Lope is an expert on lions, tigers, panthers
By WALT BELCHER firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: September 2, 2009
Are big black panthers on the prowl in upstate New York?
Are dangerous leopards or jaguars on the loose?
Cue the spooky music. Roll the grainy video of cat-like creatures.
Tonight's episode of "Monster Quest" at 8 p.m. on the History channel explores sightings of large dark feline critters near a state park 18 miles north of New York City.
A team of trackers, scientists and technicians use surveillance equipment in an attempt to find out whether anything is lurking in the woods, or if it's a hoax, or if overactive imaginations are at work.
One expert that "Monster Quest" turns to for this episode is Scott Lope, director of operations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa.
Lope says the evidence he was asked to evaluate was inconclusive. "Some of the footage looked like just big domestic cats," he says.
However it's not impossible for exotic animals to be on the loose in the United States because so many people have them as pets, he notes.
"You would be surprised how many people in Hillsborough County have permits for exotic animals."
Lope, 41, has worked for Big Cat Rescue for 16 years. He has become the go-to guy for commentary on lions, tigers, leopards, panthers and other wild animals.
In addition to numerous appearances on Animal Planet and History, he has been featured on Discovery Channel, ABC's "20/20," CNN and Jack Hanna's animal shows.
He has been the feline and dangerous captive wildlife expert on two seasons of "Untamed & Uncut" and three seasons of "Monster Quest." He has appeared on Nickelodeon's "Animal Atlas" and Animal Planet's "Misadventure."
Lope also is featured in "Lion Feeding Frenzy," one of the most popular specials on Animal Planet and Discovery. He goes inside a transparent box placed in the middle of a pack of lions to observe what happens when lions fight for food in the wild.
Lope, who is from Pennsylvania, joined the Air Force right out of high school. After serving in the Gulf War, he was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base and has made Tampa his home for nearly 20 years; He first joined the nonprofit Big Cat Rescue preserve as a volunteer.
"I was going into the medical profession but I found my life's calling here," he says.
He now oversees the daily operation of a sanctuary that is home to 150 animals and is devoted to helping the big cats, some of which have been abused, or abandoned, or retired from performing.
He says that his appearances on television help educate people about these animals and the dangers of keeping exotic cats as pets.
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