We are all in peril due to our overconsumption, but asking people to consume less is never going to work, so how can we have what we want and survive on this planet too? I think the tiger will save us all. Here’s why.
The tiger is the world’s favorite animal according to an Animal Planet poll and experts in conservation have said, “If we can’t save the tiger, we can’t save anything.” I think this includes the inability to save ourselves. The human population explosion is largely due to a vicious cycle of poverty that results in a lack of education and a lack of access to birth control. If the only way a man can feed his family is to produce many offspring to help him survive, by tilling the ground, after cutting down the forests, and feeding upon the animals of the forest then it’s pretty easy to see that is a doomed plan over time, and the day of reckoning is upon us. If the majority of a person’s life is spent trying to stay alive there is no room for learning a better way and the cycle repeats, time and again, with more mouths to feed and dwindling resources. The disparity between the rich and the poor grows along with all of the resentment, hatred and war that can never help those who need it most.
Supply and demand is as eternal as we are, so we should use that to reinvent ourselves and our planet. The poorest people on the planet live in areas that are rich with wildlife and diversity and they should be the ones to benefit from protecting those assets for the entire world to share. People who live in forests with tigers, on plains with lions and in jungles with jaguars should be able to monetize their bravery, tenacity and skill. It will take an initial investment into infrastructure and training, but the financial rewards can be so substantial and immediate that once the concept is proven in one area it could replicate exponentially.
What I envision is a crypto currency exchange for tokens on a blockchain to pass the wealth from everyone who gets to virtually see wildcats living free to everyone who is ensuring that wildcats are living free by making sure that the forests are not cut down for firewood, and the cats’ prey animals are not eaten for a lack of better food and unsustainable farming practices are replaced with the high tech, high quality proteins that are available to those who can afford it. I’m really excited about an international monetary system that is not controlled by governments or the wealthy, but rather is decentralized and available to everyone.
With the monetization plan in place, it’s time to bring technology into the furthest corners of the globe. Live webcams are already in play around the world and Explore.org is the place to go to see all manner of wild animals living free, or close to it. Big Cat Rescue has a number of these cameras and others that are live 24/7 at the sanctuary for people to watch their favorite tigers, lion, jaguar, leopard, caracals, bobcats, servals and other wild cats. The next step is for these live webcams to be 360 degree vision and for them to be powered through available green technologies, and have access to the fastest Internet speeds of our time. People who live near these cameras would also benefit from jobs protecting them, servicing them and dealing with the impacts of weather on a reliable Internet connection.
Each camera would have a token assigned to it so that people could buy access to watch that camera in their head mounted display for total immersion, or on their phones, tablets or computers. The more tokens you buy, the more cameras you have access to in your app and with heat map sensors, you could tell from the grid of screens where the most activity was happening at any given time. Tokens could be bought, sold and traded, like any NFT and the most popular camera tokens could increase in value accordingly. For those who can not afford to buy tokens, zoos could remake themselves from pitiful prisons to a mecca of opportunities to see all kinds of wildlife around the world, doing what they do naturally. Zoos could use the power of scale to purchase tokens that are designed specifically for rebroadcast at their facilities and thus utilize all of their existing infrastructure, cafes, gift shops and social good will.
We can’t expect people to change what they want; to have food, to have a home, to be able to live a comfortable life. We can expect our businesses to change though as long as the change is in the interest of their investors. Changing zoos from the current model of holding wild animals as prisoners to be gawked at to places of immersive learning that is full of wonder is not only the right thing to do morally but it’s also a good financial move. Caring for captive wild animals is expensive, dangerous and heartbreaking if you have any sense of compassion for them. The only way to sell the ideas of zoos to today’s more enlightened visitors is to keep telling them that zoos were able to release condors and ferrets back to the wild. 200 years of claiming to be an ark, capable of repopulating the wild, hasn’t had much success if that’s all they can lay claim to have done so far. I’m pretty sure any private collector could have had just as much success with the animals mentioned. The whole concept of REpopulating the wild is ridiculous when the real solution is to protect the wild to prevent extinction in the first place.
The model I see for protecting the wild and giving all of us what we want, which is a healthy planet where human induced climate change isn’t threatening us at every turn with fires, floods and every other climate induced calamity. Big cats can’t survive in a vacuum. For them to exist and be available through strategically placed live webcams in sufficient numbers it requires our natural resources to be pristine and that means clean water and air for all of us. When money is channeled directly into the hands of those making that world possible, by those of us who can afford to invest in that future, then it creates a virtuous cycle of compassion. Since the dawn of man we have looked at others and made them our enemies, but our only real enemy is ignorance. It’s time we all figure out that we are in this together and will survive or perish based on what we choose to do next. – Carole Baskin
Are There Studies on Zoos?
Yes, and they conclude that the problem is captivity. Discussions on the welfare of nonhuman animals in zoos tend to focus on incremental improvements without addressing the underlying problem of captivity. But alterations to the conditions of zoo captivity are irrelevant for animals. Real zoo reform will involve working to completely change the landscape. We offer six necessary reforms to bring zoos into a more ethical future: (1) Shut down bad zoos, now; (2) stop exhibiting animals who cannot and never will do well in captivity; (3) stop killing healthy animals; (4) stop captive breeding; (5) stop moving animals around from one zoo to another; and (6) use the science of animal cognition and emotion on behalf of animals. Read the full study with citations:
Study shows zoo visitors learn nothing because they are just there to have fun: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/eco.2010.0079
This piece illustrates how zoos ignore the real problems inherent in captivity and try to humane wash their existence: https://www.thedp.com/article/2021/06/philadelphia-zoo-animal-cruelty-wildlife-conservation
Sanctuaries And Zoos Are NOT Alike!
At Big Cat Rescue we don’t believe that any exotic cat should be bred for life in a cage. Zoos that are accredited by the American Zoological Association (AZA) have done a good job of convincing the public that they are the arks of the future and they manage their captive populations through a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan or (SSP.) They only breed animals that can be pedigreed back to the wild and keep a shared database so that they do not accidentally inbreed animals.
Most “roadside” zoos are not accredited by AZA and are not participants in the SSPs. They tell you that they are “breeding for conservation,” but that is a lie. The only reason they breed big cats is because people will pay to see big cats. Even most AZA zoos only make token donations to protecting exotic cats in the wild and almost none of the non-accredited zoos send any of the money they make to protecting habitat.
No one keeps track of how many big cats are in these private facilities. USDA did a one-time census in 2004 and discovered that there were around 5,000 tigers in places that either exhibit or breed them, but only 200 of those are AZA zoos and less than a dozen were accredited sanctuaries. Even AZA zoos have been caught selling last year’s babies out the back door to brokers who sell them as pets and props. Sometimes they even end up in canned hunts or being sold on the black market for their teeth, claws, bones, hides and meat.
The only way to be sure you aren’t adding to the abuse is to just Say NO to zoos.
Even though this image and the horrible video below were not filmed in the U.S., it is typical of the miserable life led by captive big cats in non accredited zoos and pseudo sanctuaries. What most people do not ever see are the night houses and off exhibit cages where big cats are kept. Almost all zoos confine the big cats to night houses when visiting hours at the zoo are over. This means the cats spend most of their waking hours confined to small concrete indoor cells. They are often treated as badly as what you will see below, but because it is only the cat and the perpetrator, the world never sees the abuse.
Want to DO Something About It?
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