By Cade – (a visitor who has relevant experience).
I only became aware of the petition (which I happily signed) this morning. I found this article (Michael’s original article on the petition to drop the program) via a Google search, looking for discussions on the problems with this show. Glad I found this.
While I currently am not active in animal rescue, I do have experience with animal sanctuaries and the exotic pet trade, including primates and big cats, and have had past training at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas. I watched both episodes of Yankee Jungle, and was deeply troubled by a number of things I saw.
— an elderly gibbon that apparently have been living without the company of other gibbons for a very long time and no concern displayed about this. Audience was apparently expected to be happy that he’s 30 years old. How many of those years has he been alone?
— very casual interactions with a spider monkey that is known to be aggressive with humans. This monkey also apparently had been denied access its outdoor enclosure for undisclosed amount of time due to it needing repairs and its indoor enclosure appears (from show footage) to be inadequate in size, not doubt causing the monkey stress
— nursing baby lemurs, which are primates and thus at risk of contracting varous human illnesses, and a baby marsupial (a wallaby IIRC) taken out in public and shown off in a restaurant
— a female ring-tailed lemur that was known to not be able to care for newborns that was allowed to breed
— owners claiming that their allowing animal to breed contributes to a more natural environment for the animals, yet there’s nothing natural about routinely removing newborns from mothers to hand-raise them in a human household like pets. For many social animals, including big cats and primates, this can actually be traumatic for the mother animals.
–the black man from Boston described as “Bob’s best friend” and the goofy New Englander handyman are both clearly actors hired for entertainment value and I fear future episodes will include more staged “crises” involving these actors that directly put more animals in stress, as was the case the supposedly stray peacock and the red deer that escaped due the handyman’s supposed mistake. Both of these with so obviously staged, especially if you’ve seen any of Animal Planet’s alledged “reality” shows. One wonders how much stress the animals involved in these stunts were put through to get the footge the show wanted.
–the breeding of the animals at a faculty where the two owners are both in their 70s. If they are not selling these animals, where are all these animals going and why are two elderly caretakers encouraging animals to breed babies that will long outlive them?
–indicators that the zoo is on verge of a serious financial crisis: little evidence that they buy any meat for their large carnivores while the show played up how they do the community a service by feeding the cats roadkill and stillborn calves from area farms neither of which are adequate sources. Enclosures that are secured with insufficient locks/gates, built from substandard materials and suffering from repairs upon repairs. Owners very obsessed with opening up for the public, while they’re juggling newborn animals and complaining of never getting any sleep. While it’s not unusual for people working with exotic animals to feel overwhelmed by their duties, the DEW owners do not exhibit a very healthy or grasp of how overhwelmed they apparently are–they’re too focused on money, which is probably why they signed up with Animal Planet.
–the owners’ admission of a previous serious incident with a big cat that nearly killed one of them.
About the tiger cubs: I only recently learned of the three tiger cubs born at the DEW zoo this summer. That is another serious concern. This local new article not only confirms their birth, but mentions how they were being hand-raised because the female tiger was “very confused” at being a fist time mother (note the owners used a “bad mother” excuse to remove the baby lemurs from their mother in one of the episodes too), but they also CHARGED MONEY for people to have up-close visitations with the cubs.
The article also quotes one of the owners saying these cubs would go to organizations that participate in breeding programs. That is a huge red flag as captive-bred white tigers are inbred and thus at very high risk of serious health problems (mostly commonly eye, teeth and bone problems, including severe deformities), and they and their offspring cannot contribute to legit conservation breeding programs. That means as breeding animals, they can only go to places that breed for exploitation (including breeders who breed white tigers to sell to zoos looking for a big-ticket attraction–and yes, some of thee breeders are zoos themselves). No legit conservation organization would breed white tigers or their offspring for any reason, as their bloodlines have no conservation value.
More tragically, for-profit breeders normally would cull any non-white cubs of white parents as they have the same high risk of health problems as white tigers but because they lack a white coat, they are deemed as surplus and essentially worthless. This practice among for-profit breeders as well as the known health risks of cubs from white tiger bloodlines raise real concerns about what actually happened to the cubs, whether they were actually placed anywhere and if they are still alive, their current welfare. If these cubs had been placed in sanctuaries dedicated to education and not exploitation, I see no reason why they would not disclose that, either on the show or in response to the petition.
So yeah, spare me the defense that this is feel-god TV. I did not feel good seeing that lonely gibbon, or that jerk handyman taunting the spider money, or a red deer stressing amid a staged “crisis” or the owner trotting baby lemurs about in public like surrogate human babies, while spewing her delusional “philosophy” about how this is responsible animal care. And I really don’t care how emotional the DEW owners appeared to be on-screen over a dead bobcat cub or a distressed sheep. My experience with the big cat trade tells me those two non-white cubs likely ended up in a trash bin, while their white sibling went off to a for-profit breeder. Think on that, fans of the show, and tell me how good you feel.