Almost every day when I login to Facebook I see posts about big cats… some are about important conservation issues and I love the fact that social media sites provide people the platform to give these animals a voice and help make positive changes.
But the majority of the posts I see are usually cute stories and videos about “unique” animal friendships like the orangutan bottle feeding a tiger cub OR people interacting with these wild predators like they’re overgrown puppies in their homes or at so called “sanctuaries.”
There’s much more to these posts than meets the eye and I want to take this opportunity to share with you what I know, so that you can choose whether you want to hit that like/donate button in the future and also if you want to look the other way, or take the opportunity to speak up for these animals instead.
The number of wild animals kept as exotic pets in the U.S. is astounding. There’s no accurate numbers because there’s simply not enough money or manpower to regulate them properly, but rough estimates determine that there could be as many as 10,000 tigers living in backyards, garages and rundown roadside zoos in the U.S… that’s triple the number of tigers that exist in the wild!
This doesn’t include all the other species of big cats like lions, leopards, cougars, servals and bobcats… or all the other species of dangerous exotic animals like bears, wolves, apes and reptiles.
Not only is this a HUGE PUBLIC SAFETY CONCERN – 2011 Zanesville Tragedy
It’s also a HUGE ANIMAL WELFARE ISSUE – https://bigcatrescue.org/cages/ and it’s perfectly legal in many states! Each state has it’s own laws and many states that ban the private ownership of exotic animals like tigers, have loopholes that people can exploit to get their own way… Plus like I said there’s just not enough money or manpower to enforce these laws properly and if someone does break the law it usually just amounts to a slap on the wrist and away they go to imprison more wild animals in the future.
So why is Chris ranting about exotic animal ownership? How does this relate to the cute videos of “sanctuary” owners hugging and playing with their big feline friends? Surely they aren’t bad guys, they use words like conservation and talk about how much they love their animals… unfortunately any facility can call itself a “sanctuary.” Without going into major detail about everything and giving you my opinion on all the fake sanctuaries out there (which would be a VERY long read), I’m just going to let you know the 4 big things to look out for, so you can decide for yourself whether to continue liking and supporting these facilities both online and in person. (*Also check out the links to more detailed articles at the end of this post.)
Do they have babies?
It’s simple… REAL sanctuaries don’t breed their animals, this just adds to the problem of wild animals living their lives in cages. Many facilities claim to be breeding their animals for conservation purposes but this isn’t the case, they’re just breeding them to have a constant supply of cute babies to entice people to visit and to get more likes on their social media posts.
Do the keepers interact with them?
Having contact with wild animals like lions and tigers is extremely dangerous, however fake sanctuaries love to showcase this to the visiting public and to their social media followers, which massages their ego. It also sends a terrible message to all of their followers that this is a fun, safe thing to experience for themselves, further fueling the exploitation.
Do the animals perform?
If the facility forces their animals to take part in shows where they perform tricks for an admiring crowd, you know these animals have been abused from a young age in order to obey commands. No wild animal wants to jump through rings of fire or do other party tricks in order to get a snack, real sanctuaries allow their residents to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
Can you pet them?
Many facilities offer the opportunity to have your photo taken with cubs and/or adult big cats, people believe their money is going towards animal care and conservation efforts, but instead it’s lining the pockets of these animal abusers who often discard the cubs and adult cats once they are no longer needed.
I hope this brief blog post helped outline the issues captive big cats are facing, please share and please help give these animals a voice, together we can make a difference!
For a full list of ACCREDITED sanctuaries: http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/
For more great articles to educate yourself and others, please visit: https://icarusinc.blog
Help give these animals a voice: https://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-act/