Female Siberian/Bengal Tiger Hybrid
With one final breath she lifted out of the cancer ridden body that had once been Trucha the tigress. She had literally been bred to death. In the wild she would have had cubs once every three or four years as she spent the time in between raising her family and teaching them all about what it means to be a tiger. In captivity tigers are bred two to four times a year because there is a huge demand for cute, cuddly cubs.
Breeders, like the notorious Robert Baudy of Savage Kingdom, who used Trucha until he was shut down by USDA, will purposely inbreed their cats to try and produce the white coat color that accompanies the genetic defect. The cubs can only be used for petting sessions, photo ops and other pay-to-play schemes for a month or two before they are too big to handle. Many die from the rough handling, being dropped, and being starved and poisoned to keep them small. Meanwhile their mothers are already pregnant with the next litter of cubs to be exploited.
Trucha had just taken her last breath, but I felt like the weight on my chest was such that I would never again be able to breathe. I suspect that those who stood with me, Dr. Wynn, Scott, Cathy and Chris were all experiencing some similar form of grief as we eased Trucha out of her captive existence to whatever lays in store for her next. No matter what that is, it has to be better than the lousy hand she was dealt this time around.
Imagine being born in some tiny, filthy jail cell and then ripped from your mother at the age of only two weeks. The only one who would ever care about you for the next 14 years calls your name, moaning for the return of her cubs, but you are put into a metal cage in the breeder’s house. He is a slovenly sort and uses the lure of playing with baby tiger cubs to get young girls into his home. They will do just about anything to be the one who gets to feed you that bottle of cold, putrid liquid that bears no resemblance to the warm milk of your mother.
The young girls are often outcasts who do not have strong family or social ties and are subject to the bad influences so prevalent in big cat owners. They are often drunk or high on drugs when they come to care for you. They have no real training and your needs go untended due to neglect and ignorance. As soon as your eyes are opened you are subjected to hours upon hours of flashing light bulbs as you are handed from one laughing, giggling person to the next. You scream for your mother. You scream for it to stop, but no one hears your cries. Those who would rescue you have no legal recourse to liberate you from your tormentors. Those in charge of insuring your welfare are never there for you.
You have grown too big in just 3 or 4 months to be used this way. Your mother has already produced another litter of cubs, who are being pulled from her to start the process over. Your eyes have been so badly damaged that you only see shadows. You jump at everything and your world darkens in around you. Maybe it is better that you can’t see what is going to happen to you next.
You are relegated to some small, concrete and steel cell where you will be fed rotting flesh of whatever is cheapest; road kill, sick cows; the meat that cannot be sold. Your water bowl will be green with algae or swimming with mosquito larvae if it has water at all. The temperatures at both extremes will challenge your will to live because all you may have is a leaky box for shelter. You will be thrust in with other inmates, including your own litter mates, in the hopes that you will breed young. Your incestuous breeding is exactly what the breeder wants because that will get him more white cubs and the white cubs fetch more money.
You become the tiger version of a puppy mill. Your days of boredom, neglect and abuse turn into months and then years. Somewhere, far, far away tigers like you are roaming hundreds of miles. They are choosing their own mates, raising their own young and they are the most respected individuals in the forest. You have never known a single day of freedom, but you are hard wired to expect it. Every day is just one more reminder that you are a prisoner.
Most of the estimated 5000 tigers in the US will live and die in these same miserable conditions. You were one of the lucky ones. When Savage Kingdom was shut down the zoos, circus acts and backyard breeders only wanted the white tigers. They left you and three other golden tigers behind to die. The government agencies that regulate the trade in tigers either didn’t know, or didn’t care that you were slowly starving to death. By the time Big Cat Rescue learned of your plight, Bella the tigress was almost dead. The rest of you weren’t far behind. You had just about given up hope.
After 14 years of being bred to death, you found a true sanctuary; one that doesn’t breed and doesn’t allow “accidental” breeding either, which is the way that pseudo sanctuaries explain how they have cute little money-making cubs every year. In your last two years you had the best of everything that money could buy, but money couldn’t buy back your health. The cancer was inoperable and had spread throughout your entire mammary system. The one thing Big Cat Rescue couldn’t give you was your freedom, but they did give you the freedom to make many of your own decisions.
When you decided that you didn’t like living with Modnic any more, after 14 years of being forced to, you got your own private space, your own mountain cave den and your own ball and pool. As long as you were letting your rescuers know that you had a healthy appetite for life you were given supportive care, but when the disease had begun to erode the little joys you found in eating, playing, swimming and chuffing, you knew they would be there for you to ease the transition.
Today, when you closed your eyes for the last time, it was in the respectful presence of just a handful of the many people who had come to know and love you. Your tragic life was an inspiration to thousands of people who came to know you over the Internet. All that you endured was finally brought out into the light and while there was no justice for you, it was still a huge stride for your kind. On the very day that you died, a major supermarket chain pulled their sponsorship of a fair that was using a live tiger act.
Your suffering was not in vain. You could shut your eyes and say your job here on earth was done.
Savage Kingdom Rescue: TJ, Bella, Modnic and Trucha
A hundred times or more a year Big Cat Rescue is contacted by someone trying to unload a tiger, lion, bobcat, serval or some other exotic cat who has outlived his usefulness. In most cases the people calling are those who have used the animals to support themselves, or to make themselves more popular, and now the cat no longer serves their needs. Then the cat has to go.
Big Cat Rescue can only take in a limited number of big cats each year because each cat is a 10-20 year commitment. Most of the cases do not meet Big Cat Rescue’s criteria for accepting a cat as they will not assist these irresponsible owners in continuing to breed and use animals by being a dumping ground for last year’s babies.
This case at Savage Kingdom was different. Robert Baudy was world renown for producing what are commonly referred to as “throw away tigers” because they are so often lame and cross eyed from the inbreeding that goes into producing the white tigers that will fetch a big price.
When USDA finally shut down the 84 year olds’ breeding activities in August of 2006 an era of abuse came much closer to an end. A friend of Baudy’s had managed to place all but four tigers by May 14, 2007. If she could not find a home for these last four tigers she was going to have them euthanized on May 18th because she could no longer afford the time and resources needed to care for the cats.
TJ, Bella, Modnic, and Trucha were the last four cats that needed a home and Big Cat Rescue stepped in to provide one. On May 18th, 2007, Rescuers transported the four to their new home at BCR. They now have spacious grassy enclosures with shrubs and trees, large mountain dens, and pools to cool off in.
TRIBUTES FOR TRUCHA
Even before Modnic and Trucha came to Big Cat Rescue, they had been together. When they came to Big Cat Rescue, they played, they fought, they picked on each other – just like true sisters. Even when they were in separate cages, they still played with each other through the fence. Trucha recently passed away and, not only left us missing a dear friend, but left Modnic without her playmate.
Last night, I went to feed Modnic and she was as playful as ever, but this time with me. She stalked me, ran from me, and darted around her cage. I am glad that I was able to be there for Modnic when she didn’t have her playmate she has been with for so long. True Blue you will be missed by many…..Jennifer, Volunteer Staff/Board Member
Like many other people, upon hearing the plight of Trucha and her 3 companions, I donated to help save them when they were about to be put to sleep, and was so excited when they came to BCR. Over the next 2 years, I was fortunate enough to see Trucha on a number of occasions during my visits. She was a beautiful girl with agorgeous feminine, gentle expression. She would lie at the edge of her enclosure beside the road, twist her head towards me and ‘chuff’ when I spoke to her. I really don’t know how she could forgive people, after the suffering she had endured prior to coming to BCR, but she did. We humans need to learn from animals like her.
I made a point of going to see her during my last visit in early August, knowing in my heart that it would probably be the last time we had a ‘chuffing’ conversation and I am so glad that I did. We had a ‘chuff’ at each other, and that memory will stay with me forever. I thank BCR and all the volunteers for making her last 2 years happy ones – never going hungry, always loved. Now free from any pain and captivity, you can finally run free Trucha!”….Daphne, Volunteer Keeper Trainee/Advocat
I got to know and help care for Trucha after her rescue. It wasn’t long before I fell in love. One of my favorite things was to give her enrichment, since no tiger at BCR enjoyed treats as much as she and her sister Modnic did. She would make me giggle seeing her running around with a bag of spices or slurping up an ice cold bloodsicle on a hot day. Trucha always looked forward to any visits with her keepers & would chuff away, just so appreciative of the love we showered on her and the new home we provided. She was like a kid in a candy store, just enjoying every minute of it.
Once she was diagnosed with cancer, it was heartbreaking. We didn’t know how long she’d be with us. I made sure to say extra long goodbyes whenever I knew I’d be away from her for awhile. I never guessed she’d survive with us another year, so there were many special goodbyes, many special times together. She enjoyed life with gusto, right up to the very end, chuffing her thanks for every little thing we did. The memory I have of spending those last days with her will remain tucked inside my heart forever. She deserved so much more. I just wish she could have been with us longer, she was such a sweetheart. You always wish you could say “goodbye” just one more time. She was our Trucha – a tiger gone too soon……Julie, Volunteer Senior Keeper
Trucha had a miserable life, forced to endure what no living creature should. Her last chapter at BCR was all good for her. She felt physical and emotional comfort, love and was well fed, had a clean den of her own and …privacy!! RIP brave tiger…..Merrill, Volunteer Partner
Trucha is finally free from illness and pain. She is the epitome of strength and courage. If we, as humans, could endure HALF of what this beautiful tigress has endured, we would have NO cause for complaint in our lives. She was and is a beautiful tigress, and her memory lives on in my heart. I consider it an honor to have been chuffed at by this beautiful, majestic tigress who spent her last days happy and safe and surrounded by people that loved her dearly….Regina, Volunteer Senior Keeper
Another beautiful and gorgeous fighter just left us…She didn’t stay long with us, but we sure gave her a lot of love!!!! She not only had a sad experience with the cruel human world before coming to us, but then she had to fight against this terrible cancer! Not fair!!! Not fair!!! She was such a good tiger and she had such a beautiful face with big eyes full of love! I am so glad I went to see her every day during that last week…It seems like you get to know them so well, that just by looking at their eyes, you know time is really close…She needed that rest! Finally, the battle against that illness was just too much for her….I know she is now running free and without any pain!!! I will always remember our sweet fighter – Trucha….Marie, Volunteer Senior Keeper
More Memorials at http://bigcatrescue.org/category/memorials/