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

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