ELLIJAY, Ga. — Most people know Criag Cylke simply as "Grizzly". He's raised abandoned bears and nursed injured predators. Now, he's scared the animals he loves could soon be euthanized.
"We're down to the point now, this will probably be our last week, this coming week," Cycle said.
The Ellijay Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is the largest in Georgia, and one of just a handful that can handle large animals. The wildlife sanctuary lost its federal funding. Now, private donations have slowed to a trickle. The animals go through two tons of dog food and two tons of meet every month. The non-profit organization is $300,000 in debt.
"If we go down, there's not going to be many places for these animals," he said. "In fact, the bears that you see here today, the state will probably have to put down because there's no home for them."
It's devastating news to Chris Enfinger. He came for summer camp one year and kept on coming. He's now a volunteer. "Just to see them, after all the time I've spent with them, just to get put down because they can't go anywhere, that would be really sad for me."
Dr. Lyn Lewis is a vet at the Appalachian Animal Hospital. They donate about $40,000 in care every year. He says the sanctuary is a safety net for all of Georgia. "The wildlife would suffer," he said. "We already have endangered species in this area. I firmly believe that this sanctuary keeps many of those animals from going extinct in this region."
Cykle and his wife haven't taken salaries in three years. They've sold off personal assets to keep these animals fed and keep their doors open.
Now, the money is gone. Some of the animals have no where to go. The center is days away from closing. And still, the man called "Grizzly" tenaciously holds on to hope.
"We have a hope. And that hope is our Georgia people and our lovely neighbors in the surrounding states. If they just hear the message of what's happening here, then they can make a difference."
Click here to help the Ellijay Wildlife Rehabilitation Sanctuary.
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Carole's letter to the reporter:
I don't know Craig Cylke, but would be wary of any sanctuary that is breeding animals. The US Fish & Wildlife service specifically states that accredited sanctuaries do NOT breed. As someone who has been involved with saving big cats for the past twenty years, I can assure you that there are no legitimate breeding and release programs for big cats and never will be because there isn't habitat for them to survive and raising and releasing captive born cats isn't possible without tremendous danger to the public.
I found this on Cylke's website after reading your article:
I emailed him and told him that if he has to close we may be able to house some of his cats, but none of his cougars could be Eastern panthers, so none of his cats should be bred. There is no good reason to breed cats for lives of confinement and deprivation. The images of the enclosures from your report was heartbreaking.
Time and time again I have seen "sanctuaries" plead to the public to send money or they will have to kill the animals. Looking at their 990s online at Guidestar it looks like they have gotten a lot of money in the past (although I have never heard of federal funding for what they do and knowing the particulars on that would be interesting). Unfortunately, it is usually just bad management and the inability to plan properly that causes so many animals to end up in such deplorable situations.
The questions I would really like to see exposed are the following:
Why is is that "sanctuaries" and those who profess to "love" the big cats are so violently opposed to legislation that would end the private trade in them as pets and collectibles? My goal is that places like Big Cat Rescue no longer need to exist and my path to that goal is by asking for legislation that bans the breeding, sale, trade and collecting of these great cats. As a result, I may be the most hated person in the big cat "industry" and yet most of the people who spend so much time trying to discredit me with their lies and insinuations claim to be in the rescue and sanctuary business. Why isn't ending the abuse the most important goal of those who claim to be saving big cats from abuse?
Why are big cats being born in sanctuaries when there isn't enough sanctuary space for all of the unwanted big cats?
Why would a sanctuary take a cat from a breeder who isn't going to stop breeding? I don't know if this is the case at Ellijay, but it seems to be prevalent in the industry.
Online polls show that 92% of the public are opposed to inbreeding an animal just to get a unusual coat color, but they clamor to see a white tiger?
Where do all of the babies from last year go? When you look around at all of the places who advertise baby lions and tigers, where do they all go for the next 20 years?
It costs Big Cat Rescue between $5,000 and $7,500 per year to provide proper care for a big cat. Multiply that by the number of big cats in these pseudo sanctuaries and roadside zoos and then compare it to their annual budgets.
Lack of accountability. Most of these places hide behind their USDA licenses as if it were a badge of honor, but if you visit the abusers page on www.911AnimalAbuse.com you will see a repeating pattern of facilities having USDA violations reported year after year, for six years in some cases, before the USDA takes action. Meanwhile the USDA keeps renewing their licenses. Why does USDA renew licenses each year of facilities that have failed to meet even the more minimal of standards? To give you an idea of how low the standards are, the size of cage for a tiger only has to be big enough for the cat to stand up and turn around.
What does it cost the tax payer? When less than 1/10th of one percent of the public owns exotic animals, why do tax dollars fund entire governmental departments to regulate an industry that is unneeded and inhumane? What are the actual costs to tax payers for all of the reporting, licensing, enforcement and the clean up costs after these places allow escapes or they go belly up?
62% of the people polled say that seeing big cats in cages has done nothing to cause them to donate to conservation in the wild. Almost all of the places that use big cats for income will cite that noble cause as their excuse, and yet how much of the money they raise is actually put to work in saving the habitats?
The tiger is the best example of how this doesn't ring true. No big cat is more commonly kept in zoos and back yard menageries and yet with less than 4,000 left in the wild and one being poached per day, it is obvious that this great cat will disappear in the next few years. All of the cats who were born in cages for the last hundred years did nothing to stop the onslaught. I believe that the practice of keeping cats in cages has actually led to their demise in the wild. If you can have the convenience of driving a few miles to see a tiger in a cage, then why protect them half a world away where you may never see them?
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
Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:
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