Friday, April 24, 2009

Man bitten by tiger at Serenity Springs

Man bitten by tiger at Serenity Springs

April 24, 2009 - 2:33 PM

A man was bitten on the right arm this afternoon by a tiger at the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center - a big cat sanctuary between Peyton and Calhan east of Colorado Springs.

But the injury does not appear to be life-threatening and no cats are loose, according to El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene.

"I'm sure it's not a paper cut," Sevene said. "We're talking about a tiger bite. But his arm is intact. The deputies on the scene say his arm is not hanging by a thread or anything."

The victim was not immediately identified and Sevene did not know if the victim was an employee or volunteer at the sanctuary or possibly a visitor.

She said deputies made sure all the cats were accounted for at the sanctuary. The victim was being taken to U.S. Highway 24 to meet an ambulance that was en route. Flight for Life helicopter rescue was canceled, she said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2002 Articles about Operation Snow Plow

Exotic Animal Trader Sentenced To Prison


11/15/2002 11:12:41 PM


One of the 15 suspects busted in a Midwest exotic animal ring was sentenced Friday in St. Louis federal court.

A Newschannel 5 investigation exposed the killing and butchering of endangered animals earlier this month. It's a multi-billion dollar black market business with roots in Missouri.

Friday, Stoney Ray Elam, the former operator of a Ft. Gibson Oklahoma exotic animal farm, was sentenced to one year with the bureau of prisons. The last six months of his sentence will include home detention with electronic monitoring.

Elam pleaded guilty to illegally selling two federally protected tigers and three leopards and falsifying federal documents to list the sale as a donation. Elam was busted after selling the five animals to undercover agents at a New Florence Missouri truck stop.

The judge also ordered Elam to pay 5000 dollars to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife "Save the Tiger" Fund.




The Endangered Animal Trade

11/1/2002 5:50:02 PM

By Leisa Zigman

(KSDK) -- Missouri has become a major player in a gruesome industry

that preys on endangered animals. Federal agents say next to the drug

trade, the illegal killing of exotic animals is the second most profitable

business in the world.

Recently NewsChannel 5 learned that Missouri is now a black-market

hub where some breeders and brokers are making a killing; literally. 

Members of a secret Midwest exotic animal ring with roots in Cape

Girardeau had chilling plans for some federally protected endangered

tigers. According to Federal officials they were going to shoot, butcher,

and sell their hides, their body parts, and their meat. Why?  Because

these majestic animals, are worth a lot more dead, than alive.

Bill Hartwig is the Regional Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. He says
many endangered tigers are purchased to be killed and made into rugs. 

It's a billion dollar black market business, and it's led federal agents to
Missouri as part of a multi-state sting.

"Animals from Florida, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, were sent to Missouri,

to Cape Girardeau, and were killed, butchered, and shipped to Chicago,"
said Hartwig.

In February, Todd and Vicky Lantz of Cape Girardeau pleaded guilty to

their roles in the exotic animal trade.

Tim Santel, an investigator with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said, "We find the
illegal animal trade is nationwide, worldwide. The fact that it happened in

Cape Girardeau doesn't surprise me at all."

Tiger hides sell for up to $25,000 dollars a piece. If the big cats weren't
butchered for their pelts, meat, bones, and organs, collectors would pay
thousands to stuff and display them as trophies.

A government informant, who will remain anonymous said, "The person

who supplied the biggest check, got to keep the animal and of course,

they would shoot the animal usually in a caged situation."

Federal prosecutors said the tigers often came through Missouri, en

route to Chicago where collectors paid thousands of dollars to shoot

caged endangered animals.  Federal prosecutors say Doctor Robert

Martinez, of Chicago, paid $7000 to shoot an endangered black

spotted leopard while it was still caged.

Hartwig said, "It was a painful situation for them and anyone who has a
conscience to be able to watch."

In August, Steven Galecki of Chicago pleaded guilty to selling and
slaughtering numerous tigers and leopards. When federal authorities

busted Galecki, they confiscated all of his paper work. One of the names

led agents to Warrenton, Missouri, and the Wesa A Geh Ya Sanctuary,
run by Ken and Sandy Smith.

The Smiths admit to selling Galecki two lions, a cougar and a dead tiger

in the mid 90's. Those actions are legal, but they were in direct contrast to
the mission of her animal sanctuary.

"I truly thought, I believed it in my heart at the time, he had right intentions,"

said Sandy Smith.

The Smiths say they used to breed and sell animals but stopped in 1998,
when Wesa A Geh Ya became a not-for-profit sanctuary .

"When I started a year ago this last August, there were 52 animals, and

when I left there were well over 70, and a lot of them were cubs," said Pat
Bohler, a former Wesa A Geh Ya board member.

Bohler and the other former Wesa a Geh Ya board members, volunteers,

and employees, all say the Smiths are not only breeding exotic animals

but soliciting charitable donations.

"Each animal has a story, and each story is a tear jerker, and the more
people cried the more money you're going to get," said Beth Norman,

former grant director for the sanctuary.

Former board members say they repeatedly urged the Smiths to quit

breeding, but the Smiths say they¹re against spaying and neutering. 

Former volunteers say there have been several recent deaths at the

sanctuary including Zander, a four-month lion cub. His cause of death has

not been established.

Former board members and employees believe the Smiths need to be
investigated and the sanctuary closed. However, the USDA just renewed

the smith's license and the couple insists they have no part in a Midwestern
black market ring.

Nationwide 12,000 tigers are in private hands and more are born every

day. Federal agents asked us not to reveal where the rescued tigers and

leopards are located.  We can tell you, it is within the NewsChannel 5

viewing area.

Today, Dr. Martinez pleaded guilty to killing an endangered animal. He

faces five years in prison and $250,000 dollars in fines.

If you have information about the exotic animal trade that you would like

to report, contact us fish and wildlife call 612-713-5320 or online at


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

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

Free ways to join us and help the big cats:

Twitter:  Follow Me and be invited to enter our Animal Lover's Dream Vacation Giveaway!

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.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Five injured in leopard attack

Five injured in leopard attack

8 Apr 2009, 1635 hrs IST, PTI

HALDWANI (Uttarakhand): Five people were injured when a leopard attacked them after entering a house in Panyali village near here, official sources

The incident took place on Tuesday when residents of the village found the leopard sitting under a car inside the campus of a house and informed the forest department.

Before officials could reach the spot, the leopard attacked five people and injured them. Later, the animal was caged after being tranquilised in an operation that lasted for hours.

Forest officials said the animal would be kept under observation for few days before it is sent back to the jungles.


Big Cat Rescue Can Take Lynx and Cougars from Genesis

Shelters offering to take Genesis animals


Published: Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 2:24 PM EDT

Two nationally recognized and accredited sanctuaries have offered to provide or locate new homes for the animals at the Genesis Wildlife Center.

Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas, and Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., said Tuesday they could help place the animals if the Nay Aug Park wildlife center in Scranton could no longer keep them.

The offers come as a series of reports this week by The Times-Tribune detailed many problems with the center's physical and financial ability to care for its more than 50 animals from more than 20 species.

The stories sparked dozens of comments from readers on The and new efforts among local people to either close the center or call on the public for more support.

Lynn Cuny, founder and executive director of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, said her 187-acre facility "certainly could take some" of the Genesis animals, and she would work with a network of "legitimate sanctuaries" to provide the others with "the proper care and housing they need and deserve."

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, said she may be able to provide a permanent home to Genesis' lynx and cougar if the animals' owner, Margaret Miller, signs a contract — part of the sanctuary's protocol — agreeing never to take another big cat. Ms. Baskin's facility also houses tigers, but there is already a waiting list to place additional tigers there.

When told of the offers, Haydn Scott Evans, a spokesman for Genesis Wildlife Center, said, "If we have an avenue where we can place the animals safely in the event there is a problem with the center staying open, then by all means (we would take it)."

He added that the center would have to investigate a sanctuary's facilities and its planned care of the animals before accepting any offer to house them.

The sanctuaries' offers indicate that there may be a future for the animals if Ms. Miller can no longer keep them.

In an interview last week, Ms. Miller said her center would have to close if the city cuts its $50,000 annual appropriation, the only dedicated funding the center receives. Furthermore, she claimed new laws in Pennsylvania prohibiting the ownership of primates and a lack of sanctuaries to place her animals would leave her no choice but to euthanize all of them. She reiterated that claim at Scranton City Council's meeting Tuesday night.

"I care about the animals," she said last week. "Do I want to euthanize everybody? You bet not. Will I do it? Yes, because I won't have a choice. There's no place to send them."

A representative of the Pennsylvania Game Commission said the state's new primate law, enacted last April, does not prohibit licensed menageries like Genesis from keeping primates, donating them to other sanctuaries, taking in confiscated monkeys or even selling accidental offspring, but it does prohibit them from importing more primates from outside the state.

Ms. Miller's description of the law — in particular her belief that her primates would either have to be euthanized or turned over for medical research if her facility closed — is a common misconception, said Jason Dekosky, the Game Commission representative.

"People think we kill them all," he said. "We don't."

When asked last week about the animals' fate if Genesis Wildlife Center should close, Mayor Chris Doherty said, "We are not going to euthanize animals."

"There will be other places who will want to help. People step up," he said.

Ms. Cuny said her organization works with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, a sanctuary accrediting organization, to fill the difficult task of finding homes for animals in the few legitimate sanctuaries in the country that have open spaces.

"You don't ever just say that we can't shut this bad place down because we can't find anything better," she said. "That's just not an answer."

Locally, two groups have formed to call for change at the center.

Lee Morgan, a Scranton resident who is running for City Council, is preparing a petition of support for the center that he will begin circulating in the next few days. He plans to submit the petition to the city Recreation Authority and the mayor.

"I think there's an awful lot of support for that center in the city itself and in the surrounding communities," he said. "I would like to give the citizens an opportunity to show that they support it."

Another petition, in the form of an online Facebook group, aims to close the wildlife center.

The group, started by Waverly resident Pam Jones, had 72 members on Tuesday. According to its statement of purpose, the group "calls on operator Margaret Miller to surrender the animals of Genesis to an accredited facility where the animals can live in peace, with a proper diet, surrounded by a habitat where they belong.

"We hope, that by joining this group, we provide a strong indication to the City of Scranton and to Ms. Miller that we do not approve of the Genesis Wildlife Center's current operation."

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

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

Free ways to join us and help the big cats:


FaceBook  Add our donation app to your page!



Twitter  Follow Me!



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.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Genesis Wildlife Center: A decent life for wildlife?

CONCRETE JUNGLE: Inside the Genesis Wildlife Center

Published: Sunday, April 05, 2009
Updated: Sunday, April 5, 2009 11:30 AM EDT

A series of reports by The Times-Tribune about the conditions and operations of the Genesis Wildlife Center in Scranton's Nay Aug Park.

Genesis Wildlife Center: A decent life for wildlife?

Published: Sunday, April 05, 2009
Updated: Sunday, April 5, 2009 11:15 AM EDT
First of three parts

Margaret Miller, the 64-year-old director of the Genesis Wildlife Center, escorted a visitor into a side room full of caged birds that nattered and squawked when she entered.

She stood in the narrow middle of the room partitioned by parallel 2-by-4s suspended thigh-high, each board labeled in handwritten pen "Do Not Cross." As an additional precaution, Ms. Miller likes to have a volunteer sit in the room to prevent people leaning over the wobbly boards and sticking their fingers into the birds' cages. The birds are apt to bite, she said.

"Isn't that right?" she asked the birds. The birds bobbed their heads.

Genesis Wildlife Center aims to be a sanctuary for animals that once were unwanted or abused. But a lack of adequate funding, modern facilities or a long-term plan means chronic problems often are overlooked or patched with makeshift solutions.

Since 2003, when the menagerie was moved to the city-owned building that once was part of the Nay Aug Zoo, the center has struggled to make a home fit for the animals, revealing limitations in both the facility and the way the center is run.

Care fails inspections

The center strains to meet even the minimum standards of animal care set by the federal government under the Animal Welfare Act.

Inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between June 2005 and September 2007, obtained by The Sunday Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, describe an array of infractions.

In June 2007, four "grossly overweight" primates were given a "morning snack" of waffles coated with marshmallow topping. They had become "very sedentary" in their cages after apparently gaining back the weight lost on a previous diet.

In November 2005, a member of the public accompanied an employee and volunteer inside the tiger and cougar enclosure, where she was allowed to pet the tiger. Neither animal was restrained or under a handler's control.

In June 2005, most of the medications stored in the office were noted to be expired, including an antibiotic that had been expired for a year but was being administered to a coatimundi, a long-tailed mammal in the raccoon family. The outdated medicines were still on site during an inspection two months later, when staff members threw them out.

None of the animals was examined by a veterinarian during the six months between October 2005 and April 2006, despite the center's program calling for the animals to receive monthly checkups.

Throughout the 27 months of inspections there were numerous examples of noncompliance concerning the building, including dangerous or frayed wire in the animals' metal enclosures, an exposed heater, peeling paint and wallpaper, and gaps and weeds around the perimeter fences that posed a risk to animal or human safety.

In the nine inspections during the period when records were released, Genesis was found to have 17 examples of noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act. During two of the nine inspections, the center was found to be violation-free. A Freedom of Information Act request for records of USDA inspections performed in 2008 and 2009 is still pending.

'Is it going to kill them?'

Ms. Miller, who owns the animals, said she generally receives clean inspections. When she is cited, the violations most often have to do with maintenance of the city-owned building, "things that I have no control over," she said, like the aging structure, the weeds around it, and the occasional mice that get inside.

"I think I'm doing a terrific job, and most people do. If I was doing something wrong, they would close me," she said. "And if (the animals) get a waffle every once in a while, is it going to kill them? No. No, it won't."

She explained that the citation for having a visitor inside the tiger and cougar cage was a misunderstanding: The woman was the mother of the center's lynx caretaker at the time and she was trained to work with big cats, though she was not wearing any identification when the inspector saw her.

"I don't take people in with the cats because the cats would kill you," Ms. Miller said.

Not all of Genesis' inspectors have recorded violations. The state Game Commission, which regulates the center as a wildlife menagerie, has never issued a citation "for any deficiencies or blatant violations" in seven years of at least twice-annual inspections, said Mark Rutkowski, a conservation officer for the region.

A June 2008 inspection report — the only one released in response to a Right-to-Know records request — indicated the center passed all 22 categories on which it was evaluated, including providing bedding, clean water and adequately sized pens for the animals.

Mr. Rutkowski said visitors' complaints to the Game Commission about the center often are about what he calls "aesthetics."

"When people go there, they go there looking for these well-groomed animals you might see at the Bronx Zoo or Philadelphia Zoo, and that's just not what the center is," he said.

But the center's most vocal critics say their concerns go beyond aesthetics: they fear it is unsafe for both people and animals and sends the wrong message to the public.

"The way they display those animals, the huge message you get from that place is these wild animals make good pets," said Mary Sweeney, a former Scranton resident. "A big part of the attitude is, 'Aren't they cute.'"

Eunice Alexander, who grew up in the Hill Section next to the Nay Aug Zoo, said there is little educational value in displaying animals in small cages with concrete floors.

"You can't really do education divorced from any kind of habitat context," she said. "You're showing them that animal seems to be OK in nothing."

Backlash over breeder

The most sustained roar of public criticism leveled at Genesis Wildlife Center began a year ago and was caused by two tiger cubs then big enough to emit only fledgling mews.

Ms. Miller acquired the cubs two months after her beloved Siberian tiger, Reba, died. Many visitors were happy for the chance to see baby animals, but others questioned whether a small, aging facility that admittedly struggled to afford to stay open was an appropriate place to bring 11-week-old tigers.

Captive wildlife and animal sanctuary experts now say the transfer of the cubs had far graver implications.

Ms. Miller obtained the tigers from G.W. Exotic Animal Park, which formerly billed itself as a sanctuary but now considers itself a "conservancy and educational zoo" in Wynnewood, Okla. Sanctuary representatives say G.W. Exotic is notorious for inhumane treatment of its animals.

In 2006, the USDA fined the park $25,000, suspended its license for two weeks and put it on an 18-month probation for violating at least 14 regulations of the Animal Welfare Act.

The park is particularly infamous among animal sanctuary experts for breeding exotic animals indiscriminately to entice visitors who want to play with new cubs. For sanctuary accrediting agencies, such as the American Sanctuary Association and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, breeding breaks the cardinal rule of true sanctuaries because it adds to the population of unwanted captive species.

Lisa Wathne, a captive exotic animal specialist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said acquiring cubs from the park makes Genesis complicit in G.W. Exotic's behavior.

"Genesis is essentially enabling them to continue breeding these animals," she said.

Vernon Weir, director of the American Sanctuary Association, said Ms. Miller's move is particularly problematic because of a surplus of adult tigers in the country.

"There probably wasn't a single day in the last 10 years when someone didn't call me about an adult tiger that didn't have a place to go," he said. "For them to get tigers from this breeder down in Oklahoma is ridiculous."

Ms. Miller said she had "nothing to do with" G.W. Exotic's practices as a breeder or its past USDA violations. She explained that she found a listing for the cubs in the Animal Finder's Guide, a publication for those who raise captive wildlife. She was asked to make a donation to the park to reserve the cubs, and never got the money back.

She said she does not breed animals at her center — the male tiger and monkeys are neutered, she said, and the male lemurs were "fixed" after several reproduced. She also countered the claims that she is complicit in G.W. Exotic's breeding.

"Do you think he's going to stop? He's not going to," she said of G.W. Exotic. "I wanted two baby tigers that I wanted to save out of there. Does it mean I approve? No."

Now she says she is "truly sorry" she brought the tigers to Genesis, in part because of the public criticism and in part because of the cost. The tigers each eat about 20 pounds of meat each day and a pallet of meat costs about $3,600.

Asked why she acquired the cats, knowing the high cost of feeding them, she said she had leftover meat when Reba died and other cats to feed.

"I had children coming and asking about Reba and not understanding death or where she was or why she went. And some of the cards from the children, that probably influenced me," she said. "But if I could have flashed forward and seen everything, I probably would not have taken them."

Higher standards

Around the country and the world, zoo, aquarium and sanctuary accrediting agencies have worked to set a true standard for humane, viable animal care and distinguish what they call "pseudo-sanctuaries" from real ones.

Accredited sanctuaries are marked by their exceptional care, their avoidance of any trade in animals, and their dedication to creating havens for animals that have been exploited. Once a sanctuary is accredited, it often is easier for it to receive funding and other grants.

Sanctuary accreditation exists because simply complying with the Animal Welfare Act "is so inadequate in terms of what these animals need," said Kim Haddad, a board member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the manager of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition.

"Our standards are much, much higher" than USDA regulations, she said. "They take into account the natural history of the animal, the animal's life experience."

According to Mr. Weir, the director of the American Sanctuary Association, accredited sanctuaries should have steady finances, strong nonprofit boards, plenty of room for animals to roam and enrichment activities to stimulate them. They also should have a robust education program that focuses on why exotic animals should not be pets.

Both organizations also indicated their willingness to work with sanctuaries to help them meet such standards, if the sanctuaries disavow breeding and trade.

"The whole idea behind it, it's not to shut every place down that's not perfect," Dr. Haddad said. "It's to say, 'Here's how you do it right.'"

Genesis Wildlife Center is not accredited as either a sanctuary or a zoo, although Ms. Miller said she would like to work toward it. She had papers in her office about accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but had not heard of the American Sanctuary Association or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

She is in the process of cutting back at the center, working to place some of her tropical birds at an Ohio sanctuary.

"I'm thinking about not doing this (anymore)," she said.

She has been flustered by a stream of public criticism and believes she is being personally attacked, even as she draws consolation from students, volunteers and supporters she works with daily.

She said she wants everything for her center that critics want: a space that serves the needs of her animals and benefits the community.

"I would like it to be a place that, when people visit, they walk away saying, 'Wow, did you see that amazing little wildlife center at Nay Aug Park?' Not, 'The building's falling down. They're not adequately staffed. They don't have funding.'

"Why would you want people to walk away thinking something like that?"

Read more from the Concrete Jungle series

Contact the writer:

Close 'zoo' at Nay Aug

Published: Monday, March 09, 2009
Updated: Monday, March 9, 2009 4:13 AM EDT
Back when Scranton's government operated a zoo at Nay Aug Park, the obsolete, wholly inadequate facility became a major embarrassment and a metaphor for the blighted park and the city itself.

The Doherty administration has strived mightily to restore the park, making it once again a source of pride. Yet it allows a reincarnation of the decrepit zoo to drag down the effort.

Although the Genesis Wildlife Center is not technically a zoo, it serves that purpose in terms of its role in the park. And, although it is not operated by the city, the center operates in much the way the city operated the former zoo — hand to mouth, month to month.

The center has a dedicated director and volunteers, and it might well do some good work. But it is far removed from the modern zoos that grace the parks of progressive American cities — the sort of parks to which the Doherty administration otherwise aspires.

Mr. Doherty saw the center as a means to establish a zoo-like presence at the park without binding the city government to a project that it could not afford. The question that the mayor and City Council should consider, going forward, is whether the center enhances the park. The answer, unfortunately, is that it does not.

If Mr. Doherty and council think a zoo is fundamental to the ongoing renaissance and long-term stability of the park, they should methodically go about establishing one. That would involve substantial planning, expert opinions, and a step-by-step implementation plan, including long-term sustainable funding.

The most likely objective conclusion, unfortunately, is that Scranton simply cannot afford to operate a zoo according to modern standards for humane treatment of animals and for amenities required by human visitors. That is why the city does not have its own zoo now.

If the government studies the matter and reaches that conclusion, it should help the wildlife center with a relocation, and use the old zoo grounds to enhance the park in a different way.

Nay Aug tiger cub fights infection

Published: Sunday, January 25, 2009
Updated: Sunday, January 25, 2009 8:11 AM EST
In the six months since Nay Aug Park welcomed two new tiger cubs, both big cats have grown up quickly, but the male continues to be plagued by health problems.

Ivan, a Siberian tiger now 7 months old and 130 pounds, has not been able to fully fight off ringworm he arrived with from Oklahoma. Margaret Miller, director of the Genesis Wildlife Center, said the fungus keeps reoccurring, and Ivan is under regular veterinary care. Otherwise, he is a healthy growing tiger, but Ms. Miller is worried his immune system could be compromised.

"With him tiring easily, that scares me," she said.

The other tiger, an Indochinese named Alea, has a clean bill of health, and she and Ivan are inseparable. Both often share a pen now with the cougars at Genesis.

Tiger cubs debut at Nay Aug with video

A male tiger cub at the Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary on Friday, July 25, 2008. Linda Morgan/Staff Photograph

Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008
Updated: Saturday, July 26, 2008 1:00 AM EDT
If the newest stars at the Genesis Wildlife Center were feeling any effects of a cross-country trek, they didn't seem to show it.

But two bottles of formula and some ground beef are apparently enough to conk a couple of tigers right out.

The Genesis sanctuary on Friday introduced two new tiger cubs, two months after the death in May of 15-year-old Siberian tiger Reba, a park favorite.

The Indochinese tigers, a male and a female, arrived Thursday night from G.W. Exotic Animal Park, a conservancy and educational zoo in Wynnewood, Okla.

"Long drive there, long drive back, but it was well worth it," volunteer Robin Perri said.

With the acquisition of two new cubs, some have criticized the aging, outdated facilities as inadequate for such animals. Throughout the afternoon, though, visitors crowded in front of the enclosure for a glimpse at the cubs. Little kids grinned, and adults marveled.

"Oh my goodness gracious, isn't he cute?"

"Wave to him!"

Staffers said the cubs were doing well and enjoying the attention.

Linda Layland, of South Scranton, said her 6-year-old granddaughter, Stephanie, bawled over the death of Reba.

On Friday, Ms. Layland carried her 18-month-old grandson, Jeremy, who doesn't make a habit of sitting still for long but spent a half-hour watching the two cubs feed and play.

"The kids need something like this," she said.

For now, the 11- and 12-week-old tigers will be housed in an enclosure next to the 3,700-square-foot cougar pen, and they will rotate time outside until a partition can be built between the big cats. Eventually, they will all share the single space, possibly also with the wildlife center's Siberian lynx.

Mayor Chris Doherty is expected to announce a contest to name the two cubs.

Many residents' concerns stem from the rocky history of the former Nay Aug Zoo. Twice in five years in the 1980s, Parade magazine named it among the worst zoos nationwide. The facilities date from 1938, with renovations in the 1970s, 1990s and in 2003, when the Genesis sanctuary moved there. In 1981, two Humane Society officials called the zoo "archaic" and recommended it be closed, which it was in 1991.

Genesis is not by definition a zoo, and its volunteers feel like they are catching flak for a burden that isn't theirs.

"All the things the public wants, I want, too. But it's not my building," Genesis director Margaret Miller said.

Ms. Miller said the new cubs don't represent a change in mission or direction. As a rescue, it's rare for the center to acquire young, healthy animals, but Ms. Miller said they are simply replacing what was lost.

Reba's death cast a pall over the center. The staff was devastated; the cougars didn't eat. Ms. Miller said the cubs bring an infusion of energy and excitement.

"They fit in here just perfectly," she said.

Contact the writer:

About the Genesis Wildlife Center animals

A pig nose turtle swims in a tank at the Genesis Wildlife Center at Nay Aug Park. April 1, 2009. PAMELA SUCHY / Staff Photographer

Published: Sunday, April 05, 2009
Updated: Sunday, April 5, 2009 9:20 AM EDT
More than 50 animals from over 20 species reside at the Genesis Wildlife Center. Click each for more information.


Bearcat (1)

Cougar (1)

Cougar (1)

Fennec foxes (2)

Genet cats (2)

Lynx (1)

Tigers (2)


Capuchin monkeys (3)

Lemurs (5)

Long-tailed macaques (2)

Patas monkey (1)

Rhesus macaques (2)

Spider monkey (1)


Fish (1)

Galapagos tortoises (2)

Pig-nosed turtles (2)

Red-eared slider turtles (About 20)

Red-foot tortoise (1)

Russian tortoises (2)

Spiny soft-shell turtle (1)


Fruit bats (5)

Two-toed sloths (3)

Various tropical birds


'It's like I lost a part of me' with video and photos

Published: Thursday, May 08, 2008
Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2008 1:00 AM EDT
But as the sun beat down on the zoo area, the Elmo doll lay alone in the middle of the cage, which still contains mattresses and blankets for each of Reba's animal roommates.


Visitors to the Genesis Wildlife Center in Nay Aug Park stared into an empty cage Wednesday, as if expecting Reba the tiger to toss around the Elmo doll she often played with to the delight of those young and old.

But as the sun beat down on the zoo area, the Elmo doll lay alone in the middle of the cage, which still contains mattresses and blankets for each of Reba's animal roommates.

Reba, the beloved Siberian tiger, died late Tuesday. She was 15.

After Reba had been cremated early Wednesday, Katlynn, the cougar whom Reba helped raise, moved about slowly, apparently grieving for her companion. Katlynn barely mingled with the cage's other cougar, Dakota.

"Katlynn licked Reba's head as she died last night," said a tearful Margaret Miller, director of the wildlife center. "This is what people don't see: The real animals and what they're really like."

Ms. Miller raised Reba after she obtained her from a small zoo in Marshalls Creek in 1993.

"When I got her, she was nearly dead," Ms. Miller recalled. "Her mother didn't have any milk, one other cub had died, and Reba was in an incubator. I held Reba in the palm of my hand; she was so small.

"It's like I've lost a part of me."

Reba featured in a 2007 video about the Genesis Wildlife Center: 
Contact the writer:

Reba, a park favorite since her arrival here in September 2003, suffered a seizure three weeks ago and was taken to the University of Pennsylvania, where doctors performed an MRI, a CT scan and blood test, all of which failed to show why the tiger was ill, Ms. Miller said. The average life expectancy of a Siberian tiger is 8 years in the wild, but 20 to 25 years in captivity, she said.

"It was a fluke blood clot that caused the seizure," she said.

Tears flowed freely among the workers and passers-by at the Genesis Wildlife Center on Wednesday.

"I can't believe we won't see her anymore," said Jesse Walker, a Dunmore resident and frequent visitor to the Wildlife Center. "I heard about Reba dying, and I felt bad. I wanted to see if I could see her just one more time, but it was too late."

Ms. Miller said all the animals will eventually die, but the staff provides regular, first-rate care for all of them.

While the city pays heating bills and contributes $50,000 annually and the use of the building, Ms. Miller has said she needs about $150,000 more a year to run the facility.

The center has relied heavily on donations, and Ms. Miller has said that she often pays for some expenditures out of her own pocket.

One expense Ms. Miller would not have minded paying, if it were at all possible, was whatever the cost would have been to keep Reba alive.

"She was so adorable. Everyone loved her and she loved everyone," said Fern Norton, wildlife center volunteer. "Margaret (Miller) is devastated, as are all of us."
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

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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
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by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Exotic animals at Davie-based Vanishing Species face harsh conditions

This was the letter we sent to the reported on March 2, after his first investigation into Vanishing Species Wildlife:

Dear David,

Thank you for an excellent article on Vanishing Species Wildlife, Inc.  You did an excellent job of showing what these pseudo sanctuaries and "edutainment" facilities are all about.  Your video, photos and data base of exotic owners were great additions to illustrate the problem.

We were just dealing with Barbara Harrod over the issue of a bobcat she owns that is housed in a tiny, filthy cage in Ocala, FL.  The owner at that facility, called Animal Rescue Kingdom, located at 10561 SW 67th Ct. is Diane Zandman, who has been hospitalized for the last couple of months, leaving no Class I permit holder on the property to care for a tiger and the bobcat. 

Diane said the tiger and bobcat originated at Vanishing Species Wildlife Center.  When we tried to rescue the bobcat, Diane said we had to get permission from Vanishing Species' owner, Barbara Harrod, who gave us permission, but then Diane wouldn't allow Big Cat Rescuers to take the bobcat, after telling us we could, and having us drive two hours to her facility.  We require that she give up her license to own exotic cats, and she knew this in advance, having signed the documents, but then decided she didn't want to give up her license, just to give the bobcat a better home.

You can see the horrible conditions there at this link:

When I reported the horrid conditions to the FWC, they sent an inspector, Janice Jones, but she said she could see nothing wrong with the way the animals were housed.  No surprise there.  The FWC rarely sees any problem with animal abuse.  A.R.K. does not have a USDA license, despite the fact that they exhibit the tiger and bobcat daily to people who come by to see them.  The FWC has not required them to post a 10,000 bond, as became law in July 2007 for those who exhibit Class I animals.  The FWC is now trying to come up with a way to circumvent that rule so that people can have tigers, lions and bears (and assorted other Class I animals) in their back yards without having to comply with the law.  More here:

As you can see from excerpts of a letter I sent to my board below, these facilities are often not in compliance with USDA, the IRS, or the Dept. of Consumer Services.

Diane Zandman is a Director of Vanishing Species Wildlife, Inc., along with Jeff and Barbara Harrod.   They have big cats too and Mary (the only animal caregiver who comes any more) said Diane got her hours from Jeff. 

The 6000 sf house on 6.5 ac that we saw today is owned by Growing Involvement for Teens, Inc. which is a non profit created 5/14/99, just in time for it to have the house deeded to it on 10/99 with no apparent mortgage recorded, so I don't know if the home was donated to the non profit, or if the non profit had a pile of cash to invest.  At any rate, one of the Directors is Barbara Harrod of Vanishing Wildlife Species and Diane's son, who we saw today, Steve Zandman.  I have been told, by Barbara Harrod that Diane retired from the police force after damage to her lungs from inhaling chemicals on the job.  Perhaps there was a lawsuit against the police force that gave her the money for the house?

I pulled the 990's for Growing Involvement for Teens and it brings in between $5,000 and $15,000 each year and spends almost all of it on animal feed.  It claims a 400,000 asset, and the house and land are tax assessed for 523,000.00, so that is probable the asset.  It says Diane is the only employee, working 40 hours a week, but says she is paid 0.  They are not claiming the fact that she has been living in the house for the past 6 years (that we know of.) 

There is no FL business, nor is there a non profit listed with Guidestar called Animal Rescue Kingdom.  There is a website for it here: There is no web site for Growing Involvement for Teens. Neither of these organizations can be found in an online search of the non profits approved in FL for solicitation at  which means they could be fined 1000.00 a day for illegally soliciting funds.  I haven't filed a complaint against them yet, but will do so when this is over.

Until November 17, 2008 the house and land appeared to be free and clear, but they borrowed 300,000.00 from Edward J.A. Ohanrahan, Jr. with the first monthly payment of 2250.00 due Jan. 1 and a balloon for the balance is due in 2012.  So far no foreclosure appears to have been filed, but they could only be 2 months late, if at all.

The nonsense we were told about some new rescue group buying the place and only wanted to focus on farmed animals seems pretty unlikely.  There has been no sale of the property since 1999, so the same non profit who owned it then still owns it now and Diane's friends, who own big cats via Vanishing Species, and son are still the Directors of that non profit.  Since Barbara Harrod still has big cats and thus has the necessary license to keep the bobcat and the tiger at either facility, it seems the real issue here is that Diane doesn't want to bother with the cats any more and neither does her son. It is not apparent that Growing Involvement for Teens serves any purpose other than as a non profit entity to hold the house and solicit funds.  If they only raised 6000.00 last year, as their 2007 tax return said, it will only pay the mortgage for a couple of months before there is no income.  This may be why the son is moving mom out and a tenant in.

Meanwhile, Diane owns another house in the neighborhood at 10147 SW 87th Terrace Ocala, FL  and her son Steve lists that address as his home address too.  She co owns it with Jason and Stella Yates who she thanks on her Animal Rescue Kingdom web page for 5 years of service. They paid 42,500.00 for that house on 3/20/2001.  It is up for sale now with a Realtor named David Harden 352.482.1822

There is no way to know if she received any insurance from the death of her husband Marc Zandman in January of 2008.  He died of an unexpected heart attack at the age of 52 while visiting his sister in Atlanta.  He had been a cop.  There is also no way to know what her hospitalization has cost her, and if that may be why she borrowed 300k on the house.  It would be completely inappropriate to take that money for her personal use, but who would ever know given the lack of non profit oversight?  By law you cannot shut down a non profit and keep the assets.  They have to be donated to another non profit, but by borrowing all she could get out of the house and then walking away from it, she could thumb her nose at the law and count on the fact that they will not pursue such a little fish. 

Under the circumstances, I think we should insist that Diane Zandman sign a letter saying she will never own another exotic cat on her own, or with any other group.  Otherwise we are just enabling her to go out and get cubs she can use.  Mary told us today that there have been a number of cubs who were brought to them by breeders for bottle raising and picked up by "zoos."  Her website claims she has had lions, jaguars, cougars, bobcats and caracals to name just the cats.  She claims to rescue them and send them to "forever homes."  Just 3 months ago Diane was advertising tea cup poodle puppies for sale and it looked like more than half of the animals still in their care are pregnant.

None of this changes the fact that there is a bobcat in a tiny, barren, filthy, rain soaked cage and a tiger in a metal shed, on cold, wet, concrete floors, who has spent her entire six years there. 

In my discussion with Barbara Harrod, she said they had been evicted from their Palmdale location and had moved in with Jean Hatfield in Davie.  Jean was a notorious breeder and dealer of the early 1990s who I had thought was long gone.  I last dealt with her in 1996 while rescueing two bobcats from her.  At the time she said she was getting out of the cat business, but since we did not require written contracts at the time, it appears she has continued. 

Catherine Hunter, a volunteer there, said she couldn't stand to see the tiger hobbling about on feet that had sores all over her pads from being on concrete.  Her number is 352.302.8633 and I think she would be happy to talk to you about the miserable conditions there too.

I will send you photos in the next email.

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

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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.

Exotic animals at Davie-based Vanishing Species face harsh conditions, officials say

They're cute, cuddly and young. But when they grow up, the lions and tigers at Davie-based Vanishing Species face harsh conditions, officials say. It's not a pretty sight.

By David Fleshler South Florida Sun-Sentinel
April 4, 2009

The magazine ad shows a panther cub with huge ears and a kitten-like face, just one of the delightful animals that Vanishing Species Wildlife Inc. will bring to your child's birthday party.

But after a short performing career, the cub may have little to look forward to. Vanishing Species, based in Davie, has drawn scathing reports from state and federal wildlife agencies for keeping adult tigers, lions and other animals in filthy conditions, feeding them rotten food and failing to provide adequate veterinary care.

Animal welfare groups say the problems extend well beyond a single company, as wildlife exhibitors relentlessly breed photogenic, money-making cubs that grow into adults that nobody wants.

"The problem is especially pronounced with big cats," said Lisa Wathne, exotic animal specialist at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "A lot of places use tigers and lions as photo ops. They very quickly grow too big, and they're dumped. And there's nowhere for these animals to go. The accredited sanctuaries are full to overflowing."

There are about 2,700 licensed animal exhibitors in the United States, ranging from major operations such as Miami Metro Zoo to small ones like Vanishing Species and its dozen or so South Florida competitors, which charge a few hundred dollars to entertain at schools, fairs and birthday parties. They value baby bears, tigers and lions because they can charge $20 or more for photos with the adorable beasts. But grown ones are in about as much demand as a 10-year-old Buick.

Mark McCarthy, owner of McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary in northwestern Palm Beach County, which has about 100 animals, including 20 big cats, said some organizations take in or breed too many animals. It can cost $6,000 a year just to feed an adult tiger, he said, and annual veterinarian bills average about $1,000.

"They're very expensive to take care of," he said. "You don't want people to have big cats who can't afford to take them to the vet."

The trade journal Animal Finders Guide contains lots of advertisements like this one: FREE: one year old female Siberian tiger, one-year-old male black bear, five-year-old neutered and declawed black bear. All animals have been in petting zoo and are good natured.

That ad came from Brown's Oakridge Zoo, a Smithfield, Ill., institution whose web page shows photos of children playing with baby animals. "Imagine being able to hold a lion, tiger, or bear cub," the zoo's Web page states. "It brings out the kid in all of us."

Nancy Brown, the zoo's owner, said she breeds lions, tigers, leopards and cougars, displaying the cubs in places like schools and nursing homes before trying to place the grown animals with new owners.

"Our cubs are used for educational purposes and therapeutic purposes," she said. "They basically go to someone starting a facility or needing a replacement animal. They are all properly licensed and have proper facilities."

What happens if no one wants these animals, given the saturation of the market? Nolan Lemon, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates wildlife exhibitors, said, "Generally they'll all be adopted by a sanctuary." But wildlife advocates say this is nonsense because most sanctuaries are full, and it's expensive to properly care for a full-grown tiger or lion.

"There's no system for tracking where these animals go," said Beth Preiss, exotic pets director for the Humane Society of the United States. "There are very few high-quality sanctuaries. They rarely go to accredited zoos."

Vanishing Species bred large carnivores and now has several cougars, a lion and seven tigers at its Davie compound, most in cages measuring 10 feet by 20 feet. William Trubey, a retired investigator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who inspected Vanishing Species for years, said it bred cubs for shows, a problem that's "endemic to the exhibition business."

On Aug. 1, 2007, after repeated warnings, Trubey said he assembled a team of inspectors and went to Vanishing Species' property. Trubey said they found cages reeking of feces and urine, animals being fed rotten chicken that "you couldn't stand to put it near your body, let alone smell," and an absence of records to account for the death or sale of animals that were gone.

"There are animals living in filth, living in their own urine, their own feces," he said. "It's absolutely filthy. ... I probably have seen only three facilities run as poorly as this one."

Barbara Harrod, listed on documents as president or secretary-treasurer of Vanishing Species, was charged with five misdemeanor criminal violations of the captive-wildlife laws. She is due April 21 in Broward County Court. If convicted, she faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine on each count.

In a separate case, involving a complaint by the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding treatment of the animals, Harrod and her husband signed a consent order last February not admitting fault but agreeing to pay a fine of $3,750, avoid future violations and move big cats off their Davie site by July 31. The complaint accused them of feeding animals food contaminated with maggots, lying about providing veterinary care and failing to provide shelter from wind, rain and sun.

In an interview last month, Barbara Harrod blamed the federal accusations on an unfair inspector. She could not be reached for comment on the state charges, despite two phone messages. Her lawyer, Jeffrey Grossman, declined comment.

Mary Ann Rayot, a volunteer at Vanishing Species, defended the Harrods, saying they take in unwanted animals and do their best to care for them.

"The animals are well loved, and all of us work so hard," she said. "There's no place else for them to go. I know the animal rights people will tell you it's not fair for them to be in cages. It's not fair for them to be put to sleep either."

David Fleshler can be reached at or 954-356-4535.,0,2032883.story