I thought the news was quite shocking, really, but in an interview with an author on the Insider.com website Baskin said that she might not be able to reopen her sanctuary to the public once we get back to normal (whatever that will be) when the coronavirus pandemic is over. It is not just about the virus, however.
Normally Big Cat Rescue (BCR) is open to the visiting public throughout the year. Guided tours have been temporarily halted during the pandemic for obvious reasons. One third of their revenue comes from guided tours. The resulting loss of income led to making half of their staff of 20 redundant. Both Baskin and her husband are not paying themselves at this time.
They are planning on virtual tours to get over the problem. They’ve done Facebook Live broadcast daily and want to expand on that. They have an educational app coming out called Big Cat Rescue VR for Oculus. There are some developments going on to promote the sanctuary and cat welfare online and through the Internet.
Baskin still believes that the pandemic will be a threat for quite a long time into the future. She is not sure that she would feel safe exposing her volunteers or cats to this invisible killer. Baskin appears to be quite risk averse and understandably so.
It is not just the virus which prevents her reopening her sanctuary. She is still concerned about Joe Exotic who you may know conspired to murder her, was found guilty and is serving a 22 year jail sentence for that crime. She is concerned that one of his followers will turn up at her sanctuary and harm her or do damage to the sanctuary and the cats. She believes that it would be easy for a “deranged person” to throw some poisoned meat into a cage for a cat to eat. She does not want to take the risk.
Baskin is obviously concerned about not reopening for the above reasons because it will affect donations. Donations are based upon knowing what happens at the sanctuary. She believes in complete transparency and you can achieve that by being open to the public. Baskin has always claimed that the highly acclaimed Tiger King documentary by Netflix mis-characterises Big Cat Rescue and feels very aggrieved by it.
Personally I am an admirer of her. She’s genuinely concerned with animal welfare. Many factors make that clear. She has detractors who muddy the water but it is unfair in my opinion. She’s not perfect but who is? It would be a bad day for big cat welfare if BCR was closed to the public.