2019 Annual Report

27 Years of Saving Big Cats Thanks to YOU!

Some of the most impressive work to save big cats has been done by big cat lovers joining their voices to end abuse and pooling their resources to save exotic cats in the wild before they are all gone.

THE CATS YOU RESCUED

Illithia is a three-year-old female serval who was a former pet. Her owners surrendered her to Big Cat Rescue in May so she can live out her life in as natural an environment as possible.

At the end of June we rescued a baby bobcat who had been injured by hunting dogs. We named him Flint and initially put him into our bobcat rehab program; but unfortunately he has bone deformities due to a disorder or malnutrition prior to arriving here. It was determined Flint is not a candidate for release back into the wild. He will live his life here at the sanctuary, where we can continue to monitor and address his special needs.

Then in September we rescued four cats from a shuttered sanctuary in California: bobcats Philmo, Shiloh and Tom Tom, and Savannah cat Mouser. All are boys except for our sweet Tom Tom. They have all settled in really well and their purrsonalities are beginning to shine!

And last but certainly not least, the three former circus tigers from Guatemala – Kimba, Max and Simba – FINALLY arrived Nov 25! We hope you saw the live videos on our Facebook page of these 3 boys arriving at Big Cat Rescue and finally experiencing lots of room to roam as they stepped into their expansive enclosures. They’ve been busy exploring their dens, platforms and pools and enjoying the soft grasses, trees and foliage.

We are so thankful to be able to provide a safe, healthy, peaceful home for all of our 50+ exotic cats.

Outreach Department Report

Education

At Big Cat Rescue, we envision a world where people learn about cats and appreciate their intrinsic value, without confining them to a cage. To this end, the sanctuary’s education program is evolving and building upon technologies that allow us to share the stories of the cats with more students without increasing the number of onsite student tours. In 2019, we engaged with nearly a thousand students in distance learning presentations and interviews by way of phone and online video conferencing tools.

We used Nepris to facilitate a majority of these opportunities. Nepris is a cloud-based platform that enables teachers to bring real-world relevance and career exposure to students by finding, matching, and virtually connecting industry professionals with their classroom. What’s outstanding about Nepris is that it helps us reach students that may have never heard about BCR but are interested in a variety of Big Cat related topics. In our second year utilizing the platform, we’ve connected with classrooms across the country on issues such as Compare & Contrast Animals in Captivity to Those in the Wild and Career Advice: Animals/Veterinarian/Life Sciences. Our Director of Outreach, Jennifer Leon, also hosted two Industry Chats about Big Cat Rescue for Earth Day and World Animal Day. Nepris records, edits, and publishes every session and makes them available to educators registered on the platform. In December, Nepris chose to feature Jennifer in their upcoming newsletter as a champion on the platform!

We continue to offer year-round onsite private Group Tours for school and community groups, as well as offsite presentations. Likewise, we work with students on research projects, classroom fundraisers, and a variety of other activities. Here are some highlights from our Education Program over the past year:

  • Big Cat Rescue sponsored the opening night of a local production of The Jungle Book.
  • Our Director of Outreach, Jennifer Leon, was interviewed for the online student blog, Smarty Pants magazine – https://smartypantsmagazineforkids.com/2019/06/04/what-does-a-big-cat-rescue-do-interview-with-jennifer-leon/
  • BCR has reached thousands of elementary-aged students in Pasco County over the past decade by sponsoring a coloring contest that raises awareness for resource conservation and wildlife protection. In 2019 we were once again honored to serve as contest judges and award Priya’s Prize as part of FGUA & Pasco County Utilities 10th Annual Water Awareness Poster Contest.
  • In July, we collaborated with Officer Rivard of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission on a summer camp presentation. Rather than soliciting the help of a captive wildlife facility that may bring dangerous cats into the school, Officer Rivard opted to invite Big Cat Rescue to speak about our sanctuary and the cats in our care. It was a fun event and considerate alternative that prioritized the safety of both the students and the cats.

This year’s Great American Teach-In (GATI) set a new record! Twelve presenters, made up of volunteers and staff, spoke to approximately 3,000 students at 27 schools throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, and Pasco counties! We’re reaching students, teachers, and communities that otherwise may never hear our message and speaking directly to the target audience of cub petting exploiters. This is how we make a difference and end the abuse. GATI is a lot of hard work and a bit outside our comfort zones, but it is 100% worth it! It’s incredibly rewarding to connect with students and inspire young advocates. Plus, if you’re lucky, you may get your funny face on the front page of the local newspaper!

Jennifer Leon Great American Teach InJennifer Leon, Director of Outreach for Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, shows off the bite marks and claw marks on a ball that was played with by one of their resident leopards. Leon talked to fourth-graders in Elizabeth Schmitt’s and Dawn Otto’s classes, explaining the rescue’s mission, the cats in their care, and how the children can aid with the preservation of big cats. (Christine Holtzman, Laker Lutz News)

Advocacy

Even while our government works to undermine protections for our most threatened cats, expand hunting on iconic species, and hide big cat abusers from public scrutiny, we still see progressive changes in society benefitting wild and exotic cats. Circuses that use animals are in their death throes, and states are setting precedents for a world in which cats are valued as more than commodities. We’ve reached great new heights this year thanks to the thousands of supporters who chose to be a voice for the cats.

Here are just a few ways you put advocacy into action:

In April, The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed amending their licensing rules to, among other things, eliminate automatic renewals. They were also considering requiring license holders to re-apply for a license if they later acquire unauthorized animals. One of our frequent criticisms of the licensing process is that too many people will use a license for small animals to obtain and exhibit large dangerous animals, such as big cats, without proof that they can adequately house and care for them. Even better, APHIS was looking to crack down on pet owners who use their USDA license to take advantage of loopholes in state bans and convicted criminals who secretly operate under a family member’s license. There’s no word yet if APHIS will move forward with these welcomed changes, but we do know that thanks to our supporters, a majority of the thousands of comments the agency received supported the changes!

In the first few months of spring, we reached out to supporters in Missouri about two proposed bills that would have been detrimental to big cats in the state. MO House Bill 951 would have prevented local authorities from investigating reports of cruelty, neglect, or abuse at roadside zoos and circuses and banned them from inspecting facilities with exotic animals to ensure they are securely housed, preventing the risk of escape. The Missouri House voted HB951 forward, but we stopped it in the Senate where it was rolled into a hefty agriculture bill, SB133! MO Senate Bill 416 wanted to guarantee circuses the right to use wild and exotic animals for entertainment. It would have made it illegal for any local government to ban circus acts, even if done out of concern for public safety or animal welfare. SB 416 was a handout to circuses and other businesses that want protection from a society that no longer accepts exploiting animals for profit. It was the second time Representative Bryan Spencer tried to pass this ill-conceived bill, and it likely won’t be the last. It was also the second time we defeated it!

This summer, we mounted opposition to proposed 2020 mountain lion hunts in Nebraska and Utah. In June, we partnered with the Humane Society of the United States and The Cougar Fund in Nebraska to alert residents, encourage public outcry, and submit our formal opposition to this massacre. Nonetheless, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a trophy hunt that exceeds what experts consider a sustainable offtake rate, threatening the stability and long-term survival of the state’s mountain lion populations. They also permitted the use of hounds during the auxiliary season. It’s appalling that Nebraska has allowed this hunt to continue, and disappointing that Senator Chambers’ bill to end cougar hunts has not moved in the state legislature. As summer was coming to a close, we were further dismayed to hear that Utah officials proposed increasing to their hunt quota by 34, issuing permits for 678 of the estimated 1,500 – 2,5000 adult cougars still roaming the state. Even though we didn’t win these fights, what we did do is build up coalitions and increase public engagement on an issue that will undoubtedly continue to rear its ugly head. Each time it does, we will be back – stronger, more unified, and better prepared. We will end these barbaric hunts.

Historic news out of California! In October, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 1254, to end the trophy hunting of bobcats, and SB 313, prohibiting the use of wild and exotic animals in the circus. California is the third state to effectively ban the circus and the first to set a precedent by prohibiting bobcat trophy hunting! The Circus Cruelty Prevention Act, SB 313, aligns the state with evolving public perception – recognizing that people no longer want to see wild and exotic animals used for entertainment. AB 1254 places a moratorium on bobcat hunting until January 2025, taking a critical step towards finally ending the needless killing of one of California’s iconic species. Big Cat Rescue worked with coalitions all year long in support of these two bills. We engaged our supporters in California every step of the way, signed-onto letters of support, and helped ramp up awareness on social media whenever either of the bills needed an extra push. We met these victories with a mix of emotions here at the sanctuary. We were so happy that, with your help, we kept the promise we made to Windsong bobcat long ago, to fight for her kind. But the circus bill, although a significant victory in the right direction, was a bittersweet win. You see, we had to say goodbye to Hoover tiger just days earlier. California’s circus victory is a reminder of how far we still need to go to protect cats like Hoover. But we know we’ll get there with your help. No cat deserves to be killed for their coat or exploited for entertainment.

In December, we called upon supporters in Maryland to advance legislation introduced by the Gaithersburg’s City Council to prohibit the use of wild animals in the circus. Gaithersburg residents were urged to show their Mayor and Councilmembers that they don’t want to see tigers, lions, and other wild animals used for entertainment by either sending a personalized email or attending the public hearing on December 16th. We anticipate positive movement on this ordinance early in the New Year.

Lastly, we made a wish for the new decade when we joined multiple national animal organizations in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to once again make all animal welfare records publicly available. Amid all the distractions that come with the holiday season, the USDA was working to permanently block public access to animal welfare records – a move that blatantly protects roadside zoos, circuses, and other big cat exploiters from public scrutiny. Big Cat Rescue is already fighting animal abusers in the dark after the USDA unexpectedly removed Animal Welfare Act (AWA) inspection reports and enforcement records from their public portal at the start of 2017. We were among several groups that regularly accessed these documents to determine who owned big cats, where they were located, how they were treated, and if the USDA was enforcing the law. If this becomes the new normal, those who profit off the backs of the cats we love will continue to operate without oversight or accountability. Our call to action spurred similar alerts from other groups here in Florida and New Jersey, prompting more public feedback before the late December deadline. Thank you to everyone who submitted a comment! Here’s hoping 2020 brings transparency back to the process.

These wins and the momentum we’re building are, in large part, the result of everyday people who care for the cats using their voice to advocate for the animals they love. There are thousands of you out there, and there is no way we could ever adequately thank every one of you who have taken time out of your busy schedules to respond to our calls to action. Nonetheless, our kudos to just a handful of some of this year’s noteworthy AdvoCats: Alyssa Crenshaw, Becky Wilkens, Bella Roarke, Carol Cody, Carol Judge, Caryn Nash, Deb Quimby, Diane Williams, Julia Kay, Lori Duska, Mary Nall, Melissa Hoffman, and Matthew Barberio who we featured in our Big Cat Times Winter 2019 AdvoCats In Action article for applying a variety of his talents towards ending big cat abuse! You can sign-up and learn more about being an AdvoCat at bigcatrescue.org/advocats.

Sheriff Magazine and Big Cat RescueOver the past five years, Big Cat Rescue has taken steps to bring law enforcement into the fold, and we plan to continue building these relationships in the coming decade. You can read about the success we’ve had with the National Sheriffs’ Association in our 2018 Outreach Department Annual Report. We added another highlight to that list this past February. Our article The Day America Realized There is a Big Cat Crisis, co-written with Sheriff Lutz of Zanesville, Ohio, was featured in the NSA’s Sheriff & Deputy 2019 Special Issue: Animal Cruelty.

Here in our home state, we’ve had a variety of opportunities to engage with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and encourage positive changes for the state’s captive cats and two indigenous felids – the bobcat and the Florida panther. In April, the FWC held three public meetings across the state to engage with residents about the state’s captive wildlife rules and hear what citizens think about elephant rides and public contact with captive wildlife, such as monkeys and big cats. Numerous Big Cat Rescue volunteers and supporters joined Jennifer at the central Florida meeting, where they were able to speak with Captive Wildlife staff and personally deliver their arguments on why the sunshine state needs to ban cub petting. Department staff will consider these comments as they work on updating public contact rules in the coming years.

At the end of the year, Big Cat Rescue formally joined the No Roads to Ruin coalition devoted to stopping M-CORES.  What is M-CORES? M-CORES (Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance) is an ill-conceived and shortsighted Florida toll road project approved by the Legislature in 2019 that would bisect critical habitat and bring more residents into the state’s protected areas. The project proposes three regional corridors that would add tollways and housing from Jefferson County in the north to Collier County in the south. The Florida Department of Transportation created three task forces instructed to come up with recommendations and a final report by October 2020. Construction is projected to begin by the end of 2022, with completion planned by 2030. Proponents claim the project will mitigate congestion, promote water and sewer connections, and boost the state’s economic growth. But critics believe the proposed corridors would be disastrous to the environment, causing massive wetlands devastation and destroying the little prime Florida panther habitat that remains. Moreover, many question the demand for these roads in the first place and argue they would only lead to suburban sprawl into rural communities. Even a federal biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service warned that one road, in particular, the Southwest-Central Florida Connector (running from Polk to Collier County), would spell “disaster” for the Florida panther and potentially render the species extinct!

You can learn more about the tremendous challenges facing the Florida Panther and how we’re fighting for their survival at bigcatrescue.org/catfight. Additionally, check out the No Roads to Ruin Coalition Facebook page to learn more!

Jennifer Leon, our Director of Outreach, continues to represent BCR on the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance Advocacy Committee. The Committee works to oppose the use of wild cats in traveling acts, support legislation to ban circuses and the private ownership of big cats, engage alliance members in campaigns such as International Tiger Day, and create practical advocacy materials for sanctuary partners. At this year’s Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance annual conference, the committee debuted their Advocacy Toolkit to provide sanctuaries of any size the resources they need to advocate for change. Toolkit contents include factsheets, answers to frequently asked questions, advocacy action suggestions, talking points, and sample letters and press releases to assist members with building their internal advocacy programs.

We’re ending the decade with a loud and unified voice for the cats. It’s incredible how much our advocacy program has grown in the past decade, and all we’ve achieved. In 2019 alone, we increased our Call of the Wild advocacy base by 50% and got over 8,440 people to send messages to their lawmakers in support of the Big Cat Public Safety Act! Of that, 161 calls, 72 emails, and nine tweets were sent in just one day during our annual Wildcat Walkabout!

Legislation

This year marked the start of the 116th session of Congress and our fifth attempt to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Representatives Quigley and Fitzpatrick introduced our House bill H.R. 1380 on February 26th with substantial bipartisan support. In September, we witnessed exciting momentum when H.R. 1380 passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee with a vote of 21-14! Days later, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced a Senate companion bill, S.2561! As of December 31, 2019, the Big Cat Public Safety Act has 225 cosponsors in the House and fourteen in the Senate. More cosponsors than ever before!

With one year left in the session, the House bill is poised to next have a vote on the floor of the full House, and we continue to gain cosponsors in the Senate. But this crucial federal bill to prohibit the private ownership of big cats like lions and tigers by unlicensed individuals, and make it illegal for exhibitors to allow direct contact between the public and cubs (cub petting ops), still needs you! You can speak up for captive big cats in America at BigCatAct.com.

Do you want to support the cats but are nervous about making the Call of the Wild? Follow along as we show you just how easy it is in this instructional video updated for the most recent session of Congress.

Curious about how it all works? Want to understand where the Big Cat Public Safety Act is in the process? Or just want to freshen up on your Government 101? Watch the 20-minute presentation titled Government, Legislation, and the Big Cat Public Safety Act found halfway down the page at http://bigcatrescue.org/cta-call-wild/. It’s a go-to overview of government basics and how a law gets passed. It also explains why the Big Cat Public Safety Act is necessary and the key to ending big cat abuse.

Community Outreach & Events

Big Cat Rescue prides itself on engaging with both our local community and national professional groups that may take an interest in our mission. Here in the Tampa Bay Area, we enjoyed participating in familiar and new events such as Gulfport’s Get Rescued, Tampa’s Kitty Con, Touch-a-Truck, EcoFest, VegFest, and Camp Westchase.

Nationally we’ve traveled the country to talk big cats. In January, the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Animals and the Law invited BCR’s Director of Outreach, Jennifer Leon, to present at their 2019 Annual Meeting about The Practical Aspects of Animal Rescue During Natural Disasters. As the committee president put it, “The audience was riveted by your ‘behind the scenes’ insights into the complexity of the disaster planning and rescue operations undertaken at Big Cat Rescue. Your overview of the dearth of federal and state laws governing protections for exotic cats, including the loopholes and inadequacies inherent in the AWA, demonstrated the need not only for legal advocacy but public education as well.”

International Veterinary Forensic Science Association pixIn March, the International Veterinary Forensic Science Association invited us to speak about big cat incidents involving law enforcement and privately held exotic cats at their 12th Annual Conference in nearby Clearwater, Florida. We partnered with our friend and star of the award-winning documentary The Elephant in the Living Room, Tim Harrison, to present “Big Cats as a Threat to Public Safety.” Tim spoke of his first-hand experiences with exotic cats in private hands, their threat to first responders, and how the Big Cat Public Safety Act will help bring an end to the problem of big cats as pets in the US. His engaging storytelling style and energetic presentation were both entertaining and informative, educating attendees about a widely unknown yet immense “pet” problem, big cats.

CatCon 2019 was out of cat-trol! BCR staff members Aleesa and Jen spent the last weekend of July in Pasadena, California, greeting thousands of CatCon attendees! The ladies gave out a thousand free bracelets each day and raffled off a BCR tiger backpack. They also introduced cat-fans to our cat-tastic YouTube videos and live Explore cameras! Jen and Aleesa were surprised by all the BCR fans who came to CatCon just to seek the rescuers out! BCR fans were also on the lookout for CatMan Chris Poole, who could be found across the hall at the Weruva table singing BCR’s praises. The most exciting part of the event was when a young fan and supporter stopped by with her mother to donate over $500 she raised for the big cats!!! The weekend ended on the highest note possible – 176 cats were adopted!!!

Attending these conferences can be a stress on our time and resources, but messages like the one below make them worthwhile:

Subject: Thank you

I was so excited to see you on the list of vendors at CatCon in LA last month.  It was delightful to speak to the incredibly knowledgeable women staffing the table.  
Cat people love cats — all cats.  Putting yourself in front of them is catching this valuable audience.  I hope to see you at many more events across the country.  You’re doing good, important work, and so many of us appreciate it.

I’ve adopted a serval as a thank you for “showing up”.  Please, continue to speak up, and get small cat people on your big cat side, too!

National-Animal-Care-and-Control-Association-Conference-Sheriff-Matthew-Lutz-Zanesville-OhioIn October, Big Cat Rescue sponsored the opening session at the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA) Conference with our special guest speaker, Sheriff Matthew Lutz of Zanesville, Ohio. It was our third time participating in the conference, and the first time we were invited to speak about big cats as pets, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and specifically the Zanesville massacre. It’s fair to say that talking about wild and exotic cats to an audience that primarily deals with domesticated pets is a bit novel, and we were concerned that people would wonder why we had this platform. But NACA has long endorsed the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and thankfully we’ve been able to build such a strong rapport with this community over the years, that our message was very well received. Believe it or not, a majority of these officers know an exotic animal owner in their community!

Jennifer-Leon-had-the-honor-of-opening-NACA-sessionBCR’s own Jennifer Leon had the honor of opening the session with a brief overview and introduction. We then played a video presentation by Tim Harrison, in which he explained the problem of big cats as pets and their threat to first responders. Sheriff Lutz brought the session home with a detailed play-by-play of that tragic day and the choice he had to make that day. Building these relationships with first responders not only gives us traction with the bill, but it also brings big cats into the broader discussion and produces allies across the country who can help us both enforce and propel laws to the benefit of the cats.

The session was an absolute hit! It was a fantastic day for the cats and a special reminder of just how unique we are in the sanctuary world. By building alliances and working outside the walls of our Easy Street property, we’re bringing about an end to big cat abuse.

MORE WINS FOR EXOTIC CATS

12/30/19 Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act becomes law and authorizes the federal government to offer financial rewards for information that leads to disruption of wildlife trafficking networks.

12/30/19 Animal People’s Merritt Clifton announces not a single Newspaper Archive member published an ad containing the words “mink coat” during the traditional height of the so-called “fur season,”  beginning on “fur Friday” after Thanksgiving.  The total for 2018 was just 11 mink coat ads;  for 2017,  only one.  By contrast,  furriers bought more than 600 mink coat ads per year at peak,  1986-1990,  often full-page spreads,  not counting ads placed in papers not included in NewspaperArchive,  among them the New York Times.  Big Cat Rescue had eliminated all cats in U.S. fur farms by 1995.

His research recaps these recent bans:  Ireland: 80% support a fur farming ban which may be soon forthcoming.  England and Wales banned fur farming in 2000.  Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2002,  and Austria in 2004.  The Netherlands banned fur farming in 2012. Slovenia banned it in 2013, Macedonia in 2014, the Czech Republic in 2017, Norway,  Belgium,  Croatia,  and Luxembourg all in 2018.

11/22/19 New Mexico bans cruel snares and leghold traps. The State Game Commission voted to end all recreational trapping of these cougars, as well as limit trophy hunters to no more than two cougars each hunting season, instead of the previous limit of four cats.  This decision follows four years of a legal and grassroots battle that the Humane Society of the United States and our allies (read BCR) have waged in New Mexico to end the persecution of cougars.

11/17/19 The Queen of England says she will no longer purchase fur. The Queen’s decision follows those made by the world’s biggest fashion houses to ditch using fur in their designs — Gucci, Prada and Armani among them. D’Arcy Moses, said the shift has been the result of “pressure … from the really strong anti-fur movement in Europe and the U.K.  “The whole gamut of the industry has done an about-face,” said Moses. “No one wears mink coats anymore.”  Financially, it’s another blow to a Canadian fur industry that appears to be in terminal decline.  Just last month, the world’s second largest fur auction house, North American Fur Auctions — a former subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company with over three centuries of history — went into creditor protection.

11/16/19 Paris, France has banned wild animal circuses, taking full effect in 2022.

10/12/19 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a statewide ban on selling or making clothing,  shoes or handbags with fur,  beginning in 2023.

9/20/19 Lions, tigers and bears no more: California lawmakers ban exotic animals at circuses.  State senators approved the bill on a 35-0 vote without debate.  Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill 313, saying circuses in the state will no longer be allowed to use bears, tigers, elephants, monkeys or other wild animals in their acts.  This is the third state to ban circus acts using big cats.

9/20/19 Bobcat trophy hunting in CA banned.

7/24/19 The UK bans circus acts using big cats and NY bans the declawing of cats.

6/26/19  Ireland joined 14 EU member states who have banned fur farming. Last week the chief executive of the ISPCA, Dr Andrew Kelly, said fur farming is incompatible with the Government’s animal welfare strategy and has no place in the modern world.

5/31/19 Cincinnati City Council voted 7-1 to ban exotic animals from circuses. The city already restricts people from owning or displaying wild or potentially dangerous animals. Councilman Chris Seelbach introduced the ordinance, concerned over what he believes is inhumane treatment of the animals.

5/23/19 Prada Group announced they will no longer use animal fur in designs or products starting with the Spring/Summer 2020 Women’s collection.

4/8/19 Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo ends “animal ambassador” program allowing direct contact with wildlife following 2 years of research that shows such encounters can be stressful to the animals.

4/5/19 Germany’s last fur farm closed down after a 2017 ban went into effect, thus ending the cruel industry in that country.  Germany joins countries that have strictly regulated or completely banned fur farms, (Austria, the United Kingdom, and Croatia have bans, the Netherlands has a ban on fox and chinchilla farming, and New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have strict regulations).  Over 60 countries have banned certain types of traps, and some countries have labeling laws. Israel has a bill pending which would outlaw the importation, exportation, and sale of fur within its country lines.

2/12/19 The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur in L.A., which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The history-making decision means L.A. is the largest city in the U.S. to ban fur. San Francisco became the largest in March 2018, and West Hollywood has already passed such a law.  The ban applies to fashion pieces and accessories using any fur, including clothing, bags and jewelry.

More here: http://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-bans-enacted/

OUR CATS

Long Healthy Lives

Big Cat Rescue Long Healthy LivesBy the end of this year,  we have 58 exotic cats and 30 of them are over the age of 12.  15 of those are over the age of 18, and 9 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.

Foster Kittens

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 855 kittens & cats from being killed.  We raise them until they are 1.5 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 https://explore.org/livecams/big-cat-rescue/big-cat-rescue-kitten-cabana

Abandoned Big Cats 2019

2019 Abandoned Big Cats

Big Cat Rescue’s In Situ Conservation Work

2019 Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats

Click the pins on the map

https://www.zeemaps.com/view?group=2917813&x=7.978125&y=20.748809&z=15,

or the species on the left, to get all of the details!

In 2019 Big Cat Rescue donated $136,600.00 to conservation programs in the wild, benefiting 18 Wild Cat Species.

$5,000 – Sand Cat Sahara Team – For continued support of the first-ever study, on the ecology and behaviour of the Sand Cat in Morocco. Big Cat Rescue has been a supporter of this project since 2016.

Greater-Limpopo-Carnivore-Programme-1$1,000 – Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme – The Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme was founded in 2011, and is a conservation research programme dedicated to improving the conservation prospects for Lions, across the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, in Mozambique.

Conserving-Bhutans-Mountain-Tigers-4$1,000 – Bhutan Foundation –  For a Long term initiative to build a sound knowledge base,  to guide tiger conservation policies and practices in Bhutan.

Phoenix-Fund-Amur-Leopard-Conservation-2$1,000 – Phoenix Fund – For an initiative that will provide a highly skilled, mobile, law enforcement team with essential equipment and daily allowance for regular anti-poaching patrols to be conducted in Amur Leopard territories. The aim is that the initiative will reduce poaching through strengthening law enforcement, habitat protection, improving data collection, nature protection legislation, educating the public, and engaging local communities in conservation efforts.

$5,000 – Global Primate Network Nepal – For an initiative working on marbled cat conservation in Nepal.

$5,000 – Costa Rica Wildlife Foundation – For an initiative working on Oncilla conservation in Costa Rica.

African-Impact-Foundation-2

$1,000 – African Impact Foundation – Over a third of South Africa’s leopard habitat is found in the Limpopo province, yet 95% of leopards in the area, are found outside of formally protected areas. Despite this, the majority of population and conservation-based research has occurred inside of protected areas, which house a mere 5% of the total population. This has led to a lack of data, which in turn creates unreliable results to inform conservation practices and effective species management. African Impact Foundation is working to collect data on private lands and study the area where these cats are primarily residing, to work towards evidence based conservation practices. Ultimately, it is only through focused research in these areas, that efficient conservation solutions, that will protect the species and individuals livelihoods can be protected, contributing to the health of the entire ecosystem.

$5,000 – Santa Monica Mountains Fund – Big Cat Rescue donated $5,000 to continue support of the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, in 2019. Unfortunately in 2018, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund lost the majority of their field equipment due to wildfires that swept through the Santa Monica Mountains. With our donation they were able to reach their fundraising goal, to replace all that was lost, in less than a month!

Felidae Bobcat Conservation$2,500 – Bay Area Bobcat Project – Big Cat Rescue donated to continue support of Felidae Conservation Funds Bay Area Bobcat Initiative. In Southern California, they working in the Bay Area and Central Coast, trying to identify remaining bobcat habitat and wildlife linkages between habitats, in an effort to conserve wild Bobcat populations and prevent local extinctions.

$2,500 – Bay Area Puma Project – Big Cat Rescue donated to continue support of Felidae Conservation Funds Bay Area Puma Project . The Bay Area Puma Project (BAPP) is the first large scale research, education and conservation program for pumas in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. BAPP’s primary goal is to increase knowledge, understanding and awareness about Bay Area puma populations, in order to promote better co-existence and less conflict between humans and pumas in the region, and ultimately to help foster a more harmonious relationship between humans and the natural world.

$1,000 – David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation – The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) helps support rangers across Africa and Asia – from the mountains of Mongolia, to the forests of Russia and the wild plains of Africa. DSWF directly funds projects that support rangers in their daily roles, helping to ensure they get the vital field equipment and level of training they need. Wildlife Crime is an ever growing problem which threatens national and international security, economic development and the survival of key species. Wildlife rangers work in some of the planet’s most extreme and dangerous environments and anti-poaching rangers do one of the toughest jobs in the world.

$5,000 – Conserv Congo – Conserv Congo is a non profit organization, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose mission is to preserve and protect the Congolese biodiversity whilst sharing its existence with the rest of the world. Through their work they aim to promote scientific tourism/research, Fight poaching in all its forms and shapes through any possible and admissible ways, Protect the Congolese rainforests and their biodiversity, Contribute towards local sustainable development, Fight poverty as a tool to conserve nature, Provide general support and assistance to park rangers in the DRC and Create environmental awareness in communities through education and campaigns. Big Cat Rescue donated to assist in their work to combat the Illegal Poaching and Trade of Leopard skins and body parts.

$6,000 – Urban Caracal Project – In 2019 Big Cat Rescue continued our support of The Urban Caracal Project. The project, fronted by Dr Laurel Seyries, aims to establish baseline information about the caracal population in the Cape Peninsula: population size, health of individuals, and the distribution of caracals across the Peninsula. In addition they want to evaluate the effects of urbanization on the behavior, movement patterns, diet, and genetic health of caracals and assess threats to the survival of caracals in the Peninsula and potentially beyond to other parts of South Africa. This study is an essential tool to understand how urbanization may be threatening wildlife in other parts of the world affected by similar factors.

AR Zoo in Plantation Florida$1,000 – Ewaso Lions – In 2010, Ewaso Lions launched Warrior Watch, which protects lions, by engaging Samburu Warriors, a group traditionally neglected in conservation decision-making. Warrior Watch makes the Samburu Warriors ambassadors for the lions, while raising awareness about conservation, and advocating peaceful coexistence with lions and wildlife. The program builds on the Warriors traditional protection role by increasing their ability to mitigate human-carnivore conflict.

The Corbett Foundation Well Project$5,000 – Corbett Foundation – In 2019 Big Cat Rescue continued our support of The Corbett Foundation and their open wells initiative by donating $5,000. The Corbett Foundation is a charitable, non-profit and non-governmental organization solely committed to the conservation of wildlife. They work towards a harmonious coexistence between human beings and wildlife across some of the most important wildlife habitats in India, namely Corbett Tiger Reserve, Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve and around the Greater Rann of Kutch. Local Communities and wildlife share natural ecosystems and this often raises conflict, so the health and wellbeing of these communities are often directly linked to their willingness to participate in wildlife conservation efforts.

$8,000 – Fishing Cats in Sri Lanka – Big Cat Rescue donated $8,000 to the National Wildlife Research and Training Center of Sri Lanka, to build an enclosure that will be used for the rehabilitation and release of native Wildlife, such as fishing cat and Jungle Cats. The center is one of the few found in the country that works on rehabilitation and release.

Freeland Preventing Tiger Extinction

$8,000 – Freeland Foundation – The Freeland Foundation is an International Non-Government Organization, headquartered in Bangkok, that works in Asia on environmental conservation. The organization combats the illegal wildlife trade and habitat conservation, addressing threats to endangered species, like tigers, including poaching in protected areas, smuggling, and the subsequent sale and consumption of Wildlife. Their global team of law enforcement and development experts work alongside government officers, local communities, students, and other NGOs in Asia, Africa and America to educate, empower, and catalyze action.

Wildlife Alliance Rangers

$1,000 – Wildlife Alliance – Wildlife Alliance was founded in 1995 originally as the Global Survival Network and is an international 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Wildlife Alliance is the leader in Direct Protection of Forests and Wildlife in tropical Asia, providing on-the-ground protection to one of the last unfragmented rainforests in Southeast Asia. Wildlife Alliance manages 8 ranger stations with an average of 8,000 of patrols covering 119,552 km each year.

Wildlife Protection Solutions Dogs$5,000 – Wildlife Protection Solutions – Wildlife Protection Solutions is a non profit organization whose mission is to use technology, to conserve endangered species and ecosystems. The team consists of technology experts seeking to enhance conservation best practices, through the practical application of new software, hardware and field methods. WPS has established research camps in a number of international locations, including but not limited to, the US, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. Species extinction is happening faster than every, and we’re losing an estimated 25 species every single day.  But WPS’s wildlife team is taking a stand by deploying our real-time monitoring system around the world to protect against wildlife crime and poaching.

Kope Lion Vet Team

$1,000 – Kope Lion – Kope Lion, which is short for Korongoro People’s Lion Initiative, is a non-profit, non government organization registered in the US and Tanzania. Kope Lion was founded in 2011 and focuses on human-lion coexistence in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The organization is comprised of local experts, international scientists and local communities. Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is a state-run, multiple-use protected area, where traditional pastoralist populations share the land with wildlife. The areas rapid human population growth and expansion has led to intensifying human-wildlife conflicts, meaning that lions have begun to disappear entirely from their former home ranges, isolating populations.

Singita Grumeti Fund Tanzania Rangers

$1,000 – Singita Grumeti Fund – The Grumeti Fund is a non-profit organization carrying out wildlife conservation and community development work in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. The Grumeti concessions are bountiful lands, rich in flora and fauna, considered by many as an international treasure. For years uncontrolled hunting and rampant poaching had decimated local wildlife populations within the western corridor, which in turn plunged surrounding communities into poverty. But thankfully in 2002, the Grumeti Fund was established in an attempt to rehabilitate and restore the Grumeti concessions. The Grumeti fund employs 165 dedicated staff to protect, manage and monitor Grumeti’s concessions and wildlife. Thanks to their passion and commitment, the near-barren plains of ten years ago are once again teeming with life.

THE AFRICAN PEOPLE & WILDLIFE FUND Vets

$1,000 – African People and Wildlife Fund – African People & Wildlife Fund is a 501c3 Non-Profit founded in 2005. African People & Wildlife (APW) works to conserve Africa’s wildlife, protect vital habitats, and promote community development through innovative, multidisciplinary strategies that emphasize coexistence with the natural world. Africa’s wildlife populations require large and healthy habitats. APW empowers local communities to protect their rangelands by working with them to monitor and manage natural resources effectively. They also support a team of community game scouts who regularly patrol targeted areas to prevent deforestation, fight illegal charcoal production, manage bushfires, and educate local people on the importance of environmental protection.

$6,000 – Fishing Cats in Bangladesh – For a conservation and research project aimed at finding a potential source patch for threatened local population of Fishing cats in Hakaluki Haor, north-eastern Bangladesh

$1,000 – Leopard Cat and Asiatic Cat Conflict in Myanmar – A study aimed at investigating the presence of Leopard Cat and Asiatic Cats sold into trade in Myanmar. This includes the presence of the cats in the pet trade and in the meat market. Once the numbers are known, the treat can be addressed.

$8,000 – Peruvian Desert Cat Conservation – The Peruvian desert cat initiative aims to study, protect and raise awareness about the importance of the desert cat in the Sechura desert and in the dry forest of northern Peru.

$7,900 – African Golden Cats in Kenya – A conservation and research study looking at the distribution and current conservation initiatives of the African Golden Cat in Western Kenya

Our Annual Wildcat Walkabout on November 2nd , was a huge success with around 700 guests visiting the sanctuary. A total of $41,700 was raised on the day of the Walkabout, towards our year total of $137,600. Funds were raised through the donation of the $50 admission cost to the sanctuary that day, along with any additional guest donations. 5 In Situ conservation projects were the beneficiaries of this years event.

PASO PACIFICO - JAGUARS IN NICARAGUA

$8,300 – Paso- Paso Pacifico was founded in 2005, and is a non profit organization, whose mission is to restore and conserve the natural ecosystems of Central America’s Pacific Slope. They aim to do this by collaborating with landowners, local communities and involved organizations to promote ecosystem conservation. Their reforestation projects across Nicaragua’s Pacific Slope are restoring habitat for carnivorous felids such as the jaguar, ocelot, and mountain lions, as well as contributing to the conservation of the landscape.

THE ALTAI PROJECT - SAVING SNOW LEOPARDS

$8,500 – The Altai Project – The Altai Project protects natural landscapes and wildlife, and supports indigenous people and traditions, in and around Russia and the 4-nation Greater Altai region that includes Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China. As of 2014, fewer than 100 snow leopards remain in Russia, mostly in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. As an apex predator, this beautiful cat plays a critical role in maintaining the structure of the regions ecological community. The Altai Project have worked intensively to provide financial support, technical and scientific expertise and equipment to aid scientists from Altaisky Nature Reserve. For the last 3 years, these scientists have conducted extensive presence/absence and camera-trapping surveys to gain a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of Snow Leopard distribution and ecology in Altai and other parts of the cats Russian habitat Range. The Altai Project have provided dozens of  camera traps, developed and installed anti-poaching monitoring devices, designed date recording technology and financially supported numerous surveying and anti-poaching expeditions.

FLORIDA WILDLIFE CORRIDOR Panther

$9,000 – The Florida Wildlife Corridor – The Florida Wildlife Corridor, is a registered non-profit organization, championing the public and partner support needed to permanently connect, protect and restore, a statewide network of lands and waters that supports wildlife and people, including the native Florida Panther. Using a science-based approach, on-the-ground knowledge of the Corridor, and the support of thousands of followers throughout the state and nation, the Florida Wildlife Corridor now embarks on its most important journey – to accelerate the rate of conservation in Florida by 10% annually in order to protect 300,000 acres within the Corridor by the end of 2020. At present the Florida Wildlife Corridor provides habitat for 42 federally listed endangered species, 24 threatened species and 15 candidate species. At the state level, there are an additional 176 species listed as endangered, 56 as threatened and 29 as a species of special concern.

GRUPO ECOLOGICO SIERRA GORDA I.A.P - PROTECTING MARGAY

$7,900 – Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P – The Sierra Gorda Alliance was founded in 1987 and is working with local communities to protect cloud forests which have dwindled to just 2% of their original coverage. These forests house thousands of animals, among them some of Mexico’s most threatened species, including the magnificent margay. They are working with local communities to protect – not plunder – these natural resources to continue to protect margay’s vital habitats.

TSAVO CHEETAH PROJECT mother and cub

$8,000 – The Tsavo Cheetah Project – Tsavo Cheetah Project are working together with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on long-term, effective cheetah conservation and monitoring programs in the Tsavo region of Kenya. The Tsavo Ecosystem has been concluded as a priority focal area for cheetah research and conservation. Covering an area of 16,000 square miles (42,000 square kilometres) the Tsavo Ecosystem in south eastern Kenya, comprises the unfenced Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks and a diverse range of ethnic communities and tribes. 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 the coexistence with local residents and influence wildlife laws and policies.

FINANCES

2019 Facebook Fundraisers by 14,148 individuals raise $369,471 For the Cats!

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.

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 9%. Because our tour revenue exceeds our fundraising and administrative costs, 100% of donations go to Program Expense (saving big cats).

screenshot

IRS 501 c 3 Determination letter

SOCIAL MEDIA

Compare Our YouTube stats in 2018 to 2019

YouTube continues to send us a lot of traffic. By 2019 year end we had 1,005,000 subscribers and 460,675,508 views on our main channel.  In 2018 YouTube revenue was $91,847.24

YouTube Big Cat Rescue 2018 vs 2019

We had 31,200 subscribers and 10,287,819 views on our secondary channel called Daily Big Cat.

YouTube DBC 2018 vs 2019

360 3D VR really grew this year with 66,139 views and 646 subscribers.  Viewers of this content are most likely those wearing headsets.  The site was created separate from our other channels so that those in VR could subscribe to a channel that only has 360 and 3D content.

YouTube 360 Big Cats 2018 vs 2019

You can find all of our 360 and 3D playlists by checking out:

360cat.tv points to a list of our Facebook 360 videos

360bigcat.com points to our main YouTube playlist of 360 videos

360bigcats.com points to our DailyBigCat YouTube playlist of 360 videos

Our Facebook fans have grown to 2,400,356 million likes and 2,586,505 million followers.  Our Facebook efforts reach millions of people in a single week!  Some of the best news comes from the fundraising we have been able to do on Facebook which is made especially sweet since Facebook covers the credit card processing fees, so the cats get the full benefit of the donation.  Facebook launched subscriptions this year and by year end we had 1,531 people pledging .99 per month.  People also did their own Facebook Fundraisers and from our Donate button on the page and in our posts.  In 2017 there were 6,205 donors who gave a total of $172,045.93 and in 2018 there were 15,050 donors who gave a total of $368,423.00.

Continued using FB ads to generate email sign-ups and for BigCatRescue.biz sales.

Twitter  At the end of 2019 we reached 327,000 followers on Twitter with 44,700 tweets.

Pinterest 4,433 followers

LinkedIn 3,103 followers

Instagram 10,403 posts and 121,000 followers

We are on 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!

We launched on Tik Tok in 2019 and closed out the year with 600 likes, 71 followers and 37 video clips of our cats.

The BigCatRescue.org site appears to have tanked in the past two years but  it’s hard to know if this is really a decrease as Google has insisted that we create separate AMP pages for all of our site there is no way to combine desktop and mobile traffic accurately.  We are paying an outside firm to look into it.

Compare Big Cat Rescue Website 2018 vs 2019

The internal tracking of viewers reports 2,390,063 views in 2019 vs 2,510,600 in 2018.  Much of this decline over the past two years can be attributed to people refusing to leave Facebook to follow a link.  As a result we’ve had to duplicate our most informative pages as Notes on Facebook in order for them to be read.

BCR web Views 2019 aBCR web Views 2019 b

Amazon.  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/

Roku.  Watch more than 1000 episodes of Big Cat TV waiting for you for FREE in the Channel Store! Now you can check us out on Binge TV too!  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.

Alexa.  Now you can find us on Alexa and can even make a donation by saying, “Alexa, make a donation to Big Cat Rescue.”  You can add Big Cat Briefing to your daily briefings and hear daily updates from the sanctuary.  You can play a game by enabling the skill called Big Cat Rescue and you can can play a name that cat sound game by enabling a skill called Big Cats.  There are even two skills to help you pack for a trip (Travel Checklist) or for school or college (School Checklist).  Find out more at http://bigcatrescue.org/alexa/

In the News

Big Cat Rescue was reported favorably more than 3,200 times in 2019. 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.

Mail List.  Our mailing list is 93,402 supporters.

Visitors to the sanctuary: 30,577

WHO WE ARE

The Big Cat Board

Jamie Veronica Boorstein
Jamie
 
Murdock
Chairman of the Board
Carole Baskin
Carole
 
Baskin
Board of Directors
Howard
 
Baskin
Board of Directors
Mary Lou Geis
Mary Lou
 
Geis
Board of Directors
Darren Kipnis
Darren
 
Kipnis
Board of Directors
Keith Lawless
Keith
 
Lawless
Board of Directors
Kim Mahoney
Kim
 
Mahoney
Board of Directors
Pamela Rodriguez
Pamela
 
Rodriguez
Board of Directors
Lynda
 
Licht
Board of Directors

The Board met 4 times in 2019.

Paid Staff and Contractors:

Carole-Baskin
Carole
 
Baskin
Founder & CEO
Jamie Veronica Boorstein
Jamie
 
Veronica
President
Howard Baskin
Howard
 
Baskin
Treasurer
Victor Alonso
Victor
 
Alonso
Maintenance
Susan-Bass
Susan
 
Bass
Public Relations
Lauren Buckingham
Lauren
 
Buckingham
Research Director
Ysabel Cruz
Ysabel
 
Cruz
Web Services
Chelsea
 
Feeny
Project Manager
Karma Hurworth
Karma
 
Hurworth
Assistant Manager
Gale Ingham Operations Manager
Gale
 
Ingham
Chief Financial Officer
Jennifer Leon
Jennifer
 
Leon
Director of Outreach
Brittany
 
Mira
Online Sales Manager
LaWanna Mitchell
LaWanna
 
Mitchell
Social Maven
Barbara Nicholas
Barbara
 
Nicholas
Director of Donor Appreciation
Katie Nikic
Katie
 
Nikic
Data Diva
Aleesa Salcido
Aleesa
 
Salcido
Gift Shop Manager
Kathryn Quaas
Kathryn
 
Stapleton
Operations Manager
Afton Tasler
Afton
 
Tasler
Media Producer

Volunteers:

Big Cat Rescue had 149 volunteers at the end of 2019 who clocked in 39,325 man-power hours, in addition to 23 intern sessions (12 weeks each) who clocked 29,315 man-power hours. Between 18 full time paid staff, 3 part-time staff and volunteers we averaged the equivalent of 43 full-time staff.

Between January 1, 2019, and November 31, 2019, Big Cat Rescue provided $154,077.00 in scholarships to provide housing, transportation, utilities, food, training and entertainment to 23 interns for 23 three month sessions arriving in Tampa, FL from 5 countries and 11 states.

See the last 16 years in annual reports:

http://bigcatrescue.org/2018-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2017-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2016-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2015-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2014-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2013-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2012-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2011-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2010-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2009-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2008-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2007-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2006-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2005-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2004-annual-report/

http://bigcatrescue.org/2003-annual-report/

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