Friday, December 22, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
A 350-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana attacked her keeper at the San Francisco Zoo during feeding time Friday afternoon as dozens of visitors looked on, causing deep lacerations to the keeper's arms.
The keeper, who zoo officials refused to name but sources identified as Lori Komejan, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where she underwent surgery for the cuts.
She was "alert and conscious" when she was taken by ambulance to the hospital, said Robert Jenkins, the zoo's director of animal care and conservation. A talented artist who likes to draw animals, she has been employed by the zoo since 1997.
One or two staffers who were in the lion house when the attack happened at 2:22 p.m. grabbed Komejan and pulled her away from the tiger.
"I credit them with ensuring that the wounds weren't greater than they were," Jenkins said.
He said he did not know what led to the attack. Security officers interviewed several visitors who saw the incident.
"We don't know if there was any intent (to harm) on the tiger's part," Jenkins said.
He said it is not clear what will happen to Tatiana, but that it is "not normal procedure" to euthanize a big animal for this kind of behavior. The 3 1/2-year-old tiger arrived in San Francisco from the Denver Zoo on December 16, 2005. Jenkins said she has no history of aggression toward humans.
Komejan was attacked after the feeding of the four lions and three tigers that live in the lion house, Jenkins said. He called the session a "favorite attraction" for zoo visitors.
Patrons watch the feeding from behind a barrier that is about 4 feet from the cages. Between the barrier and the animals' cages is a kind of no-man's land where the zoo's employees are allowed.
Around 2 p.m., the keeper put Tatiana's specialized meat meal -- based on horsemeat and weighing 3 to 5 pounds -- in the steel food door near the bottom of Tatiana's cage.
Once the keeper puts the meat in the device, the door on the keeper's side closes, and another on the tiger's side opens. That way, there is no danger of the big cat touching the keeper.
All went well during the feeding, Jenkins said. However, a few minutes after Tatiana was fed, she somehow managed to get her paws on Komejan's forearms. It's not clear whether Tatiana thrust her paws through the bars, which are a few inches apart, or whether the feeder's hands were close enough to the bars for Tatiana to grab them.
Tyler Bridges and his 4-year-old daughter, Luciana, were in the lion house when the attack occurred. They had just finished chatting with the keeper and were walking away.
"She had just said, 'We feed them rabbits every Tuesday and Friday.' Fifteen seconds later, I hear her screaming," said Bridges, 46. "I see her with her back to us, facing the cage. Both of her hands were in front of her. Then somebody tried to pull her away from the tiger. I was about 15 to 20 feet away.
"I picked up my daughter -- she was very traumatized. Some visitors were running out, zoo workers were running in. While we were heading out, I could still hear her screaming."
Bridges, the Miami Herald's bureau chief in Lima, Peru, said it was his daughter's first visit to the San Francisco Zoo. Although the family lives in Peru, they are spending Christmas with his mother in Palo Alto.
Tatiana, who was born in Denver on June 27, 2003, was brought to San Francisco as a companion for Tony, a 14-year-old Siberian tiger whose sibling and lifelong companion, Emily, died in late 2004 from cancer of the spleen.
Although they were standoffish at first, Tony and Tatiana started having physical contact without barriers in February, graduating to bouts of torrid sex.
Jenkins said the tiger attack was "the only injury of its kind that has happened at this zoo."
However, employees have been attacked over the years by various animals, including gorillas, elephants and kangaroos. In May 1987, then-keeper Jane Tollini was mauled by a leopard named Farrah. And in February 2001, bird specialist Peter Shannon was assaulted by a cassowary that tore into his legs with its claws.
Friday, December 22, 2006 - Last updated 12:10 p.m. PT
WASHINGTON -- The National Zoo was briefly shut down Friday after a clouded leopard was discovered missing from a wire-mesh enclosure, and the animal was found snoozing just outside the exhibit 30 minutes later.
Mook, a 5-year-old, 24-pound female, apparently escaped overnight, zoo spokesman John Gibbons said.
Zookeepers realized she was missing shortly after 7 a.m. and alerted other staffers, he said. Joggers and other early morning visitors were escorted off zoo property, while others were ushered into a building for safety.
Gibbons said one of the keepers found Mook sleeping just outside the exhibit on the new Asia Trail. She was anesthetized with a tranquilizer gun shortly after 7:30 a.m. and returned to captivity.
"Everything went according to plan," Gibbons said. "Fortunately, we train for this kind of thing."
According to the Web site of the Clouded Leopard Project, a conservation group, the animals are medium-sized wild cats with cloud-like spots and are a separate species from regular leopards. They are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A tiger bit off the ear of a visitor who fell into her enclosure at a zoo in southern Ukraine, the zoo administration said Monday.
The 33-year-old Ukrainian man climbed on the bars surrounding the enclosure to pose for photographs and fell into the cage holding the tiger and her cubs, said Yuriy Kyrychenko, the deputy director of the zoo in the city of Mykolaiv, about 300 miles south of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The man was drunk when the incident occurred Friday.
The tiger attacked the man, biting off his ear and scratching his neck. He was hospitalized in a serious condition, Kyrychenko said.
"The man, his sister and their friend drank a bottle of vodka and then came to our zoo for entertainment," Kyrychenko told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Police launched a probe into the accident.
There are no plans to put down the tiger, who was "recovering from a shock," Kyrychenko said.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An Arlington family's fears were eased on Monday after a man rescued their pet bobcat, who got himself stuck in a tree a week ago and would not come down.
The cat's owner, Julie Johnson, said she was concerned that with recent freezing temperatures and no food or water, the cat's life may have been in danger.
"My kitty, Duma -- he's a 7-month-old bobcat -- climbed up the tree Dec. 4, last Monday, and he's been up there ever since," Johnson said.
Duma climbed all the way to the highest point of an oak tree and was hanging on for dear life as a branch swayed in the breeze about 80 feet above the ground.
For seven days, Johnson stood in her back yard calling up to her stranded cat. And for seven days, Duma's bowl of food was untouched.
After a week, a man came to the stranded feline's aid. Al Pope, a construction worker, said he heard about the stranded pet and decided to help.
He knew it was going to be a challenge but said the challenge was something he was going to try.
Using a few simple tools and a big heart, Pope went to work. More than an hour later, he lowered a gym bag with Duma inside.
Johnson told Channel 4 all she could do was express thanks.
"There are people in the world that will help you, take the chance of risking their life to get a kitty cat out of the top of a tall oak tree," Johnson said. "I'm just glad he's down and safe."
After he was brought down, Johnson took Duma to an area veterinarian to get checked out.
As for Pope, the humble hero chose not to speak at length about the rescue. He said his reasoning was very simple, "No special reason. Just to help them out."
Friday, December 08, 2006
Posted on Thu, Dec. 07, 2006
For his child's birthday party, Goya Foods executive Francisco Unanue hired a troupe of exotic animals that included a 62-pound cougar named Georgia.
The party ended badly when Georgia mauled a 4-year-old guest.
Now the owner of the Kendall-based Wild Animal World -- who has been cited in two similar past attacks -- faces a misdemeanor charge of allowing injury to the public.
The child is recovering from injuries to her face. Georgia was euthanized last week as part of a rabies test.
"The family wants this to be the last child who is attacked by these animals," said Dan Dolan, the attorney of the injured girl, who has not been identified.
"We feel that Wild Animal World has a horrible history of these kinds of events and we're going to do whatever we can to make sure this is the last one."
The entire attack was videotaped by a man hired by Unanue to film the party for his 7-year-old child.
Unanue's attorney, Frank M. Smith, has not allowed authorities access to the tape.
The Nov. 18 party was held near the pool at Unanue's luxurious home on the 7300 block of Los Pinos Blvd. in Coral Gables.
According to Coral Gables police, Wild Animal World owner and trainer Corinne Oltz said she instructed the children to remain calm and quiet as she brought Georgia out.
Oltz was seated with her back to the pool so "no one could sneak up from behind."
But during the presentation, the girl walked behind the animal kennels and startled the cougar, police said.
One witness told police that "no one saw the child approach the animal until it was too late."
The declawed cat grasped the child's head with her teeth. The girl suffered severe lacerations to her eyelid, left cheek and ear. Doctors sewed back part of her severed ear.
The attack is being investigated by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is also examining whether Oltz keeps her animals caged properly. The misdemeanor charge has not been filed yet.
Miami-Dade County also is looking at whether Oltz carries the proper permits.
Wild Animal World, a non-profit, offers a "wide variety of educational, exciting and professional interaction with exotic animals," and one-hour birthday party shows for $270 in Miami-Dade, according to its website.
Animals include Charlie the ringtail lemur, Popeye the anteater and Cookie the Guyanese porcupine.
Georgia is described as the smallest of the company's three cougars, which are not considered endangered.
From the company's website: "She is a tremendous lover, constantly wanting attention and always grooming her trainers with her rough tongue."
Oltz, the owner and trainer, insisted to police that the cat had proper vaccinations.
After the family of the injured child called the health department, officials asked Oltz to release the animal for testing.
She refused, the health department went to court and Circuit Judge Leonard Glick authorized the cat's seizure.
"Cougars are wild animals," health department attorney Morton Laitner said Thursday. "There is no vaccine that works on wild animals."
The cat was seized Dec. 1 at Wild Animal World, 10495 SW 60th St. The girl's father joined investigators to help identify the cat.
As is done in such rabies tests, the cat's head was removed and sent to a lab where its brain was tested.
Results showed the cat did not have rabies, officials say, so the injured child will avoid painful rabies shots.
Oltz has been cited for attacks in the past, authorities said.
In 1999, she was cited in a similar attack, also in Coral Gables. She received a conviction for a wildlife cage violation, court records show.
In 2001, a Wild Animal World leopard attacked a child at a company picnic in Broward County. She received probation for wildlife possession violations, court records show.
"That one was a fraction of an inch from going to the brain stem. That would have killed the kid instantly," remembered FFW Lt. Pat Reynolds, who is investigating the Coral Gables attack.
Oltz, Unanue and Smith did not return phone calls from The Miami Herald.
Oltz's qualifications, as listed on the company website: she worked at a bond brokerage firm and modeled for "for catalogues [sic], t.v. and movies."
Of why she works at Wild Animal World, Oltz says, "I always wanted to do a photo session with a big cat. They provided one on a modeling shoot and I was hooked!"
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Updated: 2006-12-06 18:38
BEIJING -- A leopard, a species under top-level state protection in China, was shot dead by local police Tuesday after escaping from its cage in a zoo in East China's Fujian province.
The leopard was found roaming the grounds of the Yuanyangchi Zoo at 7 a.m., sparking off a series of blunders by zoo staff and local police.
The zookeeper, with the assistance of the police, failed several times to shoot the leopard with a hand-made bow and anesthetic arrow before being attacked and injured by the irritated animal.
The team then turned to a narcotics gun borrowed by the police from another department. But it failed to fire.
The policemen, claiming to have been granted approval from local administrative departments, then drove two cars into the zoo at 2:00 p.m. and shot the leopard dead.
After an investigation, the policemen were found not to have sought permission from related government departments to kill the leopard and the zoo did not have a valid operation license. The animal keepers were also found to lack official qualifications for raising wildlife.
China's web portal Sina.com posted a questionnaire on its website on Wednesday to gauge public opinion about the incident and will release the results soon.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
POSTED: 1:53 pm CST December 5, 2006
UPDATED: 2:28 pm CST December 5, 2006
GILBERTS, Ill. -- Nancy Starrenburg, an avid animal rescuer from northwest suburban Gilberts, has been missing a part of her family since early November -- her 3-year-old cat, Tiki.
Tiki's not just any household cat. He's an F1 Savannah (similar to the one pictured) -- 75 percent African serval (an African wild cat) and 25 percent domestic Bengal (an ancestor of the Asian leopard cat). These cats are rare, and while Starrenburg declined to put an exact dollar amount on Tiki's value, breeding sites say they can go for as much as a 2007 Chevrolet Aveo.
Tiki is not only rare and valuable, but he's smart, having learned to open doors. And on Nov. 9 he did just that and ran out of the family's home, according to Starrenburg.
"We're just heartbroken. He's truly our baby," said Starrenburg, who has two dogs and 10 cats on her farm. "It's just so unfair considering I'm very active in rescue and I've helped so many guys [cats and dogs] out by finding them foster homes and by taking in strays."
Regardless, Tiki's atypical appearance and athletic ability would make him hard to miss, said Starrenburg, who has posted several signs around the community describing the exotic cat.
"He has a beige, silvery and tawny coat with black spots," she said. "He's very slender and tall with large ears with eye spots on the back of them and he can leap 8 to 8 feet in the air."
A glimmer of hope remains after Tiki, who was a gift to Starrenburg, was spotted last Saturday along Binnie Road at an abandoned farmstead.
Even so, Starrenburg's faith is dwindling.
"He's probably suffering because his native habitat is in the African savannah and I don't know if he can survive the cold or not. He's been indoors all of his life. I'm just hoping he gets cold enough and hungry enough to go to a person."
Starrenburg is offering a substantial monetary reward to anyone who finds Tiki. Anyone with information can call 847-428-9194.
Monday, December 04, 2006
A man was in serious condition today after a circus tiger in Spain ripped off his left arm.
The 31-year-old Polish man was with a another man looking for a job at the temporary circus in the town of Zafra.
The man entered an area forbidden to the public and tried to take a picture with his mobile of the tiger.
However, he got too close to the cages and was attacked.
Hospital officials in Zafra said the man was in a serious condition.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
As a result of a similar incident in 1999, the park had to pay 18,000 in compensation to a five-year girl who was scratched by a tiger cub.
Complaints trip up 'Animal Olympics'
THERE will be no more kangaroo boxing at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park.
The Nanhui District wildlife center has shut down its "Animal Olympics" after complaints from city residents and animal lovers around the world, a park official said yesterday.
More than 300 creatures had been brought in all over the country for the fourth such event, which began in late September and was scheduled to run until the end of this month. The curtain came down quietly two weeks ago, officials acknowledged yesterday when questioned by Shanghai Daily.
The so-called games, held every two years, featured kangaroos boxing with humans, bears racing bicycles and other events.
They were condemned as abusive by local letter writers and on Websites around the world.
"The games never caused any trouble before, but we received complaints this year, so we stopped them," said Su Feilong, a park official.
The park also ended the practice of allowing people to pose for pictures with small animals.
A three-year-old visitor was scratched by a lion cub when posing with the animal last week. The park agreed later to cover medical expenses, which totaled 1,000 yuan (US$125).
As a result of a similar incident in 1999, the park had to pay 18,000 in compensation to a five-year girl who was scratched by a tiger cub.
"I can't imagine such things happening," said Zeezee Zhong, an employee at the Shanghai branch of Roots and Shoots, an international non-governmental environmental protection organization. "The barbaric training and competition can harm animals, both physically and mentally."
Anna Ruberg, a Denmark native who works in Shanghai as a university teacher, said she was shocked by the events at the Wild Animal Park.
"I wonder why people are interested in that stuff - it's so cruel," she said. "Animals in Danish parks are kept miles away from visitors, not to mention there's no taking pictures with them."
The park's long-standing animal "circus," which features bears and other creatures playing with balls, will continue.
Shanghai Zoo, on the other hand, says it takes a less-exploitative approach with its animals.
"For example, we have a sea lion feeding show in which our employees explain the lifestyle of the animals," said zoo official Pan Xiuwen. "It is absolutely different from an animal circus," Pan said.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
A missing Savannah cat named Mondo has been returned home to San Anselmo after going missing for a three weeks. A Savannah cat is a cross between a regular domestic cat and the African serval, and the people who found Mondo thought he was either a baby mountain lion or some kind of cheetah or bobcat. Savannahs have long legs and friendly demeanors, and are considered very high-energy. Mondo also has very "chatty meows."
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Published - November, 15, 2006
Two male cougars at The Zoo Northwest Florida had nearly three hours of freedom Tuesday afternoon when they escaped.
The cougars were recaptured with the use of tranquilizer darts less than 200 feet from their cages. No one was injured.
Gulf Breeze residents Jon and Diane Bicker reside a half- mile from the zoo on U.S. 98. They were driving to Navarre when they saw the collection of emergency vehicles. Zoo officials locked the entrance gate.
When they discovered cougars were on the loose, they grew excited.
"With us living just down the road, we don't want to see cougars in our backyard," Jon Bicker said. "It's getting kind of scary out here. It's wild."
H. Doug Kemper Jr., zoo executive director, said the cougars wiggled their way through a hole in their cage about noon.
Within 10 minutes, zoo visitors and staff were confined to the enclosed buildings.
Santa Rosa deputies set up a perimeter to secure the cats, which also are called Florida panthers or mountain lions.
One cougar, Mexica, got about 200 feet from his area before he was shot with a tranquilizer dart and captured.
The other cougar, Athula, was tranquilized 75 feet away but jumped into thick brush between the zoo and the zoo's adjacent 80-acre property.
An Escambia County helicopter located the big cat using heat-seeking sensors.
The cougars both are 2? years old and each weighs 150 pounds.
The cage is nearly 20 years old. Although strong enough to hold zoo animals, two clips connecting the fencing had broken, according to initial reports. The fencing was going to be replaced within a few months, Kemper said.
Kemper said it's been an upsetting two days at the zoo.
"Much to my chagrin, we've had two episodes with cats in two days," Kemper said. "Don't these things come in threes? I sure hope not."
On Monday, a 19-year-old zookeeper was clawed on the arm by a leopard. She was not following protocol because she was in an unauthorized area at the time and wasn't with another person.
A buddy system is required when dealing with the large cats.
Besides the Escambia County helicopter, Midway firefighters, the zoo's veterinarian, the zoo's tranquilizer mobile unit and Santa Rosa deputies assisted in the search.
On Wednesday, the cats will be quarantined while the cage is inspected and repaired.
Before this week, the last zoo animal to escape was a kangaroo, who high-tailed it after Hurricane Ivan on Sept. 16, 2004, Kemper said.
Monday, November 13, 2006
At least one Leopard will change her spots.
Nineteen-year-old Adrienne Leopard, a zookeeper at the Zoo of Northwest Florida, was taken to a local hospital after she was injured by a leopard Monday morning.
Leopard was behind the exhibit near the animal's nighttime cage just before 9 a.m.
"She was too close to one of our big cats," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the zoo. The leopard snagged her sleeve with one of its claws and pulled her arm inside (the cage).
Leopard was treated for deep puncture wounds and lacerations to her hands at a local hospital and released.
"She was very anxious and embarrassed," Kemper said. "She kept saying, 'It's my fault. The leopard didn't do anything.'"
Kemper said the 2-year-old leopard is often given blankets and fabric toys and was likely only trying to play with the woman's jacket.
"He was just being playful," Kemper said. "But even when they don't intend to hurt us, they have all the tools to do so. (Our bodies) just can't stand up to it."
Kemper said although Leopard had worked in the area before, she was not authorized to be there at that time and was not following zoo protocol which requires zookeepers to use a buddy system in that area.
"She just simply made a mistake," Kemper said. "We are going to continue to support her and encourage her to move forward."
Kemper said he is sure the young zookeeper has learned a life lesson.
Leopard is expected to return to work on Thursday.
The leopard will also remain at the zoo.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Last updated 3:10 p.m. PT
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BERLIN -- A leopard attacked and killed a zoo worker who was cleaning its cage in the eastern German city of Chemnitz on Saturday, police said.
The zoo director found the 23-year-old dead from a bite to the neck just after 9 a.m. A door between the stall and an outdoor cage for the Persian leopard appeared to have been accidentally left open, police spokeswoman Jana Kindt said without giving further detail.
The zoo was closed following the incident and was to remain closed on Sunday, she said.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Prairie Wind Sanctuary
Prairie Wind sanctuary changes hands. Still has 16 big cats in need of placement.
2006: Michael Jurich turned over the operation of the facility to Debbie Brush.
Prairie Wind sanctuary closing
Prairie Wind Animal Refuge in Agate Colorado is shutting down. Michael Jurich (Founder and Executive Director of Prairie Wind) authorized us to place this alert in order to help save the animals in his care. Michael does not currently have email or access to the internet. He would prefer that someone take over his entire operation by purchasing the land and equipment at the facility and then becoming the new Executive Director of the nonprofit IRS 501(c)(3). This would allow the animals to stay where they are and in their current groupings and current licensing could stay in place. If this is not possible, he needs to get the animals placed at other sanctuaries as quickly as possible.
Animal Listing with photos attached. (sorry I don't have any more data than this). There are:
5 Adult Black Bears,
5 Black Bear Cubs,
1 Black Jaguar,
1 Bob Cat,
1 Arctic Fox,
1 Red Fox,
22111 County Road 150
Agate, CO 80101
Wild animal refuge again howls for help
By Joey Bunch
Denver Post Staff Writer
Agate - Michael Jurich finds it difficult to turn away scary, wild animals, even if keeping them has cost him his home. The owner of Prairie Wind Wild Animal Refuge says he is about to go under.
But that didn't stop him from recently taking in five black bear cubs from a shuttering animal park in Idaho.
No one else, it seems, would.
"Almost every animal I've got has a different story," Jurich said. "A lot of them are real sad stories."
Hard times have hit exotic animal refuges across the country, especially those like Prairie Wind that don't earn income from exhibiting or breeding the
"I'm not making babies to put in more cages," Jurich said Thursday, as he walked the perimeter of his maze of 100-foot pens, where lions, tigers, bears
and wolves waited for lunch.
He needs $50,000 in the next six weeks to make it through the end of the year, so he can feed and care for about 40 animals on his ranch northeast of
A "for sale" sign greets passers-by at the turnoff from the dirt road to his 42-acre spread. "I've been keeping this place going for years by refinancing my house," Jurich said.
Eleventh-hour donors came through last year, when Jurich thought he couldn't make it, but now he is right back where he started.
Colorado has 15 sanctuaries or other types of parks for wild breeds such as wolves, as well as more exotic animals such as lions or tigers. Prairie Wind is feeling the same financial challenges as refuges nationwide, said Carole
Baskin, chief executive of Big Cat Rescue, one of the nation's largest sanctuaries, in Tampa, Fla.
"There's not nearly enough money being raised," she said, "so fundraising has become a full-time job for all of us."
Meanwhile, the demand for homes for unwanted cats and other wild animals has never been greater.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are between 10,000 and 15,000 big cats living as pets in the U.S. About half of new cat owners soon look to unload the beasts, the Humane Society estimates, as those cuddly
kittens grow larger than their owners and devour a quarter of a cow a day. The average cost for food, shelter and veterinary care for a lion or tiger runs about $50 a day.
Sanctuaries like Prairie Wind become a last resort for these cats. But many are closing down across the country as individual donations - "our bread and butter," Jurich says - have fallen.
Jurich turns away about a dozen animals a month, and he tries not to think about where they wind up. Baskin says she refuses 120 cats a year, and she doesn't know of any nonprofit refuge in the U.S. that is willing to take in new
While Jurich hopes to find long-term backers to keep his refuge going, he hopes, at the very least, to find enough support to give him time to find his animals a good home.
"Euthanasia is not an option out here," he said, "unless they start with me."
Nick Sculac, who runs Big Cats of Serenity Springs east of Colorado Springs, said he agreed to take Jurich's animals last year, but Jurich backed out.
"I don't know why he just doesn't quit," Sculac said.
Jurich would say only that "because of various issues" he chose not to hand over his animals to Sculac. "It's a dead issue," he added.
Prairie Wind volunteer Debbie Brush, a Denver financial services representative, is looking for corporate sponsors to keep the refuge afloat. She hopes to find 12 backers willing to each donate $8,000 annually, with a
different sponsor giving each month.
"These animals came out of exploitative situations - fur farms, guaranteed hunts, roadside circuses, people who got them and couldn't care for them," she said.
At Prairie Wind they have a place to live out their lives, Brush said. "It would be a tragedy for them to be displaced now."
Staff writer Joey Bunch can be reached at 303-820-1174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiger rips off volunteer's arm at animal refuge near Kiowa
Woman was attempting to demonstrate to guest that animal was tame; her condition critical
By Kevin Vaughan
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
May 21, 2000 KIOWA, CO Prairie Wind: A volunteer at an animal refuge had her right arm torn off Saturday by a bengal tiger as she apparently tried to show a visitor that the animal was tame.
The 28-year-old woman was flown to Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, where she was in critical condition Saturday evening and undergoing surgery for her injuries.
"I think a mistake was made, and it was a costly one," said Elbert County Sheriff Jeff Shaw.
A woman who answered the phone at the Prairie Wind Animal Refuge late Saturday afternoon said owner Michael Jurich was not available and hung up.
Jurich opened the center, northeast of Kiowa, as a home for refugees from zoos, fur farms and hunting clubs. It houses scores of animals, including lions, tigers and bears.
An AirLife crew left the refuge with the woman at 2:24 p.m., hospital spokeswoman Sara Spaulding said.
The woman's name was withheld while her husband tried to reach other family members Saturday evening.
The refuge has a license from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Shaw said. Roughly 20 people were at the refuge when the woman was injured.
He said the Denver woman, who has been a volunteer at the center for six years, was talking about the animals with a visitor. She was asked whether the refuge's operators ever had problems with people sticking their hands in the cages.
"She stuck her hand in, and one of the bengal tigers came up to her and licked her hand," Shaw said. "She scratched its nose."
Then the 2-year-old, fully grown tiger grabbed onto the woman's hand, holding it tightly at first but not breaking the skin. Within moments, it moved further up the woman's arm, biting, and finally ripped off the limb at the shoulder.
The woman's arm was not found, Shaw said.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
David Richtman of Gonzales, Texas. Check for yourself to see if he met the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge. This photo is not of the rescued tiger.
North Texas Now Home To Rescued Tiger & Bears
(CBS 11 News) North Texas is now home to three exotic and potentially dangerous animals. Two black bears and a Bengal tiger were among more than a dozen animals seized Thursday morning during a raid at a south Texas ranch in Gonzales County.
Upon arrival the Bengal tiger seemed a bit upset and with good reason. He and more than a dozen other exotic dangerous animals have spent most of their lives together in very small enclosures.
“Poor bears can't even stand up in their cages. But this is their lucky day,” said Patty Mercer, Houston SPCA.
The Houston SPCA came to the rescue.
For the Gonzales County officials it's the end of an emotional seven year legal battle with the animal's owner.
“The condition of the animals, the works that's been done, all of this, it's finally reached a head. This is the end of a period,” said Glen Sachtleben, Gonzales County Sheriff.
One of the major problems for the rescued animals was their tight living quarters.
For nine years the Bengal tiger lived in a cage that was 4 ½ x 8.
"They're wild animals, they're used to vast expanses of ground to be able to roam around. They've been living in a life of a piece of plywood, a 4x8 area, to where they can just stand up lay down and that's it,” said Charles Jantzen, Houston SPCA.
The animals' owner, David Richtman, has been convicted of possessing and failing to register dangerous wild animals. He faces stiff fines and time in jail.
Richtman has permanently lost his bears and tigers. The next step is to find the animals permanent homes.
"There's no place for these animals to go. People acquire them as pets. There are not enough reputable sanctuary placements for them. Zoos don't want them, I mean most people assume that zoos want to take these animals, but zoos are full and they don't want these animals,” Mercer said.
There is hope for the Bengal tiger. The International Exotic Feline Sanctuary in Wise County has agreed to keep him there.
The executive director of The International Exotic Feline Sanctuary said, “He's retired here right here. He's not going anywhere. He'll have a spacious habitat to live in for the rest of his life."
Two of the black bears will be held at the North Texas Humane Society in Fort Worth until permanent homes are found.
April 20, 2006
Write your legislators and tell them that wild animals should not be bred for life in cages at www.CatLaws.com
(4/20/06 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - Officials have seized more than a dozen dangerous wild animals from a home in Gonzales.
Also on ABC13.com:
Responding to a call from Gonzales County officials, the Houston SPCA Cruelty Investigators and the Houston Zoo rescued 16 animals. Among the animals were 11 bears, 2 tigers, 2 wild hogs and one macaw.
These animals were seized by Gonzales County under the Texas Dangerous Wild Animal law. This law regulates the keeping of dangerous wild animals and provides minimum standards that a person must maintain for these animals. The bears and tigers were taken from the home for failure to meet these standards. It is believed that Gonzales County is the first County in the State of Texas to seize wild animals under this law.
The animals have been owned since the early 80's and used in exhibits and in performances. They have been living in transport cages in a poultry barn for more than nine years.
The two hogs and macaw were seized under a warrant for animal cruelty. Gonzales County has given the Houston SPCA custody of these animals in order to find appropriate permanent placements for them.
The Houston Zoo provided veterinary and other staff to help ensure the safe transport of the animals. The Humane Society of North Texas agreed to house two of the black bears until permanent placement could be made. The International Exotic Feline Sanctuary has given a home to one of the tigers at their facility in Boyd, Texas. The two bears and one tiger will be transported to these locations by the SPCA of Texas. One of the bears has found a permanent home at the Wildlife Reserve and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas.
The remaining bears, two hogs and macaw will be housed at the Houston SPCA until room can be found at reputable sanctuaries across the country. The second tiger will be temporarily housed at the Houston Zoo until placement.
The breakdown of animals seized is as follows:
2 Grizzly Bears, 25 years- both male 1 Kodiak Bear, 22 years- female 4 Black Bears,11 years, male, 11 years, female, 14 years male, 18 years female 2 Cinnamon Bears, 12 years female, 14 years male 2 Asiatic Bears, 30 years male, 15 years male 2 Tigers, 12 years male, 8 years male 2 wild hogs 1 gold and blue Macaw several dogs and catsOther agencies that assisted in this rescues were Gonzales County Officials, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the San Antonio Zoo, Wild Animal Orphanage, the Brownsville Zoo and the Fort Worth Zoo.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center
On August 14, 2006 Pat asked members of The Association of Sanctuaries to help him place his animals, stating he intends to close his Wild Animal Sanctuary fka Rock Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center.
"The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center will be closing. The 150+ animals in its care will need to be placed ASAP.
Approximate numbers are:
25 black bears
20 Mountain Lions
10 African Lions
5 Grizzly Bears
2 African Servals
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
Sanctuary Owner Says Animals May Have To Be Euthanized
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 20, 2006
KEENESBURG, CO - Pat Craig said he is facing a terrible choice: raise enough money to feed the lions, tigers and other large predators at his sanctuary while he finds them new homes or euthanize the 155 animals.
"Of course, that is going to be the very, very last thing we ever do," Craig said last week during a tour of the sanctuary 30 miles northeast of Denver. "But in December, I was sure that within two weeks, I'd be doing that.
"You either let them starve to death or you go out there and do the right thing," he said.
This isn't the first time that Craig has appealed to the public for help with his Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center. This time, said Craig, who ended last year with a $250,000 deficit, donations won't keep him open.
"We didn't just lose a little. We lost well over half of our income," Craig said, blaming the lack of donations on the national and global disasters.
He has 75 tigers, 12 lions, nine leopards and 30 bears, plus wolves and smaller cats.
Others involved in rescuing animals that are victims of illegal trade in exotic criticized Craig's statements, saying they amount to blackmail.
"He knows, like us, that sanctuaries are filled to capacity and he's got a lot of cats and where are they going to go?" said Vernon Weir, director of the American Sanctuary Association. "Once you start killing these animals, it becomes an acceptable method for disposing of these animals and we don't want this to ever become acceptable."
Nick Sculac, the owner of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, a sanctuary near Calhan in El Paso County, said the threat of euthanization is a fund-raising ploy by Craig.
"He won't do it. It's the only way that he knows how to raise money," Sculac said.
Sculac has his own challenges at his sanctuary following the death of his wife, Karen Sculac, earlier this month. Volunteers have said they want to help keep the 128 cats there.
Prairie Winds, a sanctuary with 45 big cats in Kiowa, southeast of Denver, is closing. Owner Mike Jurich is finding homes for his lions and tigers one or two at a time. He said he doesn't have the resources or energy to raise the $50,000 he would need to stay afloat.
"I feel like I'm parting with my family. I feel like I'm parting with my children," he Jurich. "It breaks my heart to think about it, but it's better for them."
Colorado has banned big cats as pets since 1985 and has some of the toughest regulations, adopted in 2003, for sanctuaries. The state banned new nonprofit facilities, and none have opened since then.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife licenses seven wildlife sanctuaries.
Nationwide, 20 states have banned keeping them as pets, and the federal government is implementing the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which prohibits interstate or Internet trade of big cats.
The Humane Society of the U.S. estimates from 10,000 to 15,000 big cats are in private hands, from cages in basements to roadside zoos. Most that wind up in sanctuaries came from squalid and inhumane conditions.
Sanctuaries are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which only controls how animals are euthanized but doesn't prohibit it.
Pat Craig's Press Release:
America's Largest Wild Animal Sanctuary Closing
6 Tigers in one of the sanctuary's 20-acre habitats.
(PRNewsFoto/The Wild Animal Sanctuary)
DENVER, CO UNITED STATES 08/15/2006
Executive Director - Pat Craig with rescued African Lion.
(PRNewsFoto/The Wild Animal Sanctuary)
DENVER, CO UNITED STATES 08/15/2006
DENVER, Aug. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Wild Animal Sanctuary (also known as Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center) has announced the non-profit sanctuary for Lions, Tigers, Bears and other dangerous carnivores is closing.
Devastated by the negative effects of world-wide disasters in 2005 -- the sanctuary will be forced to close its doors -- leaving over 150 wild animals homeless. The 140-acre sanctuary was the largest of its kind in the United States, but now its residents face an uncertain future as their caretakers scramble to find alternatives to euthanasia. Like many other non-profit animal organizations in the U.S., the Colorado-based rescue organization was devastated financially last year when their donations all but disappeared as people shifted their support towards helping tsunami, hurricane, and earthquake
victims. The sanctuary fell into major debt last year as donations dwindled and the year wore on -- and even though they did receive some renewed support late in the year, the funds that came in were not substantial enough to allow the organization to fully recover. Facing massive shortfalls, management has decided that it is in the animals' best interests to close its rescue operations as soon as possible.
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20060815/LATU095-a ) 6 Tigers in one of the sanctuary's 20-acre habitats The sanctuary, which has operated in Colorado for nearly 27 years, is home to over 150 lions, tigers, bears, leopards, mountain lions, wolves and other carnivores that were originally confiscated from illegal "pet" situations by law enforcement agencies. The sanctuary will do everything in its power to try and find new homes for the animals ... however, there are very few organizations in the United States that have the ability to take these kinds of animals in, so
placing all the animals will be a very difficult. "Most people logically expect their local zoo could take these animals in," says the Sanctuary's Executive Director, Pat Craig, "but that isn't the case. The fact is that almost every zoo in the country already has a serious surplus problem of their own, and are unable to help in situations like these."
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20060815/LATU095-b ) Executive Director - Pat Craig with rescued African Lion The 140-acre sanctuary is the largest of its kind in the U.S., as the facility has more large carnivores than any other large carnivore sanctuary, including 75 tigers, 30 bears, 20 mountain lions, and dozens of leopards, African lions and other big cats. "The only way we will be able to place this many animals is with ample time," says Craig, "as it's going to take an incredible amount of work to find that many homes, and to also get the animals moved across the country when new homes are found." However the Sanctuary doesn't have sufficient time to accomplish their goal of placing 100% of the animals since it costs over $15,000 per week to operate the facility and their operating funds have been completely depleted. "We may be able to stay open for another week or two, at best, so if we don't find more resources right away we will be forced to close before new homes can be found for each animal," states Craig. "Any support we can get right now will allow us to stay open another day ... and each additional day we get will increase the odds for saving another life."
Information and Time Frames: Sanctuary Open to Public: Now till funds run out ... Placement/Transport of Animals: Now till funds run out ... Special Sales/Auctions: To be announced -- check our web
site or call, 303-536-0118 Information/Donations: On line @ http://www.WildAnimalSanctuary.org via mail, or at the Sanctuary until closure is complete Our immediate focus is to find homes for the animals and get them transported. We will be continuously trying to raise funds to that end, as well as to meet other needs, such as food, utilities, equipment payments, and paying people to
help close the Sanctuary. In the unlikely event that we have anything left after the animals are relocated and all debts are paid, any extra proceeds, fixtures and equipment must, by law, be turned over to another non-profit. http://www.WildAnimalSanctuary.org SOURCE The Wild Animal Sanctuary
AP Archive: http://photoarchive.ap.org
Previous news articles:
Big cat could be big ticket
Weld County Garage
Dan England, (Bio) email@example.com
May 14, 2006
After 35 years in the animal business, Pat Craig is learning how to market his Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center.
Craig always knew how to win the trust of and care for wild, neglected animals that others couldn't handle. And he knew how to run a sanctuary, with more than 150 big cats, bears and other exotic animals, and a budget of more than $750,000. But he didn't know, or really want to learn, how to market his place. He refused to open to the public for many years and finally gave in more than a year ago.
But after almost closing -- he was $200,000 in the hole before receiving a flood of donations in response to his pleas for help -- he hired a consultant and is working on finding ways to start major gift campaigns, which means lots of marketing, brochures and meetings with bigwigs. But he has the perfect marketing tool.
Eddy, a black leopard born at the center after Craig saved a female who was so thin he didn't know she was pregnant, will be featured on Animal Planet's "Growing Up" series Sunday. The show may reach 10 million viewers after numerous repeats (the show airs twice Sunday and probably will be shown many times in the next few weeks).
Eddy is a unique opportunity for the conservation center, a baby cat that is personable, cute and even friendly, even if he could kill a human without much effort. Babies are rare at the center because Craig refuses to breed; he says the breeding and selling of exotic animals is the reason the need for places such as his is so great.
But when Animal Planet asked to film a story about Eddy's life, Craig agreed, and now he's glad he did, even if the show may be a bit too cute for his taste. The episode already aired overseas, and Craig got dozens, if not hundreds, of e-mails from all over the world about the show.
"I'm sure my e-mail box will get jammed to the hilt," Craig said. "We're scrambling to see how we can take that energy and make it positive. We don't want to miss a big opportunity. We'll probably still miss half of them because, how do you field all this stuff?"
You do it by adding three phone lines, some staff members and putting together a gift campaign that includes bro-chures, professional writers and a plan that shows the place is a responsible center, both in the way it treats its animals and manages its finances. Craig's already met with one major donor who has contacts with others, and he plans to present his plan in a few weeks. That meeting couldn't come soon enough: His place has about $50,000 left in the bank after the donations left him with a $200,000 cushion. Craig knows the campaigns are vital to his organization's future, something he's finally learned to accept.
"This is all really important stuff," Craig said. "But I'm just an animal guy who shovels crap."
If the gifts come through, they will give the conservation center the cushion it has always needed to withstand times when donations plummet, as they did after Hurricane Katrina, Craig said. His consultant said the center wasn't in an unusual position for a place with a budget of more than $500,000 and no cushion: Tragedies are bound to strike, and when they do, those places barely survive when donors choose to give their money to other causes.
"We'll have that half million in the bank for the real catastrophes," Craig said. "So if half our donations disappear for a few months, it won't kill us."
Craig needs that cushion. He never wants to be so close to closing again. The crisis came at a time when a concrete slab fell on Craig, crushing him and leaving him in bed for a couple of weeks. Craig probably should have been killed, but some quick action by his son, Casey, saved him. Still, Craig pushed through the pain, shifting his focus to his center and the animals that would probably have to be put down if his place closed.
"It was the worst pain I've had in my life," Craig said. "There were times I would just get stuck in the hallway on the way to the bathroom. It was no fun, and quite frankly, with all we went through, it was all such a blur."
Now the conservation center's future looks a little clearer, especially if the marketing plans developed by Craig and a staff of hard-working folks works out, and Craig can stash a little money away for emergencies.
And just maybe, Craig will get some help in that department from a friend. Souvenirs of your favorite black leopard are now available.
"Eddy's going to be totally famous," Craig said. "That's OK. We actually have Eddy T-shirts now."
"Growing Up: Black Leopard," the story of Eddy's life at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center, will be broadcast at 6 p.m. and again at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Animal Planet channel.
« The show will be hosted by Edie Falco of "The Sopranos."
« The conservation center, at 1946 Weld County Road 53 in Keenesburg, is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day.
« For more information, directions to the center or to make a donation, go to www.wildlife-conservation.com or call (303) 536-0118.
Source: Dan England
Pat Craig of Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Keenesburg, CO fights to raise money, keep exotic animals alive
Dan England, (Bio) firstname.lastname@example.org
December 18, 2005
Pat Craig was just an idiot, he says today, running a gas station he took over from his family, when he got a call from a crying woman in South Carolina .
Craig was 19 and had built a sanctuary to save the world by taking in the so-called "surplus" animals that zoos kept in cages and, in some cases, barns. After he got 300 calls in a month after sending just a few letters asking zoos and amusement parks to consider him before they put their animals to sleep, he realized the problem was bigger than he. So, for a while, the sanctuary remained empty on his family farm in Lyons , just outside of Boulder .
But the woman, through tears, explained to him that they had pulled the jaguar cubs from their parents and two had died. Craig was no vet, but he had tube-fed puppies on the farm and said he would give it a try.
He brought that kitten back to life in 1980, and for almost 25 years, Freckles was the only reassurance Craig needed during the tough times. His animal sanctuary grew by the dozens into its current size of more than 150 big cats, bears and other exotic animals. All of them were the victims of the illegal exotic animal trade, a problem that, by all accounts, is out of control. If Craig could nurse that starving, lifeless kitten back to health and keep it longer than it takes for a child to graduate from college and get a real job, he could do almost anything.
When he had to refinance his home, or stick every cent of his savings into the sanctuary, even when he had a family with two boys, or when he had to work two jobs or more to support his Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Keenesburg, Freckles was there.
Now, Freckles is buried in a special corner of the center, with a headstone fit for a queen, and Craig faces the biggest challenge since he started.
By the end of this month, Craig should decide to either close and, in all likelihood, put to sleep all of the animals he spent his life rescuing, or stay open. Craig said he needs $150,000-$200,000 to remain open.
Hurricane Katrina, last year's tsunami and other natural disasters have overwhelmed the charity market, leaving Craig's sanctuary and others like it in deep financial trouble. Craig owes money to his insurance company, to his equipment providers, and, most of all, to his meat producer, which gobbles $400,000 a year, two-thirds of his overall budget.
One effort to get a little more income failed miserably, when the conservation center opened to the public about a year ago. Many donors assumed Craig was rolling in the money, as if he were a zoo, and the center lost twice as much in donations as it made in income as a result. And when the disasters hit, that was the death blow.
"We had donors apologizing to us left and right, saying they just gave to other things," Craig said. "We used to get 10 letters a day with a donation, but since that happened, we could go a week without one."
Financial woes at sanctuaries come when it's possible they are needed more than ever. Craig receives requests every day from agencies and individuals asking him to take cats and bears. These are usually the last places the animals can go, and yet, Craig's place is only one of 17 in the country that are nationally accredited, meaning these places don't breed, sell or commercialize the animals. And it's the breeding, selling and other methods of exploitation that are the main reasons why the exotic animal problem has ballooned into a crisis (in fact, Craig's place is stuffed with examples such as this: He once rescued tigers from a place in Texas that thought having tigers by gas pumps would help sell gas).
The illegal animal trade is now the second-highest money-maker in the world, only behind illegal drugs, according to federal statistics. And with an estimated 7,000 tigers that are privately owned (there are 3,000 in the wild) and an estimated more than 25,000 big cats and bears kept in homes, garages and backyards, one question remains.
Who will save all those animals if places such as the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center can't make it?
* * *
Jenna Rose peered down at the tigers swimming together and fighting over a ball at the Rocky Mountain conservation center and giggled.
"They're soooooooo cute," said Rose, 21, of Denver and a senior at Colorado State University working toward a degree in biology and wants to be a zoologist. "I absolutely love felines."
That's the problem. The animals are fascinating and cute and fun to watch. They aren't squirrels. They are wild, magnificent creatures you don't get to see everyday.
And it's that fascination that feeds the exotic animal crisis, Craig said. The commercialization of exotic animals only stimulates the hunger for a close encounter with a tiger. Just ask pot-bellied pig adoption centers how many problems they took in after the movie "Babe" ran in theaters. The movie "Two Brothers," released in 2004, took 32 tigers to make, Craig said, because kittens grow fast into large cats.
Even commercials are a problem: American Furniture Warehouse for years has not only featured cute baby tigers and other cats in dozens of TV and print ads but hosted opportunities for customers to have their photos taken with them. In once instance, Ken Alvarez, who bred the animals and once had plans to open a "sanctuary" in rural Weld County , brought his big cats to the furniture business in Fort Collins for commercials and customer photo shoots. The government later seized his cats in Rapid City , S.D. , because they were living in inhumane conditions.
Jakob Lueck, 51, of Seattle was fascinated as well. Born in Germany , he lived in central Europe and never got to see much wildlife. When he was 7, he fell in love with animals and dreamed of the opportunity to see them. When he finally traveled to Yellowstone and Alaska and Montana , he was disappointed at the result.
"If you saw anything, it was through binoculars and far away," Lueck said. "You never saw what you would see on those glossy brochures."
But Lueck then walked into a place in Montana , and it was like walking into his dream. He could hold and play with a 3-month-old mountain lion. He got some close-up photos of wildlife. He even offered to buy the place, and sure enough, in May 1999, he got the call.
"It was a chance, at least, to be around these types of animals," Lueck said.
Eventually, he hired someone to care for the animals, and he didn't do a good job. Federal authorities arrested him, and Lueck will pay a fine of $10,000 and is on house arrest for six months until March 2006. He eventually brought some of his cats to the Rocky Mountain Wildlife center, where Craig agreed to take them in.
"It broke my heart," Lueck said. "But you have to be realistic."
Lueck wants to visit them in March, when his house arrest ends, and he realizes his mistake.
"You have to realize that no matter how much I love them, am I the right person to be in charge of them?" Lueck said. "No. I didn't realize that at the time. They looked a little skinny to me, I have to admit."
Craig said Lueck's situation is a good example of what can happen. Most aren't out to abuse the animals when they take them in. It's just too hard to care for them. All of Lueck's animals at the wildlife center, two bears, a mountain lion, a leopard and two tigers were malnourished, for instance.
"Every time these people come in, they think are animals are well fed," Craig said. "They asked us, 'Are your tigers are steroids? I say, 'No, protein.' They see the industry and see those small animals and think that's how they should be."
Maybe there's hope, however. No matter how much Rose loved Craig's cats, she knows they are above her ability to care for them.
"I mean, it's tempting," Rose said. "But you just don't do that. They're cute, and they're cuddly, but they are still wild."
* * *
Craig has more than 150 big cats, bears and other creatures at his sanctuary, but if he answered all the calls for help, he would have thousands.
There aren't many federal laws to protect the animals, save for those policing interstate sales or the token abuse or cruelty commandments. In fact, simply keeping an exotic animal isn't against the law by itself, at least not according to the federal government. Some states have laws making it illegal to own an exotic animal privately, but those laws vary wildly from state to state, and even states that do approve those laws, such as Texas , grandfather in all the owners because there's nowhere to place the animals.
And if people want to sell a tiger in the same state, that doesn't even require a federal permit. That law led to truck stops in Texas selling tiger kittens along with giant hamburgers and showers.
"Simple possession is not an issue," said Gary Mowad, special agent in charge of enforcement for eight states for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. "We don't regulate that."
That doesn't mean there aren't municipal codes or state laws prohibiting owning a tiger, but municipal codes, for instance, can be bypassed by living in rural areas outside the boundaries. Of course, if the animals are treated badly, as many are, even unintentionally, the government can get involved, but only when it has the manpower for it, which is rare.
There are laws, and then there's the problem of enforcing them, Mowad said. Mowad has 25 agents for eight states, and many of those agents are busy enough attempting to protect endangered species in the U.S. from going extinct. Mowad has no doubt the problem of selling animals across state lines is severe, but it doesn't get the attention it deserves because of other priorities, he said.
"If it was a high priority," Mowad said "we could quadruple our cases easily or have even more than that. But if we have to save our own or get involved in stopping the sale of a tiger, well, the tiger will fall out to a lower priority."
Mowad hates to see the cases.
"The sad thing is, the cats don't even make a ton of money," he said with disgust. "You can pay $1,200 for a leopard cub. You can buy a tiger for $1,000. That's not a ton of money. A registered dog can cost you more."
Even when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife does decide to go after a big case, it creates problems because the undercover work is costly and then the government has to take care of the cats that are seized, sometimes for two years or more. Zoos help at times, but if the cat's declared, as some are, the other cats in zoos just tear it to pieces, Mowad said.
And when a state cracks down, as Texas did (it's estimated more than 4,000 tigers are in private hands in Texas alone), and now Minnesota , it creates problems for Craig because it floods the pipelines with animals who need homes. Craig, at times, doesn't have the heart to say no because he knows it's the last place for those animals to go.
That is, if Craig's place survives.
* * *
Some places, even sanctuaries, Craig said, will collect roadkill for their animals or shoot horses to save money on meat, Craig said, but he won't resort to that.
"That's not what a sanctuary is about," Craig said.
But meat gobbles up $400,000 a year, almost two-thirds of the budget. The cost of meat, along with the decision to open and the natural disasters, have left Craig searching for $150,000 to $200,000 to save them until March, when donations should start coming again, he said.
Craig doesn't want to live month-by-month, so even if the donations come in to save the place for December, he'll most likely still close.
"No one will want to hear the sob story again two months from now," he said.
In fact, sanctuaries around the country with much smaller budgets are facing the same problem. One closed last year, and two to three other accredited sanctuaries might have to close besides Craig's place. Smaller places such as W.O.L.F. (Wolves Offered Life and Friendship) in LaPorte, a place that gives homes to wolf pets and wolf hybrids, have had their donations drop by more than 50 percent, just like Craig's place, said Frank Wendland, co-founder of W.O.L.F. Many gave so much to places such as the Humane Society Kim Spencer 12/8/05 (American Humane Association?) to help with Katrina animals that they can't give anymore, he said.
Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and other films, serves as president of the Roar Foundation and helps run the Shambala Preserve in California . Her budget is more than $1 million. Most grant money offered by organizations stipulate that it has to help wild animals, so captive wildlife isn't eligible for it.
"It's just so terribly expensive," Hedren said.
Craig did increase his sanctuary by five times the number of animals after he faced a similar problem seven or eight years ago. But he wouldn't have done that had he not developed specialized habitats that gave him more room.
"Just about any director will tell you if you aren't actively doing what you're doing, taking in more animals," Craig said, "people assume you are stagnant and dying."
Craig is convinced that if the disasters hadn't come along, he would be fine. Donations covered the cost of the increasing hoard of animals until this year, he said.
Craig also said he probably hurt himself by spending all of the donations on the animals, despite the fact that many nonprofit organizations will store a lot of the money or use it for marketing or direct mail programs so there is money for the harder times. Craig said he would probably look into that or find ways to market his place more if he's able to scrape together enough to survive.
If he doesn't survive, well, Craig doesn't want to think about that, but after a little prodding, he admits he would have to put most, if not all, of the animals down, some of which he's had for a decade or more. All sanctuaries are maxed out and hurting, so it would be impossible to place that many animals.
"I hate to even say that kind of stuff," Craig said. "I couldn't be the one to do that."
* * *
Even movie actresses have to sacrifice themselves for their animals. Hedren lives in a double-wide trailer.
"But I love it," she said. "Most can't believe I live right on the preserve, that I don't have a home in Beverly Hills , but I love it."
Craig cashed in his retirement and has no savings account. He learned how to fly and inherited a plane, but he had to sell it. He worked so many jobs, he didn't get to spend as much time with his family as he would have liked. His favorite time was 3 a.m., when he was home from his job and he could spend an hour with his baby sons. Now Casey and Kelly are both teenagers, close to being men.
Hedren uses her fame to lobby for tougher laws, but she knows, too, that laws aren't effective without enforcement, and in California , where she is located, there aren't enough officials around to police the issue. It's that way all over the country, she said.
So, though she will continue to fight for stronger laws and more funding to enforce them, she knows the future is with education. She wants to implore animal keepers to stop breeding them, and she wants to stop the marketplace that makes that breeding profitable. She wants no one to think they can have their own tiger. She would love, one day, to close. It would mean her place was no longer needed.
"I want to turn to the people to stop this," Hedren said.
Craig has reached many with his own message of conservation and caution, but his only personal gratification was raising a family with his own values.
"My boys love animals and know how to care for them, and they have the right kind of attitude," Craig said. "And that was worth it alone."
Maybe, if Craig can survive, one day he could pass on the sanctuary to Casey. Casey loves animals, even more than Kelly, and Craig sees him working with the animals. He's learning all the physical traits; now he just needs to learn how to be a diplomat.
When Craig goes on one of his rescues, usually, they aren't pleasant. He sees malnourished animals, or dead animals, and angry keepers. People get in his face, and Craig swallows his own anger and he explains he isn't there as part of the police.
He's there for the animals.
"I'm the one person there," Craig said, "who is there for the animals."
Funding shortages could end refuge
By Linda Tharp
Eddy is lucky to be alive. He is a black leopard born in captivity a year and a half ago at a Colorado refuge to parents who were rescued, starved and dehydrated, from a California tiger ranch that the state shut down.
"He's very sociable. He runs over for attention and treats the dogs like they are his brothers and sisters," said Patrick Craig, founder of the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center, Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg.
Eddy will be featured on the Animal Planet channel in, "Growing Up Black Leopard" this season.
Like the more than 150 other lions, tigers, bears and wolves at the refuge, Eddy's parents were rescued from deplorable conditions.
They now live in a habitat created just for them. It is run by volunteers and funded completely through donations.
But with the worldwide disasters of the last year, a decrease in donations to the center threatens the lives of the animals once again.
"These animals eat every day of the year. All of the people who were our supporters disappeared this summer. They forgot about the animals,"
Craig said. "We were doing fine earlier this year, but with one disaster after another, we're facing closure."
If that happens, Craig said the animals likely would be euthanized, as other refuges around the country face similar challenges. There are only
17 nationally accredited sanctuaries in the country and tens of thousands of animals in need of rescue. Tigers outside of a zoo system alone, Craig said, number in excess of 7,000 in the United States.
"There's no place for them to go. This is the end of the road for them,"
It can cost up to $350,000 a year to feed the animals. They are fed quality meat, with nutrients mixed in to ensure each animal has the diet it needs.
Horses are not killed, and road kill is not used to feed the animals.
"Ninety-five percent of everything we have was confiscated from people who thought they could be the exception and raise a wild animal. They do a knee-jerk reaction when they see a baby and think they can keep them as pets.
"Most keep the animals in the house at first, thinking they will someday build a cage. By the time a tiger is 4 months old, it starts cutting you up and drawing blood, even thought it doesn't mean to," Craig continued.
"By the time a tiger is 6 months old, it can weigh 200 pounds. By the time it is 1 year old, it can weigh 350 pounds, and when it's 4 or 5, it can weigh 700 pounds.
"The animal ends up living in a basement, a garage or barn that is not suitable, and they usually end up starving."
To make the animal less dangerous to humans, some misguided owners will file the teeth or remove the claws. There have been botched declawing methods that have left some animals with permanent damage.
Many states have laws prohibiting private ownership of exotic animals.
But not everyone abides by those laws.
The state of Texas, he said, allowed individuals to breed and sell exotic animals until a law prohibiting the practice was passed just three years ago.
Even with laws, he said people could readily order carnivores online.
"The sad part is, only one out of every three baby exotic animals (illegally owned) survive," Craig said. "People bottle-feed them for the first month, then they feed them dog food. They are not getting the calcium and other nutrients they need."
Many of the animals that end up at the sanctuary need to be nursed back to health, either because they were fed improper diets or because they were abused.
The other 5 percent of the large carnivores that end up at the refuge are zoo surplus animals.
Craig was 19 when took a behind-the-scenes visit to a zoo.
That trip alerted him to the problem of surplus zoo animals. In addition to the animals on display, there were several other animals kept out of sight in small cages.
While that practice has diminished to some degree in the 26 years Craig has operated his refuge at locations in Colorado, it still is found in zoos throughout the country.
"We know every animal here. Some have been abused or beaten, and some have been with people who had good intentions," Craig said. "Eventually, they mellow out when they realize they will be fed well and taken care of. They become more sociable."
When visiting the 140-acre refuge, lions and tigers can be seen relaxing in one of the 20-acre habitats, complete with tall grass, trees, lakes and dens. There is even a tiger pool where the tigers play.
In all, the center is home to 74 tigers, 21 mountain lions, two servals, five bobcats, seven Coati-Mundi tigers, 12 African lions, nine leopards, six wolves and 28 bears.
Volunteers offer stories of how each animal came to live at the refuge, along with information about the natural habitat and instincts of the animals.
An observation deck built 35 feet in the air allows visitors to see portions of each of the habitats.
"You walk over the habitat, looking over the open range," Craig said.
"That way there is no pressure on the animals like there is at a zoo, where they are behind a glass and want to hide."
"We make it clear that it's a home for animals and not a zoo for people," he added. "Everything that has been built has been built for the animals."
While the sanctuary offers an educational center, Craig said the refuge is not the kind of place where people can drop off their kids and leave them for hours.
Visitors of all ages frequent the center but are required to do so respecting the animals and habitat.
"This is a place for people who want to learn about the problem and what they can do to help," Craig said.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Big Cats of Serenity Springs
Colorado cats' future uncertain after owner's death
Future Uncertain For Big Cats Of Serenity Springs Sanctuary In El Paso County
by Scott Harrison
KRDO-TV.com, Colorado Springs
Just last month, we updated you on the exotic cat sanctuary in El Paso County. Now, the owner has died. Pneumonia claimed the life of 47-year-old Karen Sculac just before noon Saturday.
Sanctuary volunteer Collette Colvin says, "The lions sing at night, and I didn't hear them singing as much last night. I don't know if we have what she had, to keep it going."
Sculac's death came unexpectedly, after a case of strep throat developed into pneumonia. "She thought it was just a summer flu, and continued to work out here--and they're not people to go to the doctors, so she figured she'd get better."
Collette says Karen kept caring for her 112 big cats, right up until Friday--when she couldn't walk.
Now there are big shoes to fill, and big bills to pay. "It's close to $20,000 a month, assuming nothing goes wrong--and Karen dying is the biggest wrong i can think of."
Karens loss is felt not just by daughter Amber and other loved ones... but by her three favorite cats.
"Zazu and Reno. Those were her boys. She raised them from cubs, and they're huge male lions. They will miss her. She was with them every day. There's a lioness by the name of Savannah. Karen would just sit with her for hours, and the two of them would just sit there and talk to each other."
Now, volunteers say their only option is to try and continue the sanctuary--because there's nowhere else the cats can go. "I can be realistic and say it's going to be hard, and we will have trouble doing it."
The sanctuary always needs donations to pay for operating costs. But now, Karen's family needs money as well--because she had no insurance. If you'd like to donate, contact Big Cats of Serenity Springs at 347-9200. Tours are cancelled until further notice.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Serenity Springs Owner Foreclosed and Heart Attack
By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News
June 26, 2006
Nick and Karen Sculac, owners of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, have another sad animal sanctuary story.
But they're counting on a happy ending.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, located in Calhan about 65 miles southeast of Denver, is home to 105 lions, tigers, leopards and other large felines.
The Sculacs started the refuge 14 years ago, taking in cats from failed sanctuaries and from private owners - including fighter Mike Tyson - who had lost interest in their toothsome exotic pets.
"They don't come with dowries, not even Tyson's," said Karen Sculac. "Other refuges don't take cats without dollars, but I can't put a price on their heads."
That was fine until last year, when Nick Sculac had a massive heart attack and mothballed his contracting business that kept fresh meat in the large cats' bellies.
This year, the bank foreclosed on the Sculac's 8,000-square-foot home. The couple moved into a small house on the sanctuary's already-paid-for 15 acres.
"We're not going to a homeless shelter, and neither are the cats," Karen Sculac said.
Nick Sculac, 54, known in southeastern Colorado as "The Tiger Man" for his cheery pickups of fresh livestock carcasses for his brood, has six stents in his arteries and a slew of medicines.
He's hoping for a full recovery by next year and has paid all his medical bills with cash. But he grieves that he's got to stay away from his furry wards.
"If they bite me, I'll bleed to death because of the blood thinners," said Sculac, who once romped with lions and tigers that embraced him with paws the size of baseball gloves.
Each week, the cats devour 1,683 pounds of meat, and the Sculacs' savings account is as dented as the metal barrels the lions toss around their enclosures.
A vendor who trades in meat that's past the deadline for human consumption and Red Bird Farms in Denver help, but sometimes those supplies run short.
Karen Sculac said she then buys chicken quarters by the case at the local discount store.
The Sculacs said their refuge, one of only two licensed big cat sanctuaries in the state, isn't closing.
But if Big Cats of Serenity Springs did close, state officials wouldn't be surprised.
"It's tragic, but it's a tough world and sometimes the animals are better off being euthanized," said Rick Enstrom, a Colorado Wildlife Commissioner.
In 2003, the commission banned new nonprofit exotic animal refuges to prevent Colorado from becoming the dumping ground as other states banned refuges.
But that didn't stop the Sculacs or Pat Craig's Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center near Greeley from taking in more animals every year.
The Conservation Center, which houses 152 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other wildlife, ran $150,000 short last year.
Craig launched a media campaign for donations.
It worked, as it had before, said Enstrom. He said the Sculacs haven't resorted to emotional pleas to raise money - but they could.
"When something does happen to the Sculacs or Craig, we will have an emotional and financial train wreck," said Enstrom. "The refuge owners can't do it all their lives. And, they run out of money."
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Press Release from Big Cats of Serenity Springs
Big Cats of Serenity Springs Not Closing
Misinformation leaked to local press leads to false rumors that Big Cats of Serenity Springs has been closed. The sanctuary releases statement correcting misinformation and assures public that the sanctuary remains open.
Calhan, CO, USA (PRWEB) June 22, 2006 -- In the face of a personal financial crisis, Big Cats of Serenity Springs has found it necessary to publicly state that the organization responsible for the protection and care of over 105 exotic captive felines is not in danger of closing.
Without permission, and against the code of ethics that Big Cats of Serenity Springs operates under, an individual not associated with the facility leaked false information to local media outlets. This person had access to private, personal financial data and released this information to the press, along with their erroneous belief that the sanctuary was being closed.
Karen Sculac, director of the sanctuary, has spent the last 4 days correcting threatening suppositions and assuring callers that her personal finances are totally separate from the finances of the organization that she and her husband started. “Like any responsible business owner, we made a conscious decision 13 years ago to keep our personal finances personal so that any misfortunes that may befall us would not affect the cats that depend on us.”
Due to a drop in donations since September 2000, and an even more dramatic loss of funds since the natural disasters in 2005, the Sculacs have been putting the majority of their personal incomes into ensuring the wellbeing of the residents of the feline refuge. Karen was well aware that this decision could mean the eventual sacrifice of the home she and Nick had built on property adjoining the facility. “I can live without my dream house; the cats can’t live without me,” Karen said in a statement on Monday.
Adding to already stressful, personal situations is the fact that misinformation was leaked to local media outlets stating that the sanctuary was closing and cats were being evicted from their home. Assumptions that Big Cats of Serenity Springs had closed is already having a negative impact on donations, making it necessary for a public statement to be released regarding a personal financial situation that should have remained private.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs has not been, nor will it be, affected by any personal adversity faced by those involved with the organization. We remain open and invite the public to visit us through our Tour Program and 100% of all donations received will continue to be used to provide for the exotic captive animals in our care.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs is a non profit organization dedicated to providing a safe, stable, permanent home for non-domestic felines, regardless of prior history or physical condition in accordance with their code of ethics.
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, 719-347-9200
Karen Sculac, director
Collette Colvin, public relations
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Tiger Mauls Trainer in Moscow Circus
Circus tiger mauls performer
July 2, 2006
A tiger mauled a well-known animal performer at a Moscow circus during a show, circus officials said on Sunday.
Doctors used nearly 100 stitches on Artur Bagdasarov for slash and puncture wounds, but the wounds were not life-threatening and the trainer was conscious, according to a statement posted on the performer's internet site.
Bagdasarov was trying to organise several tigers into a pyramid yesterday when a tiger named Caesar suddenly swiped at his shoulder, said Mikhail Bagdasarov, a relative and co-animal trainer.
"This lasted only 10 seconds. The tiger attacked him on his shoulder, pulled him under and tried to bend him, started to maul him with his paws," Mikhail Bagdasarov said in televised comments.
"At the moment when the tiger wanted to grab him by the neck, I rushed in (to the cage) and shot (a stun gun) into his jaws, and he pulled back."
Circus director Maksim Nikulin said that two tigers started to fight and that Artur intervened to prevent a brawl from breaking out among all 10 animals.
After the animal released Artur, he tried to leave the cage but collapsed.
"This tiger is just four years old and he's been in our troupe since birth, so no one ever expected this kind of event to happen," Artur's sister, Karina Bagdasarov, was quoted by RIA-Novosti news agency as saying.
Circus officials downplayed the incident, calling it an accident. "Not one animal trainer is without scratches and stitches. This situation is inevitable in this profession," Nikulin said in televised comments.
Trainers did not plan to punish the animal and would instead work with it today to try and determine exactly what caused the attack.
"If we were to shoot every tiger that attacks us, there wouldn't be any remaining," Karina said.
Write your legislator about this issue with our easy to use, click and send options at www.CatLaws.com
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
South Carolina Orangeburg County
This tiger, housed in an 8 foot by 8 foot cage at 12534 North Road, North, South Carolina in Orangeburg County, is not accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries. She has been living in this cramped squalor for three years according to reports from the White family. Check for yourself to see if they meet the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge.
(Orangeburg Co.) - A large, pet tiger in Orangeburg County is raising concerns over exotic animals and their treatment.
Currently, it's not illegal for Orangeburg County residents to own tigers, but the county's animal control officers say they're pushing for increased regulations after a woman on Highway 178 decided to keep a tiger in her front yard.
Orangeburg County officials aren't the only ones concerned. Lexington County resident Michael White came across the tiger two weeks ago while working in the area and says he's been worried about it ever since.
"There's animal bones littering...waste littering the area. It's just unsanitary. Flies everywhere. It smells nasty," White said.
News19 took White's concerns to Riverbanks Zoo curator John Davis. He says the animal, itself, looks healthy but believes the living conditions are cause for concern.
"Space is important. That's substantially less than we would provide," Davis said while reviewing video of the conditions. "Rancid meat that would attract other pests and insects are something we in the zoo profession stay clear of."
While Orangeburg County Animal Control officers say it's not ideal, there's little they can do since cruelty laws only protect domesticated pets.
"All we can do is speak with the property owner and advise him people are concerned about it," Earl Whalen said.
Whalen says the residents are being cooperative but that his office is still concerned about the neighborhood's safety.
"Anything could be potential for the escape of the cat if the property owner is not keeping 24 hour surveillance on it," Whalen said.
As Orangeburg County deals with these concerns, animal control officers are pushing for increased zoning regulations regarding the care of exotic animals.
There is also currently a bill in the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources that would limit who could own an exotic animal and what caging and care requirements they would have to follow.
Addie Bradshaw, Reporter email@example.com
Updated: 5/2/2006 7:24:11 AM
Notes from Michael White:
I discovered this beautiful Bengal tiger on April 20, 2006, while investigating a tip concerning a malnourished horse. The above tiger is located at a private residence located at 12534 North Road, North, South Carolina in Orangeburg County. That same day, I began contacting local, county, state and finally federal officials asking for assistance in removing this cat from her horrible conditions. I found that many authorities were already well aware of this cat and in fact, Orangeburg County has reports dating back a little over three years. The most common comment made was that there was no where to house the tiger and certainly no way to transport her should housing be found. In a single day, I located a federally sanctioned big cat sanctuary in Kingston, TN called Tiger Haven. They were and still are willing to take possession of this tiger, transport her safely back to TN and allow her to live the rest of her life in peace and harmony. She will be housed in proper surroundings, fed proper foods and be allowed to be with her own kind. All of this will be at no cost. Even with this being offered, I have been repeatedly told that since there are no laws in Orangeburg County to prevent the owners from housing her this way, there is little that they, or anyone else, can do.
Michael J. White Tiger Haven, Inc.
258 Calhoun Road 237 Harvey Road
Swansea, SC 29160 Kingston, TN 37763
Below is an email written by my husband, Mike, regarding a Bengal tiger in North, South Carolina. This beautiful animal is being housed in an 8x8 dog kennel and has been there for approximately three years. She is being fed various meats, including road-kill. At present, she has no shelter.
The more people we tell about this situation, the louder our voices become.
Tearsa D. White
Hi, My name is Michael White. I live in Swansea S.C. and work as a farrier. I was going to check out a lead on a horse not being fed properly and came across this tiger. After two weeks of pleading with officials from local, state and federal agencies I have not had much help in the rescue of this tiger. I was told by Orangeburg animal control that they and orangeburg county sheriffs have known about and been called out to this tiger on numerous occasions only to take pictures write a report and then just go away. The official position on the tiger is that there are no laws to prohibit these crack dealing stupid white trash people from owning this tiger. That is not the issue I think. I think the issue is the poor housing and general neglect of this beautiful animal. I have no luck in my dealings with police, animal control, county councilmen, senators, game wardens, USDA, SCDA, US Dept. of fish and wildlife, sled, or the countless other officials I have asked for help. I hope this will make someone take action. If any one would like a list of the names and phone numbers of the people that did or did not help me feel free to call me at (803)568-2896. I have a complete team standing by to remove, transport, and house this tiger free of charge. This team consist of myself, The vet from our local zoo and the great people from the big cat sanctuary Tigerhaven from kingston Tennessee. Tigerhaven has a nice website. They also have all the gear and permits to transport and house this tiger safely and again it is all free to the county and state. All we need is an official person to make the call to remove this poor tiger from the hell she lives in.
If you live in South Carolina, contact your state representatives HERE.
If you don't live in S.C. but want to help stop animals from ending up in the hands of people like this you can help by supporting federal bills that would ban the trade in exotic cats. One that is pending in 2006, that has died 6 years in a row due to apathy is the Canned Hunt bill. This bill would make the breeders of exotic cats responsible for where they end up. If breeders could be fined for their animals showing up in canned hunts or in deplorable situations such as this, they would not have any incentive to breed and sell. Support that bill in the Senate HERE and support that bill in the House HERE.