Kidnapping & Death Threats 2008


Baby lion cub in circusKidnapping attempts and death threats are just a few of the hardships faced by these big cat heroes as they work to save tigers, lions, jaguars and other exotic animals from the torture of circus life.  This letter was sent to Big Cat Rescue on July 3, 2008 but was in broken English as the writer is Colombian.  It has been edited to flow better, but is believed to accurately reflect the trials and tribulations faced by those who desire to protect animals in a hostile environment.  Some of us at Big Cat Rescue, who speak out publicly for the cats, know what it is like to be threatened by the evil people who use and abuse wild animals, but Pilar’s story is even more chilling and makes her an even greater hero in our book.


Hi Chris (Poole) and all of the Big Cat Rescue Team,

Thank you for creating and posting the slide show for us.

Thanks to you there is a change occurring in the Guatemalan people and it is being reflected in the bad opinions posted about the circuses that use animals in the newspapers.  People are literally attacking the circuses in the press.  It is a bad time to be a circus that uses animals because people are no longer supporting them.

I have wonderful news:  The CONAP, who is the authority that has all the power to do something, is starting to take action on the complaints.  Last Wednesday they confiscated a beautiful Jaguar from the Chinchilla circus and now she is at the Aurora Zoo in Guatemala City.

The pressure is yielding good results.  We have been complaining about the horrible situation that this poor jaguar has been in for more than two years, but now, after all this time, they are finally taking action to help the animals.

At first, when we spoke with the CONAP, they told us that they couldn’t do anything because the Jaguar was from Honduras.  They said the circus had the proper permission to be there.  We were shocked and very upset with the CONAP.  We kept the pressure on and this year we received two calls, from people in the small town communities here, accusing the circus of stealing dogs and feeding them to the jaguar.

We went to Chimaltenango and found some poor dogs tied to the circus trailers with ropes around their necks.  We took photos, videos and wrote up our findings and sent it all to the CONAP, but still they refused to help.

JaguarA month and a half later, we got the same kind of calls from people at Antigua, Guatemala.  Again we went to the circus, took video and asked a lot of questions of the man in charge there.  I think he knew who we were, but he remained decent and peaceful with us.  He told us they could no longer use the jaguar in their act because the CONAP had forbidden them to use the animal.  Nevertheless, she was still there, in a very small and rickety circus cage.  She was obviously very distressed and acted violent and aggressive.

So we called the CONAP again and relayed Antigua’s desire to have the circus sent away and the community’s desire to have the jaguar rescued.  After Chris, at Big Cat Rescue, used our photos and story to create the slide show, we sent it to several people at the CONAP.  We know it is working, but we are keeping the pressure on them.

Tomorrow, July 3, 2008, we are going to Court against Rey Gitano, the circus owner.  He tried to kidnap us and told us they would kill us because of our interference in his business by exposing him on YouTube.  On May 13th, 2008 we decided to go to the circus to gather evidence of the abuse.  I went down from the car to take some photos and video and was approached by a woman with a baby in her arms who told me that the circus does not allow people to take photos.  I let her know that I was in a public area, on public property, (where the ponies, camels, horses, cobras and a monkey with a rope around his neck were stationed) and had the right to take pictures.  I asked if the prohibition on taking photos had anything to do with the shameful images people were seeing about this circus and the awful conditions of their tigers and other animals on YouTube.

Tiger with tail chewed offI went back to my car and the woman hurried off to the ticket entrance where one of the owners was.  He knew in an instant who we were and he screamed at one of his employees, “Hey!  Close the doors!  Close the doors!  We got them!”

I immediately hid the camera, but took out my cell phone and started to record the attack on us.  I rushed to the metal doors and tried to open them, while the circus people were struggling to close them.  He began calling circus employees on his cell phone, and threatening us by saying that we are not from Guatemala (we are Colombians), this is not our country and every day people die violently here.

I was so angry at the way he treats the animals that I was not scared.  I aimed by cell phone at his face, and told him we were going to report him for extreme cruelty and that the Decreto N° 870 Animal Protection Law from Guatemala was going to bring him to Justice for the horrible way he treats the animals.

I was able to open the door in the middle of all this to make our escape and captured all of it on film.

So tomorrow we will have our day in court to accuse him of attempted kidnapping and threatening our lives.

Tiger can't move in tiny circus wagonHere is the document we will be presenting to prove our accusations of abuse against the animals and violence towards us.  The photos were taken before and during the attack.

I hope we win on this matter because next week we are presenting our larger case on the abuse of the animals.  We have two good lawyers.  One is our own personal attorney and the other is from the Human Rights department.

I will write again after the hearings to let you know how it goes, but regardless we are going to keep the pressure on the government to confiscate these animals and to do the same of the other circuses that use animals in their acts.

Again, thank you for all of your support in letting the world know about the horrible conditions that animals face in the circus.

Thanks, Pilar


See the complaint and photos filed:  Page 1   Page 2   Page 3   Page 4 


The English translation by Marie Schoubert is HERE

People like Pilar are making their lives count.  You can too by sending a letter to your lawmaker asking them to end the trade in big cats at