I am not just talking about private zoos in the conventional sense but individuals who want to keep a tiger as a pet or something like that.
I am an outsider, a European. When I comment on this sort of topic it probably irritates Americans. It should interest Americans though because it provides an alternative perspective and a perspective from a distance. It’s a way of standing back and looking at something afresh.
If you do that the private zoos of America look bizzare, dangerous and a human indulgence at the expense of the wildcat. Well they do to me. I guess people who know me won’t be surprised.
It seems that my perspective of private zoos is gaining some traction amongst the lawmakers of America. This is because they have come to realise, late in the day (don’t all politicians) that it is dangerous to keep big cats as pets especially when the individuals who keep them are not properly checked out for suitability.
Any old John Doe can start his wildlife sanctuary of some sort provided he has the space and money. They often do. There is plenty of both in America. Maybe that is part of the problem.
The recent horror story dubbed the “Zanesville stampede” in Ohio when a zoo owner killed himself after letting all his tiger, lions and leopards etc loose has got politicians thinking. Panic ensued and the animals where shot. Complete mayhem.
Now apparently some US states and Congress have been galvanised into really considering whether it is time to create some legislation to manage the sitation better.
We hear about the 5,000 tigers in backyards in the US. That is probably an exaggeration. We don’t know. It might even be an underestimation. That fact that it is an estimation is a worry and a sign of the lack of proper controls over keeping large wild cats and other dangerous animals.
Actually I am thinking of the animals. Their treatment is what concerns me. And we don’t know about that either except for the messes mopped up by people like Tippi Hedren and Big Cat Rescue.
In Europe you just don’t see this happening. The regulations and attitude are poles apart from America.
And for the executive director of the Feline Conservation Federation, Lynn Culver to argue against introducing new legislation is understandable as she has to defend her members who are keepers of wildcats. But she defends the status quo by arguing that legislation will bring an end to circus stage acts with tigers and lions! She says, “Big cats are charismatic species, key to the success of any zoo or wildlife exhibit.”
Come on Lynn. The days of tiger and lions being at circuses is over. It is cruel to haul these magnificent animals around in small cages all their lives for our entertainment. You know that. As to professionally run zoos that is another matter.
However, large zoos justify the inclusion of the big cats on the basis of conservation. But this is hocus pocus. The big cats are at zoos to make money. That is it. Let’s not put up some sorry smokescreen.
Conclusion: get on with the legislation Congress and councillors. It’s time the big cats where treated with respect and all efforts directed at the conservation of these wild cat species in the wild. Everything else undermines that primary objective.