Two shoddy roadside zoos – Natural Bridge Zoo, Natural Bridge, Virginia, and Tiger Safari in Tuttle, Oklahoma have been investigated by The HSUS.
One of my pet hates is the American roadside zoo and I apologise to Americans for saying that. I don’t want to upset any Americans but I would hope that the vast majority of Americans would agree with me when I say that there are too many shoddy roadside zoos owned and managed by amateurs whose sole objective is to exploit animals to make an easy profit which inevitably means that the ‘care’ of the animals is substandard and sometimes downright cruel and abusive.
Both of the roadside zoos mentioned above breed tiger cubs for the annual photo sessions which take place in spring and summer. The video below provides you with an idea of what it is like. But the tiger cubs are taken from the mother and their mother is distraught and then the cubs are abused and pushed around, disciplined to make sure that they are compliant for the photo shoot. Then when the tiger cubs become big and dangerous and therefore no longer profitable they become a problem, a liability, so they send them off into some black hole of an exotic animal trade which can lead to more abuse and worse and if they are lucky they may end up at an accredited sanctuary (accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums – AZA) where kindly animal welfare groups will look after them for the remainder of their lives.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sent undercover investigators into these disreputable roadside zoos to confirm, probably, what we all suspect, namely that the owners have unfettered, unregulated access to do as they please with the animals in their care, which is often abusive and in any case the word ‘care’ is inappropriate.
For example, at the Tiger Safari, there is (was?) a white tiger cub whose name is Maximus. The investigators report that he was dragged, choked, slapped and punched and then deprived of proper food and nutrition. His leg bones began to bow we are told. I wonder whether this is rickets. I don’t know but anyway this was abuse. We are told that an employee at the roadside zoo was in tears when she reported to the investigator that Max’s mother cried for days after her cubs were taken from her. This is despite the fact that the owner of the zoo, Bill Meadows declared that he loved Maximus and blatantly misrepresented the fact that his zoo was abusing the cub in saying that he only allowed a couple of public encounters each day in order to respect the cub’s welfare. In fact Max was forced to do 60 photo sessions in one day. He should have been with his mother but oh no that wouldn’t make money would it?
It is interesting to note, for me, that the person who owns the world’s largest cat, Hercules, a lion/tiger hybrid (liger), has business connections with these two disreputable zoos. His name is Kevin Antle (aka Doc Antle). He runs an enterprise called T.I.G.E.R.S., in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. He does business with these people in both providing and taking tiger cubs from both of them. He presents a more wholesome profile.
There appears to be no government agency keeping track of what is going on with these tiger cubs. None are registered or tracked and as mentioned they could go anywhere and end up in the most cruel and abusive place such as a slaughterhouse selling their body parts to people who like to eat tiger meat for some unimaginable and superstitious reason.
At the Natural Bridge Zoo, the investigators noted that two tiger cubs were abused (the video shows, in part, one incident apparently). You will see one of the cubs being disciplined. Both of the cubs were sick with coccidia and giardia. There was starved until a photo session so that they performed well during the session when they are bottle-fed. A veterinarian was not called to deal with their illnesses.
There are many other animal problems at Natural Bridge Zoo, which I will not go into detail here because they concern other species of animals but you can imagine quite easily what it was like including dead and injured animals.
Incidentally, at this zoo they breed primates and they separate the infant from their mothers to sell to the pet trade. This does not surprise me and in fact there are many poachers across the world separating kittens from their mothers in the wild to sell them as exotic wild cat pets. These are small species of wild cat some of which can be domesticated to a certain extent.
The HUSUS filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture about the above zoos in 2014
The government appears to be very slow to act. Indeed, they almost appear to be disinterested and to an outsider the ownership, possession, abuse and trading of wild cat species, most often tigers, appears to take place within a very lax and laissez-faire environment where almost anybody can do almost anything to turn a profit from a wild cat no matter how abusively the profit is made.
Associated: tigers for sale. My thanks to Dee for telling about The HSUS investigation.