Tuesday, April 15, 2008

America 's big cat crisis Felines on the Loose

America 's big cat crisis Felines on the Loose

By Katie Marsico

lion vs tigerLions, tigers, leopards, and other big cats elicit a mingled reaction of admiration, awe, and terror. Recently, however, these animals have found themselves at the center of nationwide panic and controversy. On June 22, a 10-year-old Minnesota boy was attacked by a lion and tiger that were privately owned by a man who also kept several other large animals on his property. Both cats were destroyed, and the child was critically injured. A devastating and yet avoidable occurrence, the mauling was unfortunately not the first of its kind to make headlines.

Scott Lope is the General Manager of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa , Florida , and insists that public awareness is the key to halting what is rapidly becoming America 's "big cat crisis."

"These stories about maulings and attacks make the front page for a few days, but the issue needs to be addressed on a more consistent basis," says Lope. He also emphasizes that the animals in question are too easy to obtain and that private ownership is where the real problem lies. "Whether it's a well-meaning individual who thinks he's helping to save a species or someone who's looking for bragging rights, people are often ill-equipped and unaware of what's involved in caring for these cats. They seem cute as cubs, but they ultimately get bigger and increasingly aggressive."

Misinformation Results in Mistreatment

Looking at Nikita today, you might never guess that she wasn't always this sleek and majestic. The four-year-old African lioness has been a resident of Big Cat Rescue for more than three years. The sanctuary's mission is to provide permanent care for a collection of rare and exotic cats that have been abused and abandoned, or who are retired from circuses and other exhibitions. Authorities confiscated Nikita from a drug house in Tennessee , where she had been kept chained to a wall. By the time she arrived at Big Cat Rescue, Nikita was malnourished, poorly socialized, and suffering from swelling on her elbows due to confinement on a concrete floor. Lope can attest that Nikita's situation is sadly not unique.

"People don't realize the complex nutritional needs big cats have. They don't understand that they're physically powerful, social animals who have to be around other members of their species. When Nikita came to us, she had never seen another lion before." Although public perception may be that circuses and zoos are largely to blame for America 's Big Cat Crisis, Lope believes that the problem begins with breeders.

"It's telling when you consider what it takes to get one trainable performing animal. For every one that does work out, there are hundreds that don't. Those animals have to go somewhere, and most reputable sanctuaries are absolutely flooded." American Sanctuary Association Director Vernon Weir agrees and adds that it's well-intentioned but frequently misinformed people who largely contribute to the problem.

"The crisis is really due to the breeding, selling, and trading of these animals," says Weir. "A lot of people buy them as cubs. You can probably get a tiger cub for anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000. Breeders don't explain the nutritional or spatial requirements, and they certainly don't reinforce that the cats grow up to be powerful and dangerous." Weir emphasizes that the majority of publicized maulings occur when people find themselves disillusioned by the inevitable demands of caring for a big cat. Larger, older, and more aggressive cats end up abandoned, abused, and either headed toward a sanctuary or faced with euthanasia. The result is that most sanctuaries are filled to the brim. These organizations are ultimately forced to cope with the cumbersome financial toll of providing for animals that can no longer be returned to the wild.

Tammy Quist is the Executive Director of Wildcat Sanctuary in Isanti County , Minnesota . Given the high levels of care that the facility's twenty animals require, Quist contends that the best place for big cats is in the wild.

"Too often people just have no idea what they're getting into," she explains. "Our tigers can eat between fifteen and twenty pounds of meat a day. To take proper care of a single animal, it can easily run you $25,000 annually."

Legislative Loopholes and the Sanctuary Controversy

While there are quite a few solid state laws prohibiting or at least restricting private ownership of big cats, Lope insists that there are just as many ways to get around them.

"Enforcement is truly the issue. There are so many gray areas. Permits aren't always specific as to the number of animals you can have or the standard of care you need to provide." Another legislative loophole is the hybridization of wild cats. Without genetic testing to prove that an animal doesn't belong to a species that private citizens are prohibited from keeping, breeders can easily tell one story to customers and another to government inspectors. Even properly licensed animal exhibitors such as zoos and circuses have the potential to play a role in America 's big cat crisis. While such facilities might have to submit to greater legislative scrutiny than private breeders, Weir says the danger lies with roadside zoos and similar small-name, low-budget businesses that keep animals.

"Theoretically, licensed exhibitors shouldn't be part of the problem," says Weir. "But we've found that some of these smaller industries frequently go broke or shut down, and this results in big cats that end up in sanctuaries or that are abandoned or inhumanely destroyed."

Adding to the dilemma are sanctuaries that take in more animals than they can legitimately care for, as well as pseudo-sanctuaries that actually manipulate their title to sell, breed, or buy big cats. In extreme cases of this latter occurrence, animals are often slaughtered for their meat or fur or sold to organizers of canned hunts. Organizations such as the ASA and The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS) offer accreditation to various facilities that meet necessary care and safety requirements. Lynda Sugasa is the Executive Director of the Safe Haven Wildlife Refuge Center in Marengo, Il, and emphasizes the importance of accreditation.

"Often people who try to run a sanctuary have the best of intentions," says Sugasa, "but big cats are high-maintenance. When they come from rescue situations but don't go to the proper facility, they don't have a chance."

Halting the Crisis in Its Tracks

All too frequently, the public is more attuned to the horror of big cat maulings than the contributing factors and the plight of the animals themselves. Therefore, increased public awareness and stricter enforcement of legislation are crucial to ending the crisis.

"Legislation gets watered down," explains Quist. "What tough laws do exist require tougher enforcement." Quist recommends that citizens be active in contacting local animal control authorities if they suspect illegal ownership or abuse of a big cat. Even licensed animal exhibitors should be reported if they don't appear to be providing adequate and humane standards of care.

Lope adds that another way people can be proactive in protecting big cats is to patronize circuses that don't use animals or to push for local legislation that would ban traveling circuses in their area. "We find the smaller, roadside circuses usually keep these animals in more deplorable conditions," says Lope. "If you don't patronize circuses that feature animal acts, you bring this issue to the forefront because you hit people in their pocket books." In addition to taking these steps, he concludes that educating the public is a critical part of the solution.

"The public needs to realize that big cats can't be dumped back in the wild when they're no longer wanted or easy to care for. The allure of living with something wild or exotic makes people forget that these are large animals-and extremely dangerous predators."

llinois Speaks out

The people of Illinois are hard at work to end the big cat crisis! The Safe Haven Wildlife Refuge Center in Marengo aims to rescue and rehabilitate a variety of indigenous animals. Bobcats and cougars are among the many species the center houses. These wildcats were all confiscated from situations involving illegal 'ownership' and cannot ultimately be returned to the wild.

"Improper and illegal 'ownership' of big cats is epidemic across the nation," explains Executive Director Linda Sugasa. "Laws vary from state to state, and so many wild cats end up in sanctuaries such as our own because they're bred as fad pets, the 'species of the month.'"

The center currently sponsors educational programs designed to inform the public about the needs of local wildlife. It also aims to raise public awareness about the cruel effects of the illegal pet trade.

The Safe Haven Wildlife Refuge Center has been accredited by TAOS .

Check out www.SafeHavenWildlife.com for more details.

It is currently illegal in Illinois to privately keep wildcats as pets. Only USDA-licensed exhibitors (zoos, science and research facilities, and refuges) can obtain special permits from the Director of Natural Resources that allow guardianship.

Check out www.Dnr.state.il.us for more details.

Animal-Free Circuses

Refusing to patronize circuses with animal acts is a powerful way to help protect wildcats and to pinch off the continued funding of breeders. Here's a sampling of popular animal-free circuses:

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Presents vaudeville and cabaret performances for audiences of all ages featuring clowns, actors, comedians, and musicians. www.Bindlestiff.org

Cirque du Soleil

Uses original music, creative light displays, and dazzling costumes to present audiences with exciting circus performances. www.CirqueDuSoleil.com

Hiccup Circus

Offers a variety of interactive programs and performances including stilt-walking, acrobatics, and juggling. www.HiccupCircus.com

Katie Marsico is a children's book editor and freelance author. She is also the proud wife of Carl and the mother of Maria and a variety of four-legged family members.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tiger claims fifth human life in Uttar Pradesh

Tiger claims fifth human life in Uttar Pradesh

11 Apr 2008, 1216 hrs IST,IANS

LUCKNOW: A man-eating tiger prowling in sugarcane fields of Uttar Pradesh's Terai belt has claimed five human lives in three months.

The body of a middle-aged man was recovered in Bahraich district on Wednesday.

"The mauled body of the victim, identified as Imran, was discovered close to the railway tracks on Wednesday evening and it appeared from the injury marks and the splattered blood that the kill was made not very long ago," the state's chief wildlife conservator D.N.S. Suman said on Thursday.

It is speculated that the tiger was compelled to abandon the body near the tracks in Ghurepurwa village under the Sujauli police circle due to the sudden arrival of a train.

Some wildlife experts believe all five killings have been made by the same animal, which could be a tiger or a leopard.

The killings began in January, when a woman and a 14-year-old boy were killed in separate incidents in Dhaurara range of Lakhimpur-Kheri district.

The next month an eight-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a big cat in Sujauli area of Bahraich district, which adjoins Lakhimpur-Kheri district.

In March, a 27-year-old man was done to death by a tiger in Mananda village in Lakhimpur-Kheri.

"Our forest guards are on the job to track down the man-eater. We will take all necessary steps to either trap or eliminate the big cat," said the official.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Tiger_claims_fifth_human_life_in_UP/articleshow/2943990.cms

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Follow Up to Cheetah Story Tells How Many Owners in FL

Big-cat encounters: South Florida has had its share of exotic animal tales
Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Exotic animal permits


Twenty-nine people and organizations in Palm Beach County and the
Treasure Coast have permits to keep exotic animals.

Class I permits are for dangerous animals, including lions, tigers,
chimps, baboons, crocodiles and komodo dragons, and the owners must
use them for exhibits, sale or research.

Class II permits are for less dangerous wild animals such as cheetahs,
bobcats, wolves, howler monkeys and dwarf crocodiles that can be kept
as pets.

Here's a county breakdown:February 2008

A 300-pound Malayan tiger at the Palm Beach Zoo nips an employee's
finger while she is feeding it. Although the injury is described as
minor, Susie Nuttall is hospitalized overnight. State wildlife
officers clear her and the zoo of any wrongdoing, but zoo officials
pledge to review their policies.

November 2006

A62-pound cougar mauls a 4-year-old girl at a Coral Gables birthday
party thrown for the daughter of Goya Foods executive Francisco
Unanue. Corinne Oltz, a former Hooters waitress and Playboy video
actress who owned the cougar as part of Kendall's Wild Animal World,
is charged with culpable negligence and keeping wildlife in unsafe
conditions.

July 2005

A Florida wildlife officer shoots and kills Bobo, a 600-pound
Bengal-Siberian tiger that escaped from a Loxahatchee compound owned
by former Tarzan actor Steve Sipek. Hundreds of people send angry
messages, including death threats, to the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission. Sipek ultimately replaces his beloved tiger
with two new cubs. He holds a state license.

November 2004

Rocker Vanilla Ice, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, is reunited
with his 60-pound pet wallaroo after it escapes with a pet goat from a
relative's backyard and roams around the Torinoarea of Port St. Lucie.
Although Van Winkle doesn't have an active permit, wildlife officials
return the wallaroo to him after a friend, who has a permit, agrees to
watch it. Van Winkle, who was living in Davie, expresses a love of
exotic animals.

February 2002

Bobo mauls a volunteer at Sipek's compoundwhen she enters the tiger's
cage, thinking it is empty. Carol Pistilli sustains a fractured skull
when the declawed tiger grabs her head with his mouth. Wildlife
officers say no charges are warranted, blaming Pistilli for entering
the cage.

Martin County

Class I and II permits: 2

Class II: 1

Okeechobee County

Class I and II: 1

Class II: 3

Palm Beach County

Class I and II permits: 7

Class II: 11

St. Lucie County

Class 1: 1

Class II: 3

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/content/west/epaper/2008/04/05/a23a_cheetahbox_0406.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=73

Info available on these numbers here:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/map.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm
--
For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=9952801&type=CU

This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above. You are hereby
notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

Palm Bch Post Gets to Heart of Cheetah Matter

By JANE MUSGRAVE

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bitten and bruised and stitched back together, Judy Berens was
welcomed home last week by what she described as her "close-knit family."

The family, however, isn't your typical mom, pop and couple of kids.

What are these?

The welcoming party for Berens featured about 20 yowling, howling
leopards, jaguars, cougars and other big cats - an ever-growing
menagerie that existed in relative obscurity until March 29, when two
cheetahs attacked her while she was entertaining visitors as part of a
fund-raiser for her wildlife sanctuary.

"All of the animals missed me," the 58-year-old said of their reaction
to her 11/2-day hospital stay.

Likewise, few outside the cat's enclosures in Wellington's horse
country missed news of the attack.

It catapulted Berens into the national limelight, including an
appearance on NBC's Today show. It also put her in the cross hairs of
a long-running debate among animal welfare enthusiasts about who
should own wild animals and what they should be allowed to do with them.

One flash point was that she paid $40,000 for the cheetahs, which came
to her Panther Ridge Conservation Center from South Africa about three
months ago. Another was that she entered their enclosure.

"Interacting with the animal as if it's a pet is just wrong," said
Carole Baskin, one of the founders of Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for
146 wild cats in Tampa.

Ron Magill, a cheetah expert at Miami's Metrozoo, agreed.

It's not that cheetahs are killers. "They're probably the least
dangerous of the big cats. Your average German shepherd is more
powerful and dangerous," he said.

But they are wild animals that act on instinct and can't be trained,
he said.

Beth Preiss of The Humane Society of the United States said her group
takes an even stricter view. Wildlife sanctuaries shouldn't even be
open to the public, she said.

"You should give them a nice space to live out their lives," said
Preiss, who is director of the organization's exotic pets campaign.

However, others are equally insistent that such a stance ignores the
economic reality sanctuaries face and the effect of letting the public
see, learn and care about animals that are being massacred half a
world away.

"I guarantee that, if you ever go and see a cheetah and watch it run,
you will care about cheetahs for the rest of your life," said
Christine Janks, who operates a wildlife sanctuary in Gainesville and
is on the board of a well-known cheetah rescue organization in Africa.

Berens said that's what she envisions her two cheetahs will do for
children and others who come to her 10-acre sanctuary off Palm Beach
Pointe Boulevard not far from the Loxahatchee National Wildlife
Refuge, where thousands of wild cats used to run free.

"It's one thing to see things on National Geographic and another thing
to see it up close," she said. "It's a way of getting people involved
at the grass-roots level with conservation efforts."

In fact, that was her pitch to federal authorities to let her bring
the 2-year-old male cheetahs into the country.

Baskin said no one should be buying wild animals. "If you pay for the
animals, no matter how good your intentions, you're feeding the market
for them," she said.

Janks, who is on the board of the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust
and helped Berens get her two cheetahs, said she understands Baskin's
view. However, she said, organizations such as De Wildt, which has
sold cheetahs to zoos around the country, including Metrozoo, use the
money from selling captive-bred cheetahs to fund their real mission:
stopping South African farmers from killing the endangered spotted
cats and buying land to create habitat for them.

"We do breed cheetahs, and a lot go to wealthy people in Dubai and
other private collectors," she said. "It's a way to defray expenses
for all the other work that De Wildt does."

Baskin counters that the need for cash to do good doesn't excuse
turning wild cats into a commodity. "If an orphanage were to suggest
that a small percentage of their children be prostituted to provide
for the rest, the orphanage would be shut down in a heartbeat," she said.

Florida is a hot spot for abandoned wild animals, Magill said. "I call
it the Ellis Island of exotic animals," he said, adding that scores
are ultimately destroyed when people tire of them and there's no place
to send them.

The state leads the country in the number of breeders and dealers of
exotic animals and also leads the nation in the number of killings,
maulings and escapes by big cats, Baskin said.

People adopt kittens, not fully understanding that they will grow
quickly into large, strong, uncontrollable cats. Then they want to get
rid of them. Sometimes people start sanctuaries and then become
overwhelmed.

And feeding cats that can eat as much as 10 to 15 pounds of meat a day
is expensive.

Two weeks ago, the owner of a 25-year-old sanctuary near Tampa shut
his doors, acknowledging he was likely to lose his permit after being
cited 40 times since 1993. He is searching for homes for 35 big cats.

Berens started with an ocelot in the mid-1990s. Then she added a cougar.

Court records show she married and divorced twice. She was getting
$15,000 a month from her first spouse while she was married to a
Tennessee investment banker. When she and second husband, James
Greene, split in 1999, she received $1 million in alimony, plus
property, including the Wellington land where she lives and operates
the sanctuary.

But even with her wealth, she needs public support.

In 2005, the last year for which records are available, she raised
$213,918 from the public, according to the sanctuary's tax returns. Of
that, $50,000, or 38 percent, went to fund-raising - a hefty amount,
according to charity watchdog groups. Big Cat Rescue, by comparison,
spent 5 percent of its $646,887 budget in 2006 on fund-raising.

Those who know Berens say she is passionate about her animals and
dedicated to spreading the word about the threat they face in the
wild. Her cougar, Charlie, is the mascot for Panther Run Elementary
School in Lake Worth. Children at the school raised money last week to
feed Charlie, said Principal Pierre D'Aoust. A mural of Charlie adorns
a wall in the cafeteria.

Wildlife officials said Berens' facility meets all requirements. They
were called to the sanctuary in 2005 when a 500-pound Bengal tiger
escaped from an unlatched cage. The animal never left the fenced-in
compound.

State and federal wildlife officials found her facility in order last
week during inspections after the cheetah attack. The Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission recommended that she no longer enter
the enclosures alone.

Berens said she is reviewing her operations. Investigators blamed a
child with a ball outside the enclosure for distracting the cheetahs.
In their rush to get the ball, they knocked down Berens and then
attacked her.

Janks said children aren't allowed on tours at De Wildt. Because of
their size, cheetahs view them as prey. Berens said she typically
requires that children on tours be carried or that an adult hold their
hands. But, she said, there were so many people at the fund-raiser
that the rules weren't followed.

Still, she's not sorry for bringing the cheetahs here or showing them
off to the public in hopes they will care about the cats' fate.

"It's better than extinction," she said.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/west/epaper/2008/04/05/m1a_cheetah_0406.html

--
For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=9952801&type=CU

This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above. You are hereby
notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public

When the owner of a so-called wildlife conservation center in Florida
demonstrated to a crowd of onlookers last week the grace and beauty of
her two recently acquired cheetahs, the two 100-pound animals:
A) Licked her face gratefully for their new home.
B) Playfully chased a ball of yarn in a circle.
C) Obediently posed for photographs.
D) None of the above.

2. The two San Jose, Calif. brothers who were injured last Christmas
Day by a Siberian tiger that leaped a wall at the San Francisco Zoo
and killed their friend, allegedly after one or more of the young men
taunted the 250-pound cat, responded to the incident last week by:
A) Expressing deep remorse for behavior that may have resulted in
the death of their friend.
B) Announcing they have adopted more positive attitudes toward
and respect for wildlife.
C) Establishing a fund to help promote animal protection.
D) None of the above.

3. The most likely human response to the damming by beavers of a
small pond and subsequent flooding of a section of trail at Pequot
Woods in Mystic will be:
A) Officials will post a sign advising hikers to walk around the
flooded section.
B) The path will be re-routed to higher ground, giving naturalists
and school groups an opportunity to view the beavers at work.
C) The beavers will be humanely trapped and relocated to a
wilderness area where they won't interfere with recreation.
D) None of the above.

If you answered "D" to all three questions, congratulations – or more
appropriately, condolences for your well-founded cynicism. The real
answers demonstrate once again that, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken,
you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American
public, especially when it comes to animal-human interaction.

Regarding the cheetahs, The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that
Judy Berens, the owner of the Panther Ridge Conservation Center in
Wellington, Fla., was scheduled to be released from the hospital today
(Monday), where she had been airlifted after the two large African
cats attacked her and inflicted some 40 puncture wounds.

Apparently they had been distracted by someone bouncing a ball, she
told authorities.
The center is also home to a leopard, two jaguars, one serval, four
clouded leopards and five cougars. After Berens bought the cheetahs
two months ago she told a Florida newspaper she hoped to train the
animals to chase a zip line so they can demonstrate their speed to
visitors.

"They're built with track shoes on," Berens said.

I don't know what it costs to visit Berens' facility, but I'd pay a
few dollars to watch wild animals chase her around a corral.

As for the brothers attacked by the tiger, Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal
filed a negligence and defamation claim against the city of San
Francisco and the zoo this week, saying they should have been able to
prevent the animal's escape. Apparently, the retaining wall in the
tiger grotto was about 4 feet shorter than industry standards; it
since has been extended to a height that presumably will contain
animals even if they are pelted with rocks or tormented with lasers.

The brothers' claim, which typically is the precursor to a lawsuit,
also alleges that their good names have been tarnished by officials
who suggested they and their friend, Carlos Sousa, may have provoked
the animal.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that only a few hours after the
claim was filed, Paul Dhaliwal was arrested on suspicion of trying to
steal a pair of Nintendo Wii video game controllers from a Target
store in San Leandro.

Steve Clark, a San Jose legal analyst and former prosecutor, told the
newspaper that the arrest "is not a good way to start off your
lawsuit".

Suing for defamation "puts the boys' reputations at issue and when you
keep getting arrested, what does that say about your reputation?" he
said.

The brothers charge that a public relations firm hired by the zoo made
false statements about them after the attack. A San Francisco police
affidavit alleges that the three young men had been drinking and
smoking marijuana the day of the attack, and that Paul Dhaliwal told
Sousa's father that they had been waving their hands and yelling at
the tiger while standing on the railing outside the grotto.

Paul Dhaliwal also has been fighting a charge of battery on a police
officer, and he and his older brother, Kulbir, 23, already face two
misdemeanor counts of public drunkenness and resisting arrest.

The tiger, incidentally, was shot and killed by police.

Now for the beaver story, reported by Judy Benson in The Day. The
article quotes Kari Pomfrey, wildlife technician for the state
Department of Environmental Protection as saying the animals can't
legally be live-trapped and relocated elsewhere because other beavers
already have taken up all other suitable habitats.

"There are two ways to deal with beavers — tolerate them or kill-trap
them," she said.

I went for a short, soggy walk on the trail Monday, and agree that
there is a problem.

Even if the town of Groton, which owns the wooded park, does pay to
remove the beavers there's always the likelihood that others,
including their offspring, could return, so there are no easy answers.
I sure don't have one.

I'd hate to see the path become completely submerged, but would feel
even worse if some four-legged critters were knocked off for the
convenience of those with two legs. Anybody have any bright ideas?

Published on 3/31/2008
Steve Fagin Steve Fagin
Day Staff Columnist
E-Mail: Steve Fagin
Phone No.: -
Interactive Profile
Steve Fagin is a writer, editor and adventurer who has climbed
mountains in Switzerland, Alaska, Nepal and Argentina; kayaked most of
the major rivers in the Northeast as well as the 341-mile Erie Canal
from Buffalo to Albany; trekked the 273-mile Long Trail from the
Vermont-Massachusetts border to Quebec, climbed all 67 of the peaks in
New England that rise above 4,000 feet and competed nine times as a
qualified runner in the Boston Marathon. With assistance from his
long-suffering son, Tom, and any other unfortunate soul who happens to
stray too close, Steve cuts by hand all the wood that heats his home,
using an old-fashioned, two-man crosscut saw. He also builds stone
walls, grows vegetables and berries in an organic garden, taps maple
trees to make syrup over an open fire, and, to complete the crunchy
granola profile, plays acoustic guitar and mandolin. Steve has
chronicled his adventures in a number of publications, including The
New York Times and Runner's World magazine, as well as in The Day,
where he served as a reporter, editor and outdoors columnist before
accepting a buyout offer five years ago. Steve continues to work at
the paper on a contract basis as a part-time copy editor. Steve and
his wife, Lisa, who once saved his life by shouting a warning to him
about a charging grizzly bear, live in Ledyard..

There is a reason that the cheetah owner wants to blow this off as no big deal.

You missed the real story in the cheetah attack and that is that the
US Fish and Wildlife Service is scrambling to figure out how a private
collector managed to buy CITES 1 cats and import them into her back
yard from Savannah Cheetah Foundation in Africa. The facility she
bought them from is alleged to have taken animals from the wild to
breed and sell them which is illegal in S. Africa.

Import permits are only supposed to be issued for enhancement of the
species, but being used as ego props in a back yard collection hardly
enhances the species. Perhaps it is too far away to matter to some
people, but many of these breeding facilities in Africa claim to be
saving the cheetah from extinction when, in fact, they are just a
breeding farm for zoos and wealthy collectors. Cheetah are considered
vermin by so many of the locals that there are virtually no release
programs and yet these facilities gain support under the supposition
that they are saving the cats in the wild.

Another major factor that has been left our of your reports is that
there is a congressional bill, Haley's Act HR 1947 which would ban
contact between the public and big cats. It is expected to pass
unanimously this year, just like the Captive Wild Animal Safety Act
did in 2003 which banned the sale of big cats across state lines as
pets. The loophole that people like Berens use is that with a one
page form, asking for name, address and phone number and $40.00 they
can get a USDA exhibitor's permit, so they can have their pets and
call them a business expense. Even though the CWASA passed in 2003,
it only became law in late 2007 and the US Fish & Wildlife Service
defined a sanctuary as a facility that does not breed, buy, sell or
allow contact with their big cats. USDA just came out in strong
support of Haley's Act and went on to say that it should be even
stronger. You can read both at the links below:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/lawscaptivewildanimalsafetyact.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/zPDFlaws/USDAcommentHR1947.pdf

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/lawsbigcatbans.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm

Another inaccuracy in the report was to call a place that buys big
cats a sanctuary. As stated above, that does not meet the USFWS'
definition of a sanctuary nor does it meet the SanctuaryStandards.com
definition of a sanctuary. Even some zoos are finally coming
to the realization that they just cannot give adequate space and care
to some species, even with their multi million dollar enclosures and
budgets, so why do these people who keep them in their back yard get
the support of your news team in saying, this is no big deal?

--
For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=9952801&type=CU

This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above. You are hereby
notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Today.com Mike Celizic and Meredith Vieira

Dear Mike Celizic and Meredith Vieira,

Re: Cheetah Attack

You missed the real story in the cheetah attack and that is that the
US Fish and Wildlife Service is scrambling to figure out how a private
collector managed to buy CITES 1 cats and import them into her back
yard from Savannah Cheetah Foundation in Africa. The facility she
bought them from is alleged to have taken animals from the wild to
breed and sell them which is illegal in S. Africa.

Import permits are only supposed to be issued for enhancement of the
species, but being used as ego props in a back yard collection hardly
enhances the species. Perhaps it is too far away to matter to some
people, but many of these breeding facilities in Africa claim to be
saving the cheetah from extinction when, in fact, they are just a
breeding farm for zoos and wealthy collectors. Cheetah are considered
vermin by so many of the locals that there are virtually no release
programs and yet these facilities gain support under the supposition
that they are saving the cats in the wild.

Another major factor that has been left our of your reports is that
there is a congressional bill, Haley's Act HR 1947 which would ban
contact between the public and big cats. It is expected to pass
unanimously this year, just like the Captive Wild Animal Safety Act
did in 2003 which banned the sale of big cats across state lines as
pets. The loophole that people like Berens use is that with a one
page form, asking for name, address and phone number and $40.00 they
can get a USDA exhibitor's permit, so they can have their pets and
call them a business expense. Even though the CWASA passed in 2003,
it only became law in late 2007 and the US Fish & Wildlife Service
defined a sanctuary as a facility that does not breed, buy, sell or
allow contact with their big cats. USDA just came out in strong
support of Haley's Act and went on to say that it should be even
stronger. You can read both at the links below:

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/lawscaptivewildanimalsafetyact.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/zPDFlaws/USDAcommentHR1947.pdf

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/lawsbigcatbans.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm

Another inaccuracy in the report was to call a place that buys big
cats a sanctuary. As stated above, that does not meet the USFWS'
definition of a sanctuary nor does it meet the SanctuaryStandards.com
definition of a sanctuary. This is the first time I have ever heard a
reporter say that a place was accredited by the Feline Conservation
Federation as anyone who has access to google can see that they are
one of the leading proponents of keeping big cats as pets. No group
speaks out more loudly against measures that would protect the public
and the animals that are passing in state after state. They are a
small handful of people who assert it is their "God given right" to
own any kind of animal they want. Even some zoos are finally coming
to the realization that they just cannot give adequate space and care
to some species, even with their multi million dollar enclosures and
budgets, so why do these people who keep them in their back yard get
the support of Today?


For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=9952801&type=CU

This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above. You are hereby
notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

Cheetah mauling victim says she 'assumed risk'
Big cats' owner healing, renewing bond with 'Charlie' and 'Matt'


Video


Woman survives cheetah attack
April 2: Animal advocate Judy Berens recounts being mauled by two
jungle cats and then defends them.

Today show


By Mike Celizic
TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 8:27 a.m. ET, Wed., April. 2, 2008

Just days after biting Florida conservation center owner Judy Berens
on the arms, legs and neck, two cheetahs at a Florida conservation
center were back to licking the hands that feed them.

Attacked on Saturday while giving an educational program at the
Panther Ridge Conservation Center that she owns in Wellington, Fla.,
Berens was back on the job on Tuesday. With NBC's Kerry Sanders and a
camera crew watching, she began reestablishing friendly relationships
with the cats by holding her fists to openings in a chain-link fence
and letting them lick her while she cooed sweet nothings in their
furry ears and asking Sanders, "How can you not love these animals?"

On Wednesday, she spoke with TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira, who
expressed wonder that Berens could even consider getting back into the
cheetah's den with the two big cats that treated her like a chew toy.

"What you don't understand is if you make a commitment to bring these
animals into your life and work with them, there is an assumed risk,"
a smiling Berens told Vieira. "Every so often you're going to have an
altercation where things don't go 100 percent."

Although medical personnel who treated her at Delray Medical Center
after Saturday's attack said she had 40 puncture wounds, the
58-year-old conservationist showed few signs of injury. A couple of
teeth marks on her neck were already scabbed over, and a bandage
wrapped a gash that had to be sewn closed on her right arm.

But, she had told reporters on Sunday, reports of the seriousness of
her injuries were greatly exaggerated.

The attack, she said, "was no big deal."

By her account, it wasn't really an attack at all but more a case of
mistaken identity. While she was giving her presentation for a group
of 30-40 people on Saturday, the two cheetahs – Matt and Charlie –
were distracted by a boy kicking a soccer ball outside the fence. They
ran for the ball and encountered Berens.

"Any big cat, when they lose their focus, they will jump in on
whatever is the next available thing, and in this case it was me," she
told Vieira.

One cat knocked Berens down and both cats clawed and bit her. One of
the males clamped down on her leg and wouldn't let go volunteers who
work at the center entered the enclosure with a water hose and a rake
and sprayed and prodded the cheetah until he released his grip.

Berens walked out of the enclosure and was airlifted to Delray Medical Center.

"I really was totally surprised," she told NBC. "It was really an
accident. It seemed it was over in a matter of seconds."


Today Judy Berens Berens told Vieira that she would go over all her
protocols to see if there is something she should change in the
future. But her first concern was to regain the trust and friendship
of the cheetahs, which are among 23 cats she keeps at her center.

"I'll go on a day-by-day basis, rebonding with these animals, and see
what happens," she told Vieira. "Yes, I'm going to be much more
vigilant, but the bonding between these animals and me is what makes
this place special."

Built for speed
Cheetahs, which grow to about 140 pounds, are the animal kingdom's
land-speed record holders, accelerating from 0-60 mph in under three
seconds and are capable of hitting top speeds of 75 mph. But they're
the scaredy-cats of the African savannah, and there has never been a
documented case of a cheetah attacking a human in the wild.

The species is endangered by poaching and habitat loss.

Matt and Charlie were born in a private breeding facility in South
Africa, and Berens spent two years and $40,000 working to obtain them
and bring them to her sanctuary in Florida.

Berens, 58, has worked with big cats for 15 years and is licensed to
own and care for them.

Panther Ridge Conservation Center is accredited by the Feline
Conservation Federation and is federally licensed to exhibit big cats.
In addition to the cheetahs, it houses ocelot, cougar, African
leopard, clouded leopard, serval, caracal and jaguar.

Berens provides housing and care for the cats, some of which are
rescued from private collections, and conducts public education
programs about the animals.

She also participates in various programs dedicated to preserving
endangered species and reintroducing them in the wild.

Matt and Charlie, she said, "are here to be educational ambassadors.
I'm trying to raise awareness and inspire people to become more
involved with conservation efforts."

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23914554/