wild.
One of our Senior Keepers went to help a troubled sanctuary in the U.S. twice as they had no staff and helped implement training programs, such as those taught at ZooCollege.com to insure their ability to train future staff. She also helped run a sanctuary for big cats in Ethiopia for Born Free, while they were seeking a qualified CEO.
Created 23 Intranet sites, which are sort of a sanctuary-in-a-box site, for other sanctuaries to use. These came complete with every training video, training manual, chart and idea that we use to run Big Cat Rescue. We do this for free for sanctuaries that do not breed, buy, sell, trade nor allow contact w/ wild animals.
We donated countless tickets to other animal rescue groups to use in their fundraisers. We often will host volunteer appreciation parties for them at no cost as well.
We are so pleased to provide assistance to organizations that are saving big cats (and little cats) across the globe!
Then and Now
Visit https://bigcatrescue.org/about/finances/ to get copies of our 990’s and Audited Statements. We pride ourselves in keeping our fundraising and administrative total expenses below 20%. Because our tour revenue exceeds our fundraising and administrative costs, 100% of donations go to Program Expense.
The majority of the increase in Program Expense in 2012-2013 was the cost of lawsuits we filed in furtherance of our mission against what we believe to be one of the most notorious exploiters of tiger cubs. We won a million dollar judgment against this breeder/exhbitor for violations of our copyright and trademark in 2013. He filed bankruptcy personally and on behalf of his zoo. However, by consent agreement his personal debt to us is not to be dismissed in bankruptcy, and the zoo bankruptcy has been dismissed. So currently we are working through the process of seeking to recover our judgment against whatever assets we can. Without the generous support of our donors we could not have sustained this successful effort. Thank you!
Who We Are
The Board met 4 times in 2015.
Paid Staff and Contractors:
All of our animal care is done by volunteers or by staff who also volunteer time before & after work.
Big Cat Rescue had 80+ volunteers at the end of 2015 who clocked in 33,262 man-power hours, in addition to 49 intern sessions who clocked 29,400 man-power hours. In total this amounted to 62,662 man-power hours provided roughly the equivalent workforce of 30 more full time staff. This figure did not include volunteer hours of the President and CEO which is about 5,000 hours more. Between paid staff, part time staff, contractors and volunteers we averaged the equivalent of 50 full time staff.
We have 92 volunteers; 79 women and 13 men. The youngest 18 years old, the oldest 87 years old.
Between January 1, 2013 and September 1, 2015 Big Cat Rescue provided $783,783.00 in scholarships to provide housing, transportation, utilities, food, training and entertainment to 117 interns arriving in Tampa, FL from 15 countries and 27 states.
Staff and Volunteer Training
Several of our staff attended the Safe Capture Course, as we do any time they are in Florida.
Continued turning our volunteer training classes into video classes.
See the last 11 years in annual reports:
This is a play list of our behind the scenes videos: