Carole’s letter to reporter on Tiger drowning

Avatar BCR | July 5, 2008 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Dear Steve, (

Thank you for following up on the death of the baby tiger.  There is a lot more to this story than what has been revealed however.  The real blame is to be shouldered by a public that is still so willingly ignorant of how cruel it is to breed big cats for lives of such deprivation and confinement.  Just recently a lynx chose to climb a tree in his exhibit, to where he could see freedom, and died there rather than descend back into his cage.  As someone who gives a permanent retirement home to 135 big cats, I know a little about how they think, what they need and who they are.  The following links will share that with you and I hope you will share it with your readers.

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

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Tiger keeper quits over zoo 'blame game'

Steve Butcher
June 28, 2008

THE resignation of a senior supervisor at Melbourne Zoo has exposed a
bitter internal conflict over the death earlier this year of a young

Mark Turner quit after claiming zoo management demanded that he take
sole "accountability" for the drowning of 16-month-old Nakal in a
moat. Mr Turner, 42, said he was unfairly targeted by management
paranoid about ramifications from the incident.

Nakal's body was pulled from the moat in the public exhibit on March
13. But new information shows that a plastic ball, known as
an "enrichment" item, was in his mouth when a keeper found his body.
Its presence is pivotal to the dispute between zoo management, whose
confidential final report focuses on the ball's involvement, and Mr
Turner, who said the "dangerous" moat was the main contributing
factor to the tiger's death.

Another detail — absent from the zoo's final report — is that keepers
found paw marks near where Nakal was found, indicating that he tried
to climb out of the moat.

Mr Turner, who resigned from Melbourne Zoo earlier this month after
three years' service, has warned that the moat is too steep and too
deep and, if not modified immediately, endangers Nakal's two siblings.

It has been a difficult year for Zoos Victoria. The Age has reported
allegations of animal abuse and mistreatment; there has been a furore
over plans for a theme park at Werribee Open Range Zoo, and staff
threatened to strike in a pay dispute that was settled this week.

The three cubs, Melbourne's first in 16 years, were born in 2006 as
part of the international captive breeding program for the endangered
Sumatran species.

Mr Turner, recruited in 2005 after 20 years with Wellington Zoo,
supervised the breeding of the cubs' parents, Ramalon and Binjai. He
said this week that he loved the zoo, its people and his job, but had
no choice but to resign when told to put in writing that he accepted
sole accountability for Nakal's death.

"If I'd done that, my reputation would have been ruined and I would
never have been able to work in the zoo industry again," Mr Turner

He said that zoo chief executive Matt Vincent's main objective was
to "get someone to blame, and I was the target".

According to Mr Turner, eight of 10 recommendations in a final report
from an investigation headed by Mr Vincent focus on the ball. He
conceded that it may have caused Nakal to panic, and contributed to
the speed of his death, but described as absurd the investigation's
report that cites the ball as the primary factor in the tiger's death.

In his written report to the zoo's investigation, Mr Turner
wrote: "The cause of death was drowning. If the animal had been in a
shallow pool, it would not have drowned with the ball in its mouth."

Mr Turner said that "omitted in the investigation report were the paw
marks in the algae that were visible along the edge of the moat near
where Nakal was found", which indicated the tiger "had difficulty
gaining a foothold" to get out.

He said the report's conclusions were inconclusive as to how and why
Nakal drowned.

The report finds that the ball was not approved for tigers. But Mr
Turner said the ball's size "did not pose a choking threat".

The report said the ball was "lodged" in Nakal's mouth; Mr Turner
quotes one of two keepers who removed Nakal's body that he "flicked
out" the ball from its mouth.

The report records concerns that Mr Turner and other keepers raised
with the zoo's curator of exotic fauna, Jan Steele, before the cubs'
births, about the moat's steepness and depth. Mr Turner said that
while some "husbandry practices" were changed, they did
not "constitute an answer to the problem".

Mr Turner wrote that the "shallow shelf that runs along just over
half the moat edge has a sudden deep drop-off which will always be a
major concern with young animals being introduced into the exhibit".

Mr Turner also suggested that Nakal's neurological vestibular
disease, which had affected his balance and co-ordination, may have
contributed to his death. He concluded in his response to the
investigation that the "significant contributory factor to Nakal's
death pertains to the moat design and the inherent risks in moats as
a primary barrier of choice".

In a statement, Melbourne Zoo said the death, which was investigated
by a veterinarian and an animal husbandry expert, was due to a
combination of Nakal's condition, the depth of the moat and the ball.
It said that "full details have not been revealed to the public or to
all staff to protect our staff from unfair and unfounded criticism".

The moat was defended as being designed and built by "tiger experts
to world-class standards", but that the zoo was "making it easier for
the animals to get in and out of the water in the exhibit".

Mr Vincent said: "We are disappointed to learn that … Mark Turner
feels he was personally targeted following the death of Nakal." The
zoo is defending an action brought by Mr Turner seeking reinstatement
or compensation.

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