Wild Animal Orphanage Closing Down

Wild Animal Orphanage Closing Down

by Michael
(London, UK)

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.

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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.

Associated pages:

Tigers for sale

Tiger Penis

Wildcats as pets

Keeping wildcats

Michael Avatar

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Wild Animal Orphanage Closing Down

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Dec 14, 2010 Update
by: Michael

I agree with Ruth and Sylvia Ann. I have an update. It is worse than I had thought. It is alleged that the founder Carol Asvetas (with her husband Ron) had gone “rogue”. It is alleged that amongst other malpractice she was killing animals to make room for new ones in an overstretched sanctuary! Sounds incredible and a complete perversion of the fundamental purpose of the sanctuary.

It is also alleged – and this is interesting – by Lynn Culver the executive director of the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) in the Nov/Dec edition of their magazine, that on one occasion Carol Asvetas had killed a cougar that was in her sanctuary and dumped it on the side of the road when traveling through Kansas to attend the 2004 Kansas Parks and Wildlife monthly meeting. She was going there to talk about banning private ownership of wild felines.

The purpose behind dumping a dead cougar on the roadside was to undermine the concept of private ownership (i.e the cougar was killed through irresponsible human behavior) in support of her arguments.

Lynn was speculating but it is sensible speculation. The thing is this: animal sanctuaries can be good but it seems that all to often they are not. They are part of this horrible and callous trade in wild animals.

It is immoral and unpleasant and lacks respect for the animals. As Ruth so correctly says they are just “animals” to do as we please with. It is a trait of the arrogant human to behave like this. It disgusts me. There is very little regulation going on it of animal sanctuaries. How was this state of affairs allowed to develop?

Michael Avatar

Nov 22, 2010 Very sad
by: Ruth

I really don’t know the solution but I am very sad for all those animals taken from their natural habitat to be imprisoned and either tortured by scientists or kept by ignorant people as ‘possessions’
Then when finished with for experiments or when the ‘owners’ realise they can’t cope with a wild animal, they are just like rubbish to be ‘got rid of’
In short, exactly like feral cats, it’s another man/woman made problem with the same outcome, the animals suffering.
I expect the orphanage was started with good intentions and like other animal rescues, before they realised it they were overcrowded and struggling for money, because they felt they couldn’t turn an animal in need away.
To too many people animals are just that, animals in the plural, they don’t see and consider each individual animal with the right to live his/her life the way they were each born to live.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Nov 17, 2010 ‘The Rest is Silence.’
by: Sylvia Ann

Death is the only gift the world will offer these creatures. This mess will end in merciful oblivion.

More captive cats in the U.S. than in the wild suggest the genetic diversity of the wildlings is weaker than that of captive tigers & fee-lions.

If Africa and rural areas of India depend to a greater degree on farming than a few regions in the U.S. – and if there were vast, Serengeti-like tracts of land poorly adapted to agriculture in – for instance – Texas…but it wouldn’t fly. The cats are killed off because people encroach on their land over there, and they’d do the same here, sooner or later. Still and all, if these borderline badlands could be enclosed with hundreds of miles of fence (which the cats would climb in a heartbeat, of course) and stocked with herbivores tasty to carnivores…but the notion is absurd. Our water supply is running low for even beef and dairy cows,let alone herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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