Today at Big Cat Rescue Jan 15

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Exotic Animal Breeding Ban Bill


A proposal to ban the breeding of exotic animals in certain facilities is drawing criticism from the owner of one of Oklahoma’s largest private zoos. The Humane Society of the United States says the bill is needed to prevent irreponsible breeding. The owner of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park says the bill unfairly targets his programs and says he will sue the state if it is passed.


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Former Big Cat Rescue Volunteer Debra Cannella Rivera

(October 31, 1956 – January 9, 2012)


Debra Cannella Rivera

Debra Cannella Rivera (“Debbie” and/or “Di Di”) ascended to heaven on January 9th with her husband of over 36 years, Dr. Hector L. Rivera. Debbie was a native of Tampa and the descendant of those who arrived in Tampa in 1904. Debbie was a graduate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School; a member of Tampa Catholic High School’s Class of 1974 and also attended the University of South Florida. Debbie was a beautiful and successful person.

When not working, Debbie left a mark on the area by volunteer and fundraising activities for the American Cancer Society, National Humane Society, Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Centers, Hillsborough County Osteopathic Medical Society, Big Cat Rescue, Sydney’s School of Autism and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Debbie was a past president of the Hillsborough County Osteopathic Medical Society Auxiliary Foundation.


A man is behind bars, charged in the deaths of a Hillsborough County doctor and his wife who were found shot to death Monday night.

Deputies arrested Julian Ospina-Florez. Sheriff Gee said Ospina-Florez was employed as a driver and personal assistant to Hector and Debra Rivera.

Ospina-Florez, who appeared in court Wednesday, is charged with first degree murder. A judge has not determined whether he would be able to post bail.

“It was a very brutal killing,” Gee said. “He was making sure no one left that residence.”

Gee said Debra Rivera had recently reported a theft from the home, and had become suspicious of Ospina-Florez.

“It would be speculation…but we know [Ospina-Florez] was not in good standing with her,” Gee said.

Gee said deputies arrived at the scene and found Hector Rivera in the driveway with multiple gunshot wounds. They went inside then found Debra Rivera in a bathroom, also with gunshot wounds.

Watch Video: Suspect arrested in Avila ‘brutal killings’

Earlier that day, Gee said Debra Rivera and Ospina-Florez had traveled to Sarasota to purchase jewelry for the business Rivera ran out of her home.

When they returned to the house, that’s when Gee said Ospina-Florez shot Rivera. Gee said Hector Rivera arrived at the house to bring his wife dinner, and was shot in the driveway.

Gee said Ospina-Florez called 911, claiming that someone else attacked and shot the couple. He also claimed he had been bound and forced into a bathroom.

But no signs of forced entry or other vehicles were found at the scene, Gee said. On top of that, Gee said deputies found a firearm in the Rivera’s home that was registered to Ospina-Florez, and a box of ammunition in his car.

More physical evidence will come out in the upcoming weeks, the sheriff said.

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Scooped Lions

New York Times,  Monday, Oct. 31, 1932

The circus played our town one day; Three bengal tigers got away. The manager looked straight at me; Said he: “Your opportunity!  “Somebody’s got to get them cats, “Somebody’s got to go. . . .” – Bert Williams

Notorious throughout the land last fortnight was Denver M. Wright, the man who wanted to hunt lions in Missouri (TIME, Oct. 17). Unknown to readers of the story in the newspapers were two Missouri newshawks whose rivalry was to reduce the episode from the bizarre to the ridiculous.

Into the Ozark foothills in a truck went Denver M. Wright one day last week. With him. beside the two young lions he had bought from a circus for $75, were two friends, a barber and a plumber. Somewhere in the hills were his two sons, lost. Behind him, horrified, was the St. Louis suburb of Brentwood, where he had long been respected as a manufacturer and a member of the school board. All around him was hostility. In Mississippi County waited a sheriff with an insanity warrant. In Cape Girardeau County waited 800 vigilantes determined that he should hunt no lions there. Over the rough roads of Scott County bounced the truck, stopping now and then while Hunter Wright begged shelter at a farm house. Always there was only one bed. “It’s making me look like an inhuman ogre,” cried he.

To Commerce, Mo., went the expedition. There Hunter Wright learned that newsreel photographers had withdrawn from the chase, that his wife was on her way from Brentwood to stop the hunt, that a game warden had abducted his 14-year-old son Charles. “The boy and I are going out in the country a piece,” said the warden. “By the time we’re back maybe Wright will listen to reason.”

In Commerce, Hunter Wright found one friend. Tillman Anderson, landowner, offered him the use of a small island in the Mississippi. Off to the island went hunters, dogs and the two lions, Nell & Bess.

Into the complicated life of Hunter Wright now intruded the Press. Covering the lion hunt for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was its energetic crime-news reporter, Alvin Goldstein, 1925 Pulitzer Prizewinner (for helping solve the Leopold & Loeb crime). The Post-Dispatch’s up-&-coming rival, the Star-&-Times, had engaged United Press Correspondent Leland Chesley. Their rivalry became a feud when Reporter Goldstein claimed exclusive rights to take pictures and Hunter Wright supported his claim. The rival newshawks chartered separate boats.

“Gentlemen,” said Hunter Wright as he opened the cage on the island, brandishing a chair and a pistol like famed Lion-tamer Clyde Beatty, but with his friends training rifles on the beasts, “this is the biggest moment of my life.” The lions stood up, yawned, slunk out. Seven hounds cowered and whined. Off into the thick willows wandered the lions. Hunter Wright, gleeful, promised them a four-hour start, suggested lunch. At this point he found Newshawk Chesley busily taking photographs. Newshawk Goldstein complaining about the loss of his plates, threatening to break his rival’s camera. “Please!” begged Hunter Wright.

Back to Commerce raced the reporters with the story of the lions’ release, for the early editions. Newshawk Chesley won. Then he slipped back to the island accompanied by a deputy sheriff, a Cape Girardeau reporter and a boatman named Walter Wise. They landed on the island out of sight of Wright’s party. Newshawk Chesley wanted to take some more pictures of the lions before the hunt began.

The deputy sheriff and the smalltown reporter elected to stay in the boat. With Wise carrying the submachine gun and Chesley a pistol (to signal the boat) they plunged into the willow tangles.

To the U. P. Correspondent Chesley sent the following account of his expedition: “After about 15 minutes we found their tracks. We followed them for 30 minutes or so through heavy woods and underbrush and then lost them. We looked around a while but couldn’t pick up the trail. I told Wise I would go over to the shore to see if the boat was nearby. As I reached a wooded patch near the shore I suddenly found that I was between two lions. I yelled for Wise. He came and shot them. The second one was crouching . . . when Wise shot. It seemed to be excited. . . .

“Then I signalled the boat. We decided to take the lions with us. . . . We headed north, away from Commerce, and put in at Thebes, Ill. From there I telephoned the story. . . . Three hours later we returned to Commerce with the lions. The Post-Dispatch and the A. P. were scooped by three editions.”

Home from the hill to Brentwood went disconsolate Hunter Wright. Said he: “If anybody ever says lion hunt to me again I’ll. . . .”

Lionhunter Wright’s Version Sirs:

Your article published in TIME of Oct. 31 in which I recognize but little true facts concerning the Lion Hunt of Denver M. Wright, was not at all satisfactory to US nor to the many of your readers and subscribers here in this vicinity.

I trust that you will publish the REAL and TRUE facts of this Lion Hunt in the next issue of your valued paper.

I am enclosing herewith a photostat copy of an article published in the South East Missouri paper of Oct. 21, which Mr. Wright wrote for said paper, upon request of the editor. The absolute True Facts of the Hunt are contained in this article. . . .


Personal Manager
Denver M. Wright Lion Hunt Expedition St. Louis, Mo.

Excerpts from Lionhunter Wright’s version:

“After some considerable time, it is stated Mr. Chesley remarked to Mr. Wise that the gun was becoming tiresome to carry and asked that he carry same for a while. Mr. Wise had the submachine gun in his possession for a lew minutes when the two lions were discovered lying close to each other on the ground, whereupon he opened fire and killed both of the liberated lions almost instantly. . . . “The several hundred men. women and children, who had turned out to see the hunting exhibition, were bitterly disappointed and criticized the interlopers. “It was indeed a disappointment to myself, inasmuch as I had so carefully planned the hunt and guarded against danger and criticism. When I interviewed Mr. Tom Scott the following day. he assured me that he was sorry for the occurrence and that Tom Hodgkiss was not nor never had been a deputy sheriff in that county and that the submachine gun was taken from his home without his knowledge and consent. Everyone whom I came in contact with in that and adjoining counties expressed their sincere regret. . . . I was assured of their greatest co-operation in the event I cared to put on another lion hunt in their county. “I am proud of the contact and the many friends which I have made, brought about by this proposed lion hunt and I am now convinced that there are as many good people in Scott County and Southeast Missouri as there are in any other part of Missouri. . . .”-ED. Mrs. Hutchins, Mr. Adler & Plato

Merritt Clifton
P.O. Box 960
Clinton,  WA  98236

Telephone:  360-579-2505
Fax:  360-579-2575


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