By Karey Burek
Apr 18, 2007, 11:43
Last fall, I had the opportunity to speak to Scott Lope who is the Operations Manager at Big Cat Rescue about what it is that makes their organization so important. By the end of our chat and whirlwind tour of the grounds, I had a better understanding about cats big and small. I have shared this with you before, but I am not a huge hugger of cats. Not because I don’t respect them or think that they are gorgeous; it’s because my face swells up like a silly pink balloon whenever I get close to them. Felines do intrigue me and what I learned from Scott has been burned into my brain. He is a wealth of knowledge on all topics of animal rescuing, not just big cat stuff. Anything you ever wanted to know about tigers, lions, leopards, panthers and so on can be found on their website bigcatrescue.org. There are facts, contacts and even a link to their myspace page where fans can keep up with what is going on around the rescue facility and what is going on around the world to conserve big cats. They are so high-tech that they even have movie clips of their animals, rescues and all kinds of stuff that goes on at Big Cat Rescue available with just a click of the mouse.
During my visit, I asked Scott how they actually acquire their inhabitants and how many cats they actually house. He told me that the number of animals they have can change any given day, so they don’t give out an official number—but let me just tell you, there are lots. As for how they acquire the cats, they get them from all over. They are brought to their facility after they have been seized off the black market/animal trade busts. Some of the cats were pets! Yes, some people actually think that they can make a tiger into a house cat. When pet owners can’t handle the big teeth and claws or in some cases when someone gets hurt, those animals sometimes end up at Big Cat Rescue. One of the residents I fell in love with was Shere Khan, a stunning male Bengal/Siberian tiger. He was the result of a breeder trying to cross breed species and produce a white tiger. He ended up being orange, the wrong color. Because of this, he wasn’t treated very well and ended up being malnourished. His story and the story of all of the cats are online. You can visit this facility during allocated tour times or you can make a donation to them or to a cat conservation group also available on their website.
I chose to highlight this facility because it is World Earth Day on April 22.
There will be celebrations, events and activities going on around the world to commemorate our commitment to doing our best to save the planet. Climate change and habitat destruction are two main topics, and both of these things influence the health and longevity of big cats in the wild. With their habitat being destroyed, the cats are being pushed into more populated areas where they are killed or captured. Captured animals might end up on the black market, traded to breeders. Although Big Cat Rescue is in an isolated location, surrounded by trees, stores and houses are quickly going up around them. Shortly after I visited, I found out that two of their leopards were shot at with paint ball guns. The teens shot over the perimeter of the facility at the two beautiful black cats, using them as targets. Because of this incident, Big Cat Rescue is raising money to build a wall to keep their cats safe.
To find out more about Earth Day events in Florida, visit www.earthday.net. To visit, donate or find out more about big cats, visit bigcatrescue.org.
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