Wild Animal Orphanage Closing Down
This is a commentary on the closure of the Wild Animal Orphanage. They are my views alone but the odd comment may help us to get a more balanced viewpoint.
The principles and ideals of the Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) are admirable. Its purpose is laudable and they are to be praised. But does the story of its closure highlight an underlying problem at the heart of America?
WAO used to take on unwanted, neglected and abused wild animals. Many of these animals came from individuals who kept them as pets. Others came from medical research facilities and behavioral research programs. The latter concerns primates (monkeys etc.).
At WAO the animals range from bears, lions, tigers, cougars, wolves, monkeys etc. They are kept in large enclosures of between one quarter of an acre and two acres on a 112 acre wooded site. The organisation is located at 9626 Leslie Road – San Antonio – Texas – 78254.
The reason for the closure of the WAO is stated as over-population, under-funding and inadequate housing for the animals. The board of directors say that they have to shut down otherwise they will quite possibly be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act as the animals are not being properly cared for. This could lead to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) taking action against the WAO. This is turn might lead to some animals being euthanised, they say. In fact the chances of some of the animals being euthanised seems to be very real if the WAO are not able to find new homes for them quickly, even without the intervention of the USDA. They are seeking urgent funding to carry out the transfer of the animals to new homes while maintaining the facility.
I see a ton of troubles here on several levels. The first thing that comes to mind is the word, “euthanised”. This is another example of the misuse of the word. Euthanasia is about the killing of animals that are suffering. It is a humane act. Euthanasia is defined as: “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering.” (UK, House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics). In this instance it would seem that healthy animals might be killed because there is insufficient funds to care for them. Clearly that is not euthanasia – sorry but I don’t like to see things dressed up like that as it covers the truth. It is plain killing for commercial reasons. These animals have gone from the wild (some of them, I am guessing) to research facilities (more cages) to larger enclosures but still far smaller than is naturally required and now to being killed (perhaps) – not that good is it?
The dilemma that now faces the WAO is caused to a large extent by a lack of common sense and regulation regarding the keeping of large and small wild animals as pets. When will this stop? Even small wildcats are kept as pets and very often this simply does not work. I was recently contacted by email from a person in Malaysia who had bought an Asian leopard cat as a pet. It had been captured from a plantation. She couldn’t cope at all. This is not surprising. The process involves an unscrupulous person trapping the poor wildcat and selling it to a nice but ignorant person who simply sees a stunning small cat while totally ignoring all the practical issues and that this is a wild cat. I bet she got sprayed with urine dozens of times! This is just one example.
In the US there are about 12,000 captive tigers, of which 4,000 are in Texas. The number of tigers in Texas exceeds the total number of wild tigers in the world. Something is terribly wrong. Clearly a lot of people who simply can’t resist owning a tiger end up realising that it is impossible! Carolina Tiger Rescue say that it costs about $5,000 per annum to feed a tiger. Then there is the upkeep of the facility etc. I am sure many tigers are languishing in inadequate facilities as pets (new window). I am sure many are killed by their owners. Did you know tiger bone is very valuable on the Asian market? The humerus bone of the tiger sells for up to $3190 per kg in Seoul. A tiger’s penis is worth $6,500! OK enough of that but perhaps these tiger owners simply sell the tiger body parts to the Chinese on the black market. Who knows.
The next oddity is this. Why did the WAO get themselves in the position whereby the animals ended up living in inadequate conditions? And why is the place over populated? This smacks of poor management – sorry. Animals are being shunted from poor conditions with individuals to poor conditions at a rescue center. Clearly we are doing something very wrong. Yes, I know the recession has hurt the finances but there was a good bit of notice to take proactive action and in any event there should be contingency plan in place to deal with underfunding, such as a large reserve fund. The WAO is in a dire situation that requires urgent action at the expense of the animals. It appears to have over-expanded.
Then we have the primates that come from “medical research facilities and colleges/universities’ behavioral research programs”. That conjures up all kinds of abuse to me. I hate the idea of primates being imprisoned in small cages and then experimented upon. These are smart animals. It is wrong. Then to be saved by a well intentioned rescue center but then have the threat of “euthanasia” hanging over the monkey is intolerable to me.
I feel we can do a lot better. There is a chain of events in the lives of these animals and at each stage we, humans, have in one way or another failed them.