Big Cat Rescue
Of all the trips I made during this past week my trip to the Big Cat Rescue was far and away the most rewarding, eye-opening experience. What in the world makes people think that they can keep a tiger as a pet? But that’s just what many people do – and this is only illegal in 17 states!!! Once people realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew (bad, bad pun intended) their “pets” end up here as they can’t be released back into the wild after being domesticated.
Big Cat Rescue (BCR) houses 13-14 (their website says 14, but I’m pretty sure our tour guide said 13) different species of cats and over 100 cats total. I attended the day tour from 3-4:30. It’s important to note this is not a zoo. Visitors are led in groups with tour guides and are not allowed to wander freely. There are some animals who don’t appreciate a human presence so tours are not led near their areas. The tour guides pause at each enclosure to explain the cats history, how he/she came to be at BCR, and maybe some other fun facts about the species, etc. It was an extremely informative tour and I regret that I didn’t have enough hands to take notes and pictures!! So I’m just going to share what I remember and what I can find on their website about each shot.
The two shots above are of an ocelot. This particular ocelot loves perfume – I forget the brand but it was a common name that you could buy somewhere like Macy’s. The log the cat is rubbing against had just been sprayed with this perfume and explains why she was acting like a cat high on catnip. This is just one of the enrichment activities the keepers at BCR use to keep the cats feeling less like they are locked in a cage.
Above is Zabu, a white tiger. An interesting thing I found out is they are kind of like blue-eyed children – the white is due to a double recessive gene. Unlike blue-eyed children (fortunately for me) in the wild mother tigers kill their white offspring as their inability to camouflage endangers the entire litter. Because of this the recessive trait and white tigers themselves are becoming increasingly rare in the wild. In captivity it is only due to inbreeding brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters that allows white tigers to continue. Unfortunately this inbreeding can lead to many other genetic mutations that can be unsightly and potentially life threatening. This practice continues because white tigers are big revenue draws and revenues are what keep the zoos (and every other business) afloat. To read more about the white tiger controversy you can visit BCR’s white tiger page here.
This is Cameron, who along with Zabu was rescued from a roadside zoo when the owner passed away. Zabu and Cameron had been raised together in the hopes of breeding them and selling the resulting liger cubs. After arriving at BCR Cameron received a vasectomy and Zabu was neutered and eventually the two were reunited in their new 3 acre cat-a-tat. We saw at least two lion enclosures – one from afar – while on our tour. This lion did talk to us a little bit but mostly it was a fairly warm afternoon so he mainly rested.
The animal getting a bath above is a cougar but also has common names including mountain lion, puma, and panther. We saw about five of these, maybe more, on our tour. I think this is Narla who was kept as a domesticated animal legally (he obtained the appropriate licenses) by a gentleman with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, he passed away leaving his unlicensed wife to care for a wild animal. Rather than euthanize her, Narla was taken in by BCR.
Visiting BCR was a truly moving experience. I don’t like to get political here so I will just say that there is a bill in Congress – Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act H.R. 4122 that will prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats on a national level. More information and a link to show your support for this bill by contacting your congressperson are available here.