2017 ANNUAL REPORT
A special 25th anniversary message from Big Cat Rescue’s Founder Carole Baskin:
When I saved a bobcat kitten at an animal auction from certain death on November 4, 1992 and named her Windsong, I really had no idea what I was doing …nor what the future would hold. It seems almost impossible, but today marks 25 years since that very first exotic cat stole my heart and set the wheels in motion for what would become Big Cat Rescue.
Fast forward to today. I’m proud to say our sanctuary has rescued over 250 exotic cats, shut down every exotic cat fur farm in America, advocated fiercely for strong laws to protect big cats, rehabilitated and released more than 45 wild native Florida bobcats, and educated millions of people about the plight of captive big cats kept as pets, bred for cub-petting schemes, and exploited at roadside zoos, fairs and circus acts.
It hasn’t been easy and it wouldn’t have happened at all without our amazing volunteers, interns, staff, donors, and followers like you! It has been a 25-year roller coaster of tears, fears, joy, perseverance, grief, gratitude, sweat, heartbreak and hope. And determination that the Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 1818) becomes federal law and ends the suffering of so many captive big cats in this country. Please help us pass this crucial legislation for big cat by visiting BigCatAct.com.
Thank you so much for all of your support!
This Annual Report still has a few figures outstanding to be complete. Those are marked by XX and will be filled in as those departments report in.
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 63 cats who came to our attention as being abandoned, but it is important to note that 42 of them came from three failed zoos and “sanctuaries”. We were able to take in 15 new cats: 2 caracals, 2 bobcats, 2 hybrids, 1 cougar, 1 jaguar, 1 Amur leopard, 1 serval and 5 rehab bobcats.
We offered to take 6 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. For the first time since we began tracking this, in 1990, there were no maulings or human deaths by big cats in the U.S. this year. There were 4 serval escapes, a bobcat escape and a jaguar escape in TX, SC, PA, MO, RI, and NJ. There were killings, maulings and escapes in Russia, South Africa, Canada, Japan, Italy, China, France and the UK. Combined these events involved 4 human deaths, 9 maulings, 5 escapes. Two of the deaths were children. More at http://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-attacks/
2017 was a year of many cheers…but also quite a few tears.
It is because of YOU, our wonderful donors, that we can continue to rescue, care for and rehabilitate injured and orphaned bobcats across Florida. As news of our success grows, we receive more calls asking for our help. In order to do so, we want to relocate and expand our bobcat rehab area at the sanctuary. The new facility will include eight large rehab enclosures in a remote area far from people so the cats retain their wild instincts. The cost for this expansion is approximately one million dollars. By the end of 2017, four of the runs have reached completion and we’ve started work on the Bobcat Hospital.
We refer to Big Cat Rescue as a retirement home because so many of our cats are well over 80, 90 and even 100 in human years. Your financial support allows us to provide all of our cats with the very best nutrition and medical care. But not even our cats can live forever. This year we shed many tears as we said goodbye to several elderly cats:
It was a very, very hard year for us as these cats were such a huge part of our lives for decades.
As 2017 closed, we are so thankful for your donations, which allowed us to rescue and become the permanent home for more exotic cats!
Maya Cougar‘s owner surrendered her to the Ohio Department of Agriculture who called us to give her a permanent home.
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 577 kittens & cats 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 playroom live every day at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-kitten-cabana
Long Healthy Lives
By the end of this year, we have 71 exotic cats and 44 of them are over the age of 12. 34 of those are over the age of 15, and 21 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.
2017 was a year for some amazing improvements that included:
Tiger is a keyword I have been trying to “rank” for since we got on the Internet in 1996.
Today 12/12/17, for the first time ever, we are on the first page of google!
If you just type in tiger thanks to the video of Amanda Tiger below that has over 5.5 million views.
We built a new Gift Shop! It took nearly a year, but with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears we were able to triple our sales space. We are currently using the old gift shop as the staging area for tours so that people don’t have to wait outside in the elements. It has several monitors showing the explore.org webcams, slideshows of our cats and videos from our YouTube channel. It also has caged in, outdoor viewing areas, so that guests can see what it’s like to be the one in a cage.
The new space also brought all of our inventory under one roof, so that volunteers don’t have to leave the area to restock. It allowed more offices in this busy hub so that key team members are close by to help new volunteers learn the ropes. To that end there is a new training center and a fully equipped break room, stocked with snacks, is under construction.
Part of what took so long to finish the new Gift Shop was that we decided to build a new Cat Walk. Because of an unprecedented drought, our lake levels dropped to the lowest they have ever been. We felt we couldn’t pass up this opportunity to completely tear down and rebuild the catwalk bridge and caging underneath that keeps the tigers on their side of the lake. So that we would never have to replace the cage wire again, we built it from stainless steel this time.
The fourth new rehab run was funded and built and we began construction on a Bobcat Rehab Hospital. When rehab bobcats come in all broken and in need of intensive care, it ties us our recovery space and makes it very difficult to deal with our permanent cats’ needs. The new Bobcat Rehab Hospital will be only for rehab bobcats, so we can keep it much quieter for them and free up space in the West Boensch Recovery Hospital for our nonreleasable cats.
When we heard we were going to pick up Manny Jaguar and Nat the Amur leopard we knew we needed a new van. We had needed one for a while, and did the fundraising for one in the summer because our 20-year-old van wasn’t going to last much longer. We shopped and shopped for just the right vehicle to use for big cats and little cats but you always wonder if you bought the right car, right? When we met the zoo to switch Manny and Nat to our van, we were delighted to see they had purchased and were quite happy with, the exact same model. So far, we love it!
Our Intranet site has always been a great central repository for our classes, animal observations, records, etc., but it’s a google site and just not as robust for team projects as Asana. We began using Asana in Oct 2017 and love the way it helps keep us all on track toward the many and varied goals of running the sanctuary.
Award Winning Sanctuary
Top Rated Non Profit at Great Non Profits
2017 Give Day Tampa Bay
Big Cat Rescue was the top fundraiser???, with $XX donated over the course of the day.
We again received Charity Navigator’s highest four-star rating and are the highest rated wild animal sanctuary in their numeric scoring system at an amazing 100%!
Outreach: Education & Advocacy
We hosted over 50 educational tours to school and community groups and presented at dozens of off-site events throughout central Florida. Many of those presentations were scheduled in culmination with fundraising campaigns or advocacy projects initiated by student groups and completed in collaboration with BCR staff.
This year we continued to see an increase in our distance learning programs. We participated in dozens of school project interviews via Skype, Zoom, and other real-time video apps with students from across the country and globe including Thailand, Texas, Washington, California, Australia, Sweden, Canada, New York, and England. Overall we assisted over 100 students or student groups with their big cat related projects. We also produced a white tiger lesson plan for elementary students and published a new abuse issues page on the topic of tiger farming. 2017 also brought about the culmination of nearly two years of collaboration between our Director of Outreach, Jennifer Leon, and Lola Gille, an animation student in the UK. In July, Lola and her team debuted their film, “Hunted”. It is a beautiful and haunting animated portrayal of big cats in captivity.
In November Big Cat Rescuers donned their cleanest shirts and traveled across the Tampa Bay area to once again participate in one of our favorite events of the year, the Great American Teach-In. Thanks to 13 fantastic Rescuers, a mix of staff and volunteers, nearly 2,000 students at 25 schools in central Florida got to learn about all things Big Cat Rescue. We touched upon the issues of captivity and other threats to cats such as fur farms. But most importantly we highlighted how these animals are dangerous and should not be in our homes or petted as photo props. If nothing else our goal is that these leaders of tomorrow, these future Big Cat Rescuers, will understand that holding a baby wild animal is never a good idea.
2017 was a challenging year for both captive and wild big cats. From a federal blackout of animal inspection records that only aided abusers to unprecedented threats to big cat protections under the Endangered Species Act – there were many fires to put out and many threats to combat. But our AdvoCats were not hampered in their advocacy! Thanks in part to our amazing AdvoCats our federal bill continues to gain strength in Congress; communities across the U.S. banned the use of wild animals in the circus, and we have fought back against some of the worst acts of big cat abuse.
Highlights from the year:
On February 3, 2017, the USDA removed public access to inspection reports for approximately 9,000 facilities. Big Cat Rescue immediately went into action, thoroughly examining the USDA website for any remaining information that we could capture before it was scrubbed. Thankfully we had just completed a massive records download in January – so we had up to date reports and inventories for the big cat facilities. Over the past few years, Big Cat Rescue has collected inspection reports on 147 licensed big cat exploiters. In addition to demanding that the records be returned to the USDA website, we made over 3,000 inspection reports and related records publicly available. Although this battle for transparency continues, the USDA’s decision came with a surprising public backlash that has since led them to release many of the withheld records.
In May, Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling circus petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to allow 8 of their circus tigers to be exported to Germany where they would perform in another circus. BCR immediately posted an action alert asking supporters to submit comments in opposition to FWS granting this export permit. FWS received 14,822 comments with an overwhelming majority being in opposition to granting this export permit. Although the permit was ultimately granted and those cats are now performing in a German circus, our advocacy once again put Ringling’s treatment of their cats in the public eye and brought public scrutiny to this behind the scenes weaseling.
On July 21st, New York City lawmakers voted 43-6 in favor of Intro 1233. Led by Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Corey Johnson, Intro 1233 effectively bans the use of exotic animals in the circus in New York City. For our part, Big Cat Rescue sent each council member letters of support, participated in conference calls with key council members, and submitted testimony to be read at what would become a historic public hearing. We also encouraged all of our New York city supporters to contact their councilmembers and attend the final vote, which marked a massive success for the welfare of big cats!
In October Arizonans for Wildlife launched a ballot initiative campaign to protect the state’s wild cats from extreme cruelty by prohibiting the trophy hunting and trapping of mountain lions, bobcats, ocelots, jaguars, and lynx. Big Cat Rescue is honored to endorse this campaign and continues to call on our supporters in Arizona to join this historic fight by signing up to volunteer with Arizonans for Wildlife as they gain the momentum needed to make it on the ballot in 2018.
We continue to build and strengthen coalitions for the benefit of the cats, including with our friends in law enforcement – the National Sheriff’s Association, the National Animal Care and Control Association, and the Florida Animal Care and Control Association. We have a big cat pet epidemic in our country and it makes absolute sense to partner with the professionals who are seeing this first hand in their communities. Big Cat Rescue is proud to support those who have taken on the tough and often thankless task of investigating animal cruelty, enforcing animal care regulations, and bringing animal abusers to justice. The private ownership of big cats poses an unnecessary threat to those in law enforcement, the animal care and control field, and the communities they serve.
In Florida, Big Cat Rescue continues to be a champion for the welfare of captive big cats and their wild counterparts. Our Director of Outreach, Jennifer Leon, represents Big Cat Rescue at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission [FWC] meetings throughout the state where she has spoken out against some of the state’s worst big cat exploiters, advocated for stronger enforcement of big cat related regulations, and prompted investigations of some of the state’s worst big cat abusers. Jennifer has become a stand out voice for all of Florida’s animals – helping to postpone the Florida bear hunt and championing protections for the Florida panther.
In July we launched our Cat Fight (http://bigcatrescue.org/catfight/) campaign to protect the Florida panther. The Florida panther is facing imminent attacks from all directions. But it was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement that they would conduct a review the Florida panther’s protective status that prompted the campaign. This iconic species is currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act but developers, ranchers, and hunters have been challenging federal officials to down list or completely remove the panther’s protective status – potentially setting the stage for a panther trophy hunt in the near future. Road kills, habitat loss and development in panther range continue to be threats. With as little as 120 cats left in the state, the Florida panther must stay protected. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted public input for consideration in the review of Florida panthers until August 29, 2017. Our supporters submitted over 3,500 comments! Big Cat Rescue also joined with local and national groups in submitting our official comments. The Cat Fight page on our site is a one-stop shop for all the things facing the Florida Panther and will be regularly updated as issues arise and opportunities to protect the Florida panther become available.
We had two outstanding Outreach Interns this year, Helena Parsons and Anna Sterlacci. The Outreach Intern works with our Director of Outreach in promoting legislation, advocating for the welfare of big cats, and educating the public on the issues facing exotic cats, specifically private ownership and exploitation. Helena’s residency focused on ending the use of bobcats for fur. Her video “Lets Put An End To Bobcat Trapping” helped gain support for The Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act, HR1438, a federal bill that would ban the use of all body-gripping traps and snares in wildlife refuges. Helena also joined our Director of Outreach in Washington DC for the National Sheriff’s Association conference. Anna joined BCR over the summer months and worked to spread awareness about white tigers. In addition to creating a White Tiger Lesson Plan for teachers, Anna helped BCR identify cub-petting abusers in Florida. Her “True Facts about White Tigers” video has had over 50k plays on our YouTube channel in less than 6 months!
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 Gulfport’s Get Rescued, Plant Museum’s Picnic in the Park, Hillsborough Day at the Capitol, EcoFest, and many St. Francis Day blessings. Both staff and volunteers have had the honor of speaking to various philanthropic clubs and community groups.
In 2017 we began a partnership with the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, offering free passes to cardholders via the library’s Discovery Pass program. This program helps to make the sanctuary more accessible to members of our community and provides a real-life educational experience for life-long students.
For the fourth year in a row, we partnered with Pasco County Utilities and FGUA on their Water Awareness Poster Contest. This coloring contest attracts thousands of students from across Pasco county competing to win the prize for best water conservation poster. Big Cat Rescue gets to share our message with these students and award poster contest winners with sanctuary tickets so they can see a “water tiger” up close. Sadly TJ the tiger passed away this year. Known for his crazy water play, TJ was the purrfect water tiger. The jury is still out on who will take over the title of water tiger for the 2018 contest, but Seth tiger has a strong lead.
Big Cat Rescue regularly plays host to celebrities who believe in our mission and want to support the cats. In 2017 we welcomed real-life winners and on-screen kings, among others, for a day they’ll never forget.
In January, the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team rolled into Big Cat Rescue. Hailing from the state where 49 animals died in 2011, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, and three mountain lions – the players were familiar with the downside of treating wild animals as pets. Left-winger and team captain, Nick Foligno, organized the trip and seemed truly impressed with the sanctuary and the stories of our cats. Although the cats will always be loyal to their home team (Go Bolts!), they were honored to host and share a few chuffs with the men who hold the second-longest winning streak in NHL history!
When Big Cat rescuers heard that Khary Payton would be in town in August for the Tampa Bay Comic Con, we pounced on the opportunity to introduce our tigers to the Walking Dead’s King Ezekiel. Khary and his team made for outstanding guests! They were quickly in-step with BCR’s mission of ending big cat abuse and wanted to play their part. The cats also seemed to know that King Ezekiel was in town. Priya, Kali, Andy, Arthur, and Gabrielle all gave Shiva’s onscreen partner vocal greetings and were more than happy to stalk him along the tour path. Once back at Comic-Con, Khary showed off his new BCR t-shirt while taking pictures with fans. On the table next to his photos the actor displayed our “Real Beast” sign, BCR brochures, and had Call of the Wild cards for the taking – encouraging his fans to help end big cat abuse by supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
In April Big Cat Rescue began working with the Phone2Action advocacy platform to better help us connect visitors and supporters with their elected officials. This new system makes it easy to identify and call your members in Congress to ask for their support of the Big Cat Public Safety Act. This text-to-call system has streamlined our Call of the Wild action here at the sanctuary and has made it far easier for supporters from across the country to speak out in support of the bill. In the past 9 months, people like you have made over 3,300 calls by simply texting the word CATS to 52886. The system is easy and allows us to reach more decision makers. Thanks to those calls, the Big Cat Public Safety Act ended the first year of the 115th session of Congress with 103 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, a third of them being Republican. We believe that with strong bi-partisan support and the continued advocacy of our followers, we can pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act in 2018! Have you made the Call of the Wild?
We invited our on-site guests to call their Senators and Representatives asking them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act this year, resulting in 3,300 calls made from guests at Big Cat Rescue (over the past year) plus many more that were made from home afterward.
Online our supporters took these actions to protect big cats:
ZooCollege.com launched 4/7/2016 and during 2017 there were 258 enrollments at $9.00 per month. This is the same training that Big Cat Rescuers get (without the actual certifications from performing the tasks) We started work on digitizing our training in 2009.
Wins for the Big Cats in 2017
The USDA has ordered Dade City’s Wild Things to end its tiger cub swimming encounters and pay a $21,000 fine for exposing the animals to “rough or excessive public handling.” Their license was also suspended for 60 days. The order, issued Feb. 15 and effective March 22, found the zoo’s swim program broke the law when it allowed tigers to be harmed during handling and exposed people to dangerous conditions.
4 Hour Energy Drink vows to remove tiger cub ad and never use cubs again in any of their promotions after Big Cat Rescue alerted supporters to contact the company.
12/31/17 Pittsburgh, PA: Mayor Bill Peduto signed a hotly contested bill into law late Thursday that makes it illegal to use a whip, electric prod or elephant hook on any wild or exotic animal in Pittsburgh.
12/20/17 Today Scotland became the first nation in the UK to stop circus suffering! The public called for a ban and the Scottish Parliament listened. The MSPs voted unanimously in favour of the government bill to ban wild animals in traveling circuses giving the animals the best Christmas present ever.
12/2017 Instagram began posting warnings that pop up when people search for abusive exotic animal encounters like this one for Black Jaguar White Tiger.
11/9/17 Expedia Inc said earlier this year it would identify and remove tours and attractions that involve certain wildlife interactions from its sites. TripAdvisor also announced it would no longer sell tickets and activities where wild animals are forced to come into contact with the public, including elephant rides, tiger encounters and swimming with dolphins.
11/8/17 Italy bans all circus use of all animals. Italy is known for having more than 200 animal-based circuses, but the ban comes after continuing pressure from the public to end such atrocities.
10/11/17 Clearwater Police Department After being contacted by BCR about hosting Vernon Yates’ tiger and bobcat at their annual National Night Out event at Clearwater Mall, the police department immediately agreed to never again host a display with exotic cats at any of their events.
9/22/17 The Arlington County (VA) Board on Tuesday voted to prohibit keeping exotic animals as pets. Existing exotic pets are exempt from the ban, but residents will be required to register them. Banned species include primates, raccoons, skunks, wolves, squirrels, foxes, leopards, tigers, lions, bears, crocodiles, venomous snakes and certain spiders, including tarantulas, recluse and widow spiders.
9/19/17 Portland, Maine recently voted this week to BAN the use of big cats, elephants, and other animals from display in the city due to the cruel training of circus animals. In a strong victory for circus animals, no one on the council testified against the proposed ban, but more than a dozen supporters of the ordinance urged the council to adopt the ban and hope the state of Maine will soon follow suit. The ordinance will prohibit lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, elephants, and kangaroos, as well as crocodiles, seals, walruses, and sharks, among other animals from being forced to perform meaningless circus acts.
9/14/17 Sante Fe, NM bans Circuses that use wild animals. Traveling exotic animal acts banned in Santa Fe, NM. After an hour of public testimony dominated by animal-welfare advocates, the City Council on Wednesday voted 8-1 to prohibit traveling wild and exotic animal acts, making Santa Fe the latest in a growing number of localities nationwide and globally to take a stand against the use of animals in circuses and similar exhibitions that are increasingly viewed as cruel forums for exploitation.
8/24/17 USDA asks for public comments about whether or not licenses should be issued or renewed for those in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. Docket ID: APHIS-2017-0062 Comment period ends Oct. 23, 2017 Please comment here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2017-0062-0001
8/20/17 Beijing-based Caissa Touristic said it will stop marketing elephant rides and elephant entertainment shows across Asia, while Asian travel websites fxtrip.com and zanadu.com also promised to sell only ‘elephant-friendly’ tours. Globally, about 160 tourism companies have so far stopped offering elephant tourism programmes and one-off elephant attractions, according to World Animal Protection (previously known as World Society for the Protection of Animals), which is also putting pressure on cruise lines to think about their shore excursions.
8/3/17 Tinder Bans Tiger Selfies: No tiger on Earth has ever wanted to help a human score a date or a hookup, and the popular dating app Tinder has asked its users to ditch the tiger photos now. “Posing next to a king of the jungle doesn’t make you one,” the matchmaking company says, “It’s time for the tiger selfies to go.
7/12/17 The City of Denton, Texas has instituted a written policy strictly prohibiting the issuance of display permits for “dangerous wild animals” including tigers, lions, etc. The policy also prohibits the exhibition of any animal on the list of dangerous animals at the North Texas Fair held in Denton. A similar policy is in effect in Midland, Texas.
7/10/17 In the Implementation Plan for the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2017-18, the G20 commits to focusing its attention on corruption related to the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. Declaration Annex (High Level Principles on Combatting Corruption Related to Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products)
6/21/17 The New York City Council passed 1233-2016-A by a vote of 43 to 6. The bill prohibits the display of wild or exotic animals for public entertainment or amusement. It will go into effect in 180 days to give circuses time to revamp their business model. HUGE shout out to everyone who visited, called and wrote the city council asking them to ban the cruel exploitation of animals in circuses in New York City. One down, 34,999 cities to go! Passage of this bill added New York City to the list of four states and 125 localities in 34 states across the country that have enacted partial or full bans on circus animals.
5/25/17 South Carolina bans the practice of keeping dangerous wild animals as pets. A ban would take effect in 2018. Those already owning big cats, apes and non-native bears could keep them until the animals die, if they registered the large mammals, according to the plan. The bill does not affect zoos because they are federally regulated, lawmakers said.
4/15/17 While Virgin will not promote new animal shows, Thomas Cook is believed to have become the first UK holiday company to cancel links with existing suppliers when it dropped some dolphin and elephant attractions in Thailand, India, Cuba, Turkey and Dominican Republic
4/3/17 Last summer Big Cat Rescue asked all of you to sign our petition asking the Kalahari Resorts in Ohio and Wisconsin to stop selling tiger cub petting and photo sessions to their guests in the lobbies of their resorts. There was also another petition about this circulating last year that had over 140,000 signatures.
We’ve just learned that both Kalahari Resorts no longer are exploiting tiger cubs! We believe the pressure from big cat lovers like YOU who took action made all the difference and finally led Kalahari to do the right thing. A roaring THANK YOU to everyone who spoke up for those cubs!
2/12/17 Virgin Holidays announced it would not sell or promote any new attractions or hotels featuring captive whales and dolphins for theatrical or other entertainment purposes and will encourage existing partners to ‘promote the highest welfare standards for the animals in their care, while also evolving their offering away from theatrical performances’.
1/16/17 Cape Town, SA: The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) confirmed that a zero quota for the hunting of leopard (Panthera pardus) has been extended to 2017 in South Africa.
1/14/17 Kenneth Feld announced he is shutting down the Ringling Bros. circus in May 2017 as their commitments run out. He’s owned the 146-year-old circus since 1967 and cited a change in times and a drop in ticket sales as his reasons. There are only a dozen tigers in acts that work for Ringling Bros., but it’s the best news for big cats in 146 years because the circus had been our most vocal and well-funded opponent in efforts to enact a federal ban on the private possession of big cats. Now the ZAA is the only organized threat to the success of a bill to protect big cats from abuse.
1/9/17 Estonia‘s capital bans wild animals in circuses. Today, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, sent an official letter to Estonian animal organizations in which it declared to no longer issue new public event permits to circuses that use wild animals. In recent months, the cities of Tartu and Pärnu have made a similar decision. The topic is currently being discussed also in the councils of Viljandi and Kuressaare.
1/4/17 United Arab Emirates: The private ownership of wild animals has been outlawed in the United Arab Emirates. Wildcats including endangered cheetahs are known to have been traded as pets here. In October 2016, an outing with five tigers on a beach near Dubai’s iconic Burj Al-Arab hotel was captured on video and went viral on social media, while others have been filmed driving around with lions. The new law bans dealing in and ownership of “all types of wild and domesticated but dangerous animals.” Such animals can only be kept at zoos, wildlife parks, circuses, breading and research centers. Anyone who takes a leopard, cheetah or any other kind of exotic animal out in public will face a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to 500,000 dirhams ($136,000).
A Year of In Situ Projects
Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats
In 2017 Big Cat Rescue donated $83,889.29 to conservation programs in the wild
$1,000 – To African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks and protected areas in partnership with governments and local communities. African Parks focuses on effective law enforcement measures, conflict mitigation schemes, and community engagement in order to protect threatened species such as lions, leopards, and cheetah, along with providing them with the habitat and security of core areas the animals need in order to breed and thrive.
$1,000 – To the Tsavo Cheetah Project. The aim of the Tsavo Cheetah project is to protect and conserve the Tsavo ecosystem cheetah population for the long-term survival of the species. They work with stakeholders and communities in addition to governmental bodies to foster coexistence with local residents and influence wildlife laws and policies.
$2,002.92 – Continued Funding of the First-ever study on the ecology and behavior of the Sand Cat in Morocco
$2,500 – To The Rainforest Trust and their local partner, Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA) who are working to protect a missing link for Jaguars, that will create a combined 7.8 million-acre tai-national corridor, safeguarding critical Amazon Rainforest Habitat across Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. The missing link corridor will be secured by expanding a current Reserve of more than 1.3 million acres, protecting against illegal logging, oil exploitation, and agricultural enrichment.
$4,000 – The Nature Conservancy who are leading an effort to protect the Florida panther, establish links between existing spaces and panther habitat with a goal of ensuring permanent protection for 7,300 acres.
$1,000 – To Wildlife Trust India. This project aims to eradicate the menace of snares and traps from forests in India, with twin goals of, removing existing snares and dissuading further snaring through regular de-snaring walks and an active intelligence network to zero in on individual poachers. Snares & traps located are tagged with the geolocation before handing over to the State Forest Dept. Plotting the geolocation points on a map helps to identify snaring hotspots and appropriate follow up is then initiated. These snares kill species including tigers, leopards, and elephants.
$3,000 – Donation to support the first international Small Cat Conservation summit help in Europe. Attendees are all individuals involved in Small Cat Conservation, of varying species, globally.
$6,000 – To the Tanzania Lion Illumination Project in Africa, who install lion lights on livestock bomas, as a predator deterrent, in the hopes of decreasing human-lion conflicts.
$1,000 – To Wildlife SOS is an organization working with the government in India to address the current needs of India’s Leopards. Assessing threats, providing education and awareness, rehab & release of injured cats and studying ecology/ behavior.
$2,500 – To S.P.E.C.I.E.S to support the first study of the African golden cat in Cameroon, focusing on obtaining population number, in addition to ecological needs, and local education to change attitudes towards conservation
$1,000 – To Felidae Conservation Fund for their efforts to start filling the gaps in knowledge of the Jaguarundi, specifically in Argentina.
$1,000 – To the African People & Wildlife Fund for their Northern Tanzania Big Cats Conservation Initiative. This programme focuses on ensuring that wildlife has the habitat and food resources they need to flourish alongside growing human populations.
$17,240 – To the Corbett Foundation for continued support of their project, building fences around farm wells. The fences prevent accidental drowning of animals such as tigers & leopards. This donation was made using funds raised on International Tiger Day 2017.
$1,000 – To Panthera, who in partnership with governments, corporations, and local communities, are working to preserve the genetic integrity of the jaguar by protecting core jaguar populations and the vital connectivity that has sustained them for hundreds of thousands of years.
$1,000 – To Big Life Foundation’s Predator Compensation Fund. Their aim is to better balance the costs and benefits of living with wildlife and thereby replace conflict and retaliation with tolerance and cohabitation.
$1,000 – To a Pallas Cat Study and Conservation Program in Russia. The Program was started in 2004, in order to collect data pertaining to the true conservation status of Pallas Cats.
$25,000 – To Small Wildcat Conservation Foundation to aid in multiple small wildcat projects. There are 38 wild cats in the cat family. Seven are what are popularly known as the big cats; cheetah, jaguar, leopard, lion, cougar, tiger and snow leopard, the remaining 31 species are small cats. Less than 1% of conservation funding is invested in those 31 species of cat, which results in limited awareness and knowledge of their existence. The species benefiting from this donation included Black-footed cats, fishing cats, and Pallas Cats.
$1,016.37 – To the World Lands Trust, who are funding land purchase to extend protected areas and wildlife corridors for an array of endangered species, including Persian Leopards. Their efforts will also increase Ranger protection, decreasing threats to the animals residing in those areas.
$1,000 – To SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool), a conservation software tool aiding rangers and conservation organizations Worldwide.
Our Wildcat Walkabout on November 4th, celebrating Big Cat Rescues 25th Anniversary, was a great success, raising a total of $13,630 towards our year total of $83,886.37. Funds were raised through the donation of the $25 admission cost to the sanctuary on that day, along with any additional guest donations, and allowed us to assist 5 additional In situ projects.
$2,754 – To Felidae Conservation Fund for their Bay Area Bobcat Study. The Bay Area Bobcat Study aims to look at how human development and habitat fragmentation affects bobcat populations, population status, mortality factors, and health, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
$2,538 – To the Mountain Lion Foundation. The Foundation works closely with legislative, governmental and conservation groups to heighten public awareness and educate policymakers on conservation issues such as hunting, habitat loss, workable wildlife corridors, harmonious human/mountain lion interactions, and the vital role of the mountain lion in a healthy ecosystem.
$2,887 – To Working Dogs for Conservation. Working Dogs for Conservation is the world’s leading conservation detection dog organization. They are pioneers in using dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell to further conservation and aid in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
$2,541 – To S.P.E.C.I.E.S for their project studying Ocelots in Trinidad. This study aims to look at the ecology of Trinidad’s ocelot population, define its place in the evolutionary history of the ocelot as a species and develop an integrative plan for its long-term conservation.
$2,910 – To the Phoenix Fund to assist with Tiger Rehabilitation and Release in Russia. The rehabilitation facility is in a wooded location far from human settlements and allows the tigers to be semi-free ranging with limited to no disturbance from people. Since 2012, they have rehabilitated 7 tigers, 6 of which were released back into their natural habitat. 5 of them became fully adapted to life in the wild. The first female they released went on to have 2 cubs and 2 of the other tigers released separately, formed a couple and also reproduced in the wild, proving their rehabilitation and release programme successful.
Fundraising and Marketing
Facebook Fundraisers Raise Near $75k For the Cats!
2017 – 577 people raised $74,638
March 1 person – $70
April 13 people – $1,665
May 45 people – $5,017
June 58 people – $7,336
July 80 people – $10,163
August 88 people – $11,069
September 68 people – $7,568
October 52 people – $7,856 .
November 87 people – $11,109
December 85 people – $12,785
Compared to 2016 – 5 people raised $465
November 2 fundraisers $290
December 3 fundraisers $175
In the News
Big Cat Rescue was reported favorably in the news 247+ times in 2017. 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.
Compare Our YouTube stats in 2016 to 2017
YouTube and Discovery continue to send us a lot of traffic. Thanks to this partnership and cross promotions with Animal Planet, we are experiencing more than 6.7 million views of our YouTube videos per MONTH! By 2017 year end we had 559,000 subscribers and 254,379,097 views on our main channel and 24,000 subscribers and 6,745,308 views on our secondary channel called Daily Big Cat. This was our most popular video in 2017 racking up 5,816,443 views!
Our Facebook fans have grown to 2,286,865 million likes and 2,206,762 million followers. Our Facebook efforts reach millions of people in a single week!
Below is the last 28 days of 2017:
In August 2017 Big Cat Rescue was included in Facebook’s prelaunch of Watch Shows. We host three Shows that have been seeded with past videos as we continue to add new ones weekly.
Started using FB ads to generate email sign-ups and for BigCatRescue.biz sales.
Twitter At the end of 2017 we reached 321,000 followers on Twitter.
Pinterest 3,969 followers
Google Plus https://plus.google.com/+bigcatrescue has 559,893 followers
LinkedIn 3,876 followers
Instagram 5,095 posts and 77,900 followers
…oh, and started using SnapChat again as bigcatrescuer since we cannot access our original account at bigcatrescue. Our Snapchat activity and followers also boomed this year, with hundreds of viewers per snap!
The BigCatRescue.org site had more than 4 million visitors last year.
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 800 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.
Helping Other Animal Groups
Big Cat Rescue built the website and online infrastructure for the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance.
For many years we have created a “sanctuary in a box” to re-create our own Intranet site for other sanctuaries to use. With the launch of ZooCollege.com, we provide that in a DIY environment and provide FREE access to ZooCollege.com for free to legitimate sanctuaries, their staff, and volunteers.
We have worked with a coalition of other good sanctuaries to build capacity during multi-facility rescue operations and to share resources. Big Cat Rescue has begun the process of creating BigCatTrust.com as a hub for this group and is funding the creation of the site and its hosting and maintenance.
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!
Survived Hurricane Irma
Then and Now
Visit http://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 11%. Because our tour revenue exceeds our fundraising and administrative costs, 100% of donations go to Program Expense (saving big cats).
Who We Are
The Big Cat Board
The Board met 4 times in 2016.
Paid Staff and Contractors:
131 volunteers, 40,781 hours plus 54 interns, 28,773 hours
Big Cat Rescue had 131 volunteers at the end of 2017 who clocked in 40,781 man-power hours, in addition to 54 intern sessions (3 months each) who clocked 28,773 man-power hours. In total these volunteer man-power hours provided roughly the equivalent workforce of 34 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 52 full-time staff.
Between January 1, 2015, and November 17, 2017, Big Cat Rescue provided $978,054.00 in scholarships to provide housing, transportation, utilities, food, training and entertainment to 100+ interns for 146 three month sessions arriving in Tampa, FL from 18 countries and 26 states.
See the last 12 years in annual reports: