31 Years of Saving Big Cats Thanks to YOU!
2023 has been a year of transition. After successful passage of The Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 20, 2022 Big Cat Rescue and our animal protection partners had ended private possession of big cats in America and had ended the most egregious cause of abuse of big cats and their cubs by making public contact illegal. Without the cub petting trade to drive the massive breeding, exploiting and dumping of big cats, there would be far, far fewer cats to rescue each year. We had rescued our last permanent residents in 2018 / 2019 with the export of Kimba, Simba and Max the tigers from Guatemala. As capacity grew in accredited sanctuaries for big cats, and the demand for rescues diminished, we chose to devote our efforts to passage of the bill while our sister sanctuaries did the rescues. The sanctuary who helped us most in the passage of the federal ban on private possession and contact was Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. On January 3, 2023 we invited the operators, Tanya and Scott Smith to celebrate with us and at that meeting we ran an idea past them:
They had been fundraising to build out their Freedom Field and we offered to help them do so by building new homes there, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas for all of our cats. We’d pay for the construction of our enclosures and all of the necessary infrastructure for our cats and we would fund the care of our cats to the end of their lives. Since most of our cats were elderly, this meant that TCWR would be able to use the cages for future rescues once our cats pass on. With the oldest cats being in their twenties, with an expected lifespan of only 18, this meant a lot of capacity for them going forward. It took a lot of thoughtful negotiation between all of us but a contract was signed in March and construction began. By December 28, 2023 all of our cats, except Winter Bobcat, had been relocated to TCWR.
This allows us to sell the sanctuary property in order to fund meaningful conservation efforts to save wildcats, in the wild, where they belong. Not everyone shares our passion for a world where all wildcats live free, so when we announced that we would no longer be doing daring rescues to thrill and satiate the need for our supporters to feel the immediate satisfaction of saving a life, many left in search of that feel good experience. As a result, our donations and social media following has diminished somewhat, and is likely to continue to falter until we find our audience of those who care about the bigger picture.
Abandoned Big Cats 2023
In 2023 all of the calls to place big cats were handled by the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance. Thanks to USDA and FWS enforcing the Big Cat Public Safety Act and breeders seeing the end of their abusive trade and shutting down there were 14 tigers, 9 lions, 1 cougar, 8 bobcats, 1 fishing cat, 1 hybrid, 2 caracals, 1 serval, 2 clouded leopards and 20 Asian leopard cats that were assisted by accredited sanctuaries.
Big Cat Rescue achieved our goal of ending cub handling and phasing out private possession of big cats in the U.S. with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act on 12/20/2022. Since then our efforts have been on providing intel to the FWS and USDA of violations and continuing to raise awareness of the cruelty inherent in circus acts that use wildcats.
The work we do to protect wild cats in the wild is too vast to detail here, so you can see all of that at https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu/ Despite having to cut back on expenses this year we still donated $131,048.00 to 22 conservation projects, protecting wildcats, globally. The donations covered projects, supporting 17 different wild cat species, across 11 different countries.
Community Outreach & Events
Big Cat Rescue did the Great American Teach In this year reaching 1,400 students at five Grade K-12 schools in November 2023 via 3 volunteers, both in person and via zoom. Deb Quimby did 16 zoom meetings with college and high school students for projects/papers and answered questions for their project/paper. https://bigcatrescue.org/gati/
Wins for Exotic Cats
USDA only had one completed Action Against Big Cat Abuse which was Kathleen Bowen’s Zoo-Opolis license was revoked and she was fined $1500.
USDA issued Official Warnings (which carry no weight as they have no penalties attached) to 90 exhibitors. Some of them we were most concerned about were Out of Africa, Westcoast Game Park, Chestatee Wildlife, SeaWorld, Shalom Wildlife, The Wilds, Valley of Kings, Kay and Clayton Rosaire, and East Coast Exotics. Click here.
USDA filed Administrative Complaints against 8 exhibitors including: Eric and Amanda Obloy, Triple D Game Farm, Brenda Pearson, Michael Poggi, Jeffrey Ash, John Johnson of Blue Springs Safari and of G & J Traveling Petting Zoo, Mostyn Enterprizes, John and Pamela Pape, Sally Reaves, Lisa Lopez of All Things Wild White Tiger Discovery, James Svoboda of Sunrise Side Animal Park, Thomas Edmonds of Walnut Prairie Wildside Zoo, Dean and Jewel Oswald of Oswald’s Bear Ranch, Robert Sawmiller, Jeff and Lauren Lowe of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, Tracey Oliver, Terrill Al-Saihati and Kellie Caron of the Sloth Center. Click for full list.
USDA had zero Settlement Agreements in 2023.
Compare Our YouTube stats in 2023 to 2022
YouTube continues to send us a lot of traffic. By 2023 year end we had 1,355,224 subscribers and 9,980,938 views on our main channel VS 2022 year end we had 1,370,000 subscribers and 638,606,575 views on our main channel.
Our Facebook fans climbed to 4,287,346 in 2023 from 3,687,677 million followers at the end of 2022. Our Facebook efforts reach millions of people in a single week!
Twitter: At the end of 2023 we had 15,600 followers VS in 2022 we had 316,700 followers on Twitter.
Pinterest: At the end of 2023 we had 4,600 followers VS in 2022 we had 4,590 followers
LinkedIn: At the end of 2023 we had 5,907 followers VS in 2022 we had 6,134 followers
Instagram: followers dropped to 176,173 at the end of 2023 from 178,491 followers at the end of 2022.
TikTok: At the end of 2023 we had 421,600 followers and 3.2M likes VS in 2022 we had 3 million likes and 421,700 followers.
The BigCatRescue.org website
The internal tracking of viewers reports 2.8 million views in 2023 VS 452,728 views in 2022. Much of the improved performance came from reducing the size of our website, from over 17,000 pages to about 1,500 and spending time optimizing those pages. (Thanks Ysabel) We added an AI chatbot and trained it on the major pages of the website to answer questions where possible and refer to a real person when it could not.
In the News
As we have cut our expenses to conserve funds for lifetime care of our cats at TCWR and for conservation projects, we discontinued our media tracking service. These are just the mentions in 2023 that we know of: 321 media mentions, despite Carole Baskin declining all interviews beginning in January 2023. Some of our past 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 90,080 fans and 7,349 donors. Our supporters sent more than 12 million messages to decision makers to protect wildcats via our Salsa Engage platform.
WHO WE ARE
The Big Cat Board
The Board met 4 times in 2023. Board members are: Carole Baskin – Founder, CEO, Director | Howard Baskin – Secretary, Treasurer | Darren Kipnis – Director | Keith Lawless – Director | Lynda Licht – Director | Kim Mahoney – Vice President, Director | Jamie Veronica Murdock – President, Director
Paid Staff and Contractors:
Paid staff & contractors at the end of 2023 include: Carole Baskin, Deb Quimby, Gale Ingham, Howard Baskin, Jamie Veronica, Katie Nikic, Victor Alonso and Ysabel Cruz. Former staff who stayed through the transfer of all the cats to TCWR have been given a one year, full pay, severance package.
Big Cat Rescue only had 35 volunteers, including interns, at the end of 2023 as many left when they were told we would no longer take in new cats. In an effort to provide adequate care to the cats during this transition year we allowed volunteers to serve when they wanted, with no minimum requirements that would result in demotions.
See the last 19 years in annual reports: