Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jaguar Mauling: A Senseless Tragedy

By Steve Fagin

A mauling by an escaped jaguar the other day is the latest, sad episode in a too-often-repeated series of ill-fated, cross-species encounters that usually end badly for humans and almost always worse for wild animals.

After this incident in the Central American nation of Belize both two-legged and four-legged critters were carted away feet first, a two-part tragedy that could have been averted if people only learned from past experience that large predators belong in their native habitat, never in cages.

It all began when a 4-year-old, 130-pound jaguar male jaguar, kept in captivity by filmmakers Richard and Carol Foster – who produced wildlife documentaries for National Geographic – escaped after winds from Hurricane Richard toppled a tree onto his cage.

The large cat, named Max, then attacked a dog owned by the Fosters' U.S.-born neighbor, Bruce Cullerton, and when Cullerton tried to save his pet the jaguar pounced, dragged him into the bushes and bit him savagely on the arms and neck.

After authorities found Cullerton's mangled body they baited a steel-mesh trap, re-captured the jaguar and killed it – the circle of life, wild-animal-in-captivity style.

I've never been a huge fan of wildlife documentaries since I always suspected filmmakers used captive animals for much of their footage, and the Fosters' episode would seem to confirm my suspicion.

According to published reports the Fosters were shocked – shocked! – by the attack since Max never showed any violent tendencies. Never mind that jaguars are the largest and most ferocious felines in the Western Hemisphere, stalking prey and breaking skull bones between their powerful jaws.

They obtained the jaguar two years ago from the owner of a resort who faced numerous complaints from visitors (I can't imagine why – after all, what is more enjoyable than watching a dangerous animal pacing back and forth in a cage?)

If you think these sorts of things happen only in foreign countries, you are overlooking numerous attacks in the good old U.S. of A. Last year a jaguar at Baltimore's Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo pounced on and critically injured an animal care worker; in 2007 one mauled a keeper at the Denver Zoo.

These incidents were relatively tame compared to other wild-animal attacks. We here in the Nutmeg State are all too familiar with the horrific episode involving Travis the chimp, who escaped from his enclosure in a Stamford home, went berserk and ripped off the hands, eyelids and nose of a woman called by the owner to help capture the animal.

Police finally shot poor Travis, and the victim, Charla Nash, was so badly mutilated a traumatized police officer who responded has had to undergo counseling. Nash, who has had numerous surgeries, sued the owner, Sandra Herold, and the state for allowing Herold to keep the animal. Herold died in May, so Nash would have to collect any damages from her estate.

I thought of Travis, Nash and Herold a few weeks ago when I read about a 300-pound chimpanzee named Sue that ran amok in Kansas City, racing through the neighborhood, pounding on doors, opening car doors, dragging a trash bin down a street and even smashing the windshield on a police cruiser. Luckily, nobody's face got torn off so the cops didn't have to shoot her. It was treated as just another lighthearted story with a happy ending to wrap up the evening newscast.

The brutal Stamford incident, though, has gained the dubious distinction of ranking Number 2 on Time magazine's top 10 list of animal attacks on humans. In case you're keeping score, here's the rest:

No. 10: San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein (then husband of actress Sharon Stone) is forced to have foot surgery after being bitten by a venomous Komodo dragon during a private tour of the Los Angeles Zoo in 2001.

No. 9: A 600-lb. white Bengal tiger attacks Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy during their show at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 2002.

No. 8: A 12-year-old boy named Brian Jeffrey Griffin is killed when an alligator pulls him under the water as he swam with friends in Florida's Dead River in June 2003.

No. 7: Bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend are killed and partially eaten by coastal grizzlies in 2003 after living among them at Katmai National Park in Alaska for about 13 seasons. Treadwell was later the subject of the documentary film "Grizzly Man."

No. 6: 
"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin died after being fatally pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef in 2006.

No. 5: A trainer is killed and more than 20 spectators injured after an elephant goes on a rampage at a ceremonial festival in the south Indian state of Kerala in 2007.

No.4: Tatiana, a 4-year-old Siberian tiger, escapes from its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and kills one teen and injures two others on Christmas afternoon in 2007.

No. 3: Rocky, a 5-year-old grizzly trained to wrestle with experienced handlers, bites Stephan Miller in the neck in 2008 during the filming of a promotional video in Big Bear Lake, Calif., killing him instantly.

No. 2: The Travis rampage.

No. 1: A 12,300-lb. killer whale named Tilikum fatally attacks his 40-year-old SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, dragging her underwater during a live performance last February.

You may have noticed, as I did, that in all but one of those incidents (the alligator attack on the 12-year-old swimmer) the human victims were not exactly innocent.

The animal victims, though, always are.


Big Cat Rescue is home to over 100 Lions, Tigers & Leopards, we are also home to Banjo the Binturong or Bearcat! Watch Banjo enjoy his Halloween treat a pumpkin complete with a banana mouth, plum nose, Fig Newton eyes and grape hair!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Belize Big Cat Kills Yank

A jaguar that escaped from its cage at a Belize animal rescue center during Hurricane Richard fatally mauled an American whose body was found yesterday, officials said.

Belize's national police identified the victim as Bruce Cullerton, who held US and Belizean citizenship. Authorities found the victim's body near the animal center on Tuesday. They did not say where he lived.

The 4-year-old cat, named Max, escaped when a tree fell on his cage Sunday, the same day the Category 1 hurricane hit the Central American country's Caribbean coast with howling winds and rain.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Big Cat Halloween

Tigers, Lions, Leopards...the Big Cats like to carve pumpkins too! Take a look at halloween at Big Cat Rescue!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exotic Cat Loose in Youngsville, LA

Foster Park in Youngsville has been reopened for recreational activities. The public is advised to be careful and watchful for any sightings that are out of the ordinary, such as the serval. There is no evidence that the cat has been around any of the traps that were set, and there have been no sightings as of Friday afternoon.

Since the cat is thought to be domesticated and there is no evidence of the cat in the area, Foster Park is open for weekend activities.

No new sightings of the serval have been reported today in Youngsville, said Animal Control supervisor Virginia Lee.

Lee said they have not received any reports from possible owners and none of their traps have been set off.

She said the initial search is over and Animal Control will only react from reported sightings.

Lafayette Animal Control continues the search for the loose serval in Youngsville. Traps are still set up in the sugarcane field near Foster Memorial Park, but it has not been caught yet.

Lafayette Animal Control is still on the lookout for an African serval, an exotic cat, in Youngsville after it was first spotted early Thursday morning.

Virginia Lee, Lafayette Animal Control supervisor, said the first spotting of the serval was near Foster Memorial Park in Youngsville early Thursday morning.

The animal was still loose as of 7 p.m. Thursday.

Traps were set up in a sugarcane field near the park in hopes of capturing the serval, and Lee is hopeful it will be caught in a peaceful manner.

Animal Control received about three to four calls throughout the day about confirmed sightings of the serval, with the furthest being about a half-mile north of Foster Park.

Animal Control has not received any recent sightings, with the last one being at 1 p.m.

"We've stretched our search area into the perimeters of Youngsville," Lee said, although she was not able to specify how far out. "We might have to come up with a different game plan (today) if we don't catch it tonight."

The owners also have not been identified, nor have they come forward.

"After talking to some people, we're having the feeling this cat has been on loose for a while," Lee said.

The traps, Lee said, are humane traps they also use to catch stray dogs and cats. She said they are wire traps that when an animal steps inside, it triggers the door to close.

A serval is a medium-sized cat that originates from Africa. They are mainly a nocturnal animal and are carnivorous, with their diets including rodents, birds or reptiles, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

Lee said while the serval they are looking for has been domesticated, there is still some risk involved. She said it's not uncommon for people to want to buy a serval as a house pet, but she doesn't encourage such actions.

"Don't just walk up to something like this," she said. "It's always an unsafe thing when it's an animal that's not well known."

She said anytime there is an animal outside of its normal settings, it will become defensive, especially when approached by people it's not used to.

Lee said anyone who spots the serval should leave it alone and call 911, where they will be directed to the right person.

Man Injured in Leopard Attack

HAZARIBAG: A man of Dugdha-Sitagarah village in Hazaribag district was seriously injured on Saturday when he tried to save a woman and her child from the clutches of a leopard which was chasing them.

Lillo Gope (55) was grazing his cattle when he saw the animal chasing the duo. On seeing this, Gope pushed the woman and her child to safety. Annoyed by this, the leopard attacked Gope who sustained injuries in the abdomen and head. But, Gope did not give up and fought with the leopard with his lathi and rained blows on the animal.

At this juncture, the scared woman rushed to the village and informed the people who rushed to the spot to rescue Gope. On seeing the villagers, the leopard left the spot and went inside the forest nearby where the victim was grazing his cattle.

Later, the villagers admitted Gope to Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital. After getting the news, both police and forest department officials recorded the statement of Gope. Hospital sources said Gope's condition was very serious and all efforts were being made to provide him the best possible treatment so that he survives.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tiger bites volunteer at refuge

Khan, a 7-year-old Siberian tiger, pulled a volunteer into his cage Friday.

By Brian D. Bridgeford Posted: Saturday, October 23, 2010 3:30 am

ROCK SPRINGS - A Baraboo man was flown to University of Wisconsin Hospital on Friday - but is reported to be recovering - after having his arm grabbed by a tiger at a big cat refuge.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sauk County 911 dispatch received a call from Jeff Kozlowski at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Education reporting an injury to a volunteer, according a statement by Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Sheriff Richard "Chip" Meister.

The North Freedom First Responders were called to assist John M. Meeker, 38, who was injured by a 7-year-old Siberian tiger named Kahn, Meister reported. Meeker had been watering the cat through his enclosure of chain link fencing. Kahn grabbed the man's arm and pulled it into the enclosure. Other people at the refuge were able to get Meeker away from the cat and administer first aid.

A short time after the incident, North Freedom firefighters could be heard over the police scanner setting up a landing zone on a field near the refuge. Meeker was taken to University Hospital in Madison by the Med Flight helicopter ambulance, Meister stated.

Kozlowski said Meeker was watering Kahn from outside his cage by pouring through the 4-inch-square chain link mesh of the cat's enclosure. In an act Kozlowski said was playful, not aggressive, Kahn grabbed a loose sleeve of Meeker's sweatshirt and pulled his hand into the cage.

Meeker reflexively tried to pull his arm back. The tiger then clamped his mouth down harder, resulting in a number of punctures to Meeker's skin, he said.

"There's some puncture wounds and tearing," Kozlowski said. "He's got full feeling in his fingers and can move them."

Kozlowski said he does not consider the event an attack. Witnesses reported Kahn was not growling, he said.

"He was just playing," Kozlowski said. "He's grabbed my hand before and pulled it through."

Kahn is up-to-date on rabies and other shots, so Kozlowski said he doesn't expect ramifications from the incident.

"He's quarantined for 10 days, which is regular for an animal bite," he said. "But he's already quarantined - he's in his own cage."

Shortly before 6 p.m. Kozlowski said he had spoken with Meeker's wife Emily on the phone moments earlier. John Meeker's wounds were being cleaned and sutured by hospital staff, he said.

The incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Department, according to Meister.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lion + White Tiger = Cameron & Zabu!

Say hello to Big Cat Rescue's "odd couple" Cameron and Zabu (Male African Lion & Female White Tiger) were rescued from a roadside zoo and circus in New Hampshire in 2004.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wild Cat on the Loose in Youngsville, LA

Wild cat on the loose in Youngsville near school

Associated Press - October 21, 2010 2:24 PM ET

YOUNGSVILLE, La. (AP) - Authorities say an exotic cat is on the loose, forcing an elementary school to keep its students indoors as officials worked to capture the cat.

The Green T. Lindon school was placed on lockdown Thursday after the cat, believed to be a serval, was reported to be nearby.

The Daily Advertiser reports that the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office, Broussard Police Department, Youngsville Police Department and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were on the scene.

Sheriff's deputies say the serval, a cheetah-like cat and native of Africa, likely got loose from its owner, who was not immediately identified.

Search for Escaped Serval Cat

What is believed to be a serval cat is lurking through Youngsville neighborhoods.

Law enforcement and paramedics were called after a Youngsville Police officer spotted the animal this morning. The Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office contacted Wildlife and Fisheries to assist Youngsville P.D in the search.

The public is asked not the approach the animal. Animal control workers are hoping to lure it into a trap.

The search for the elusive animal has prompted one school to change its daily routine. Students at Green T. Lindon Elementary are securely in classrooms. Normally they would have PE and recess, but that's all canceled that for today, according to Principal Gina Cahee.

Officals are getting several tips from various neighborhoods, including 4th Street, Fortune Road and Verot School Road in the Youngsville area.

KATC contacted the Zoo of Acadiana. Spokesperson Leigh Coletti said all their large cats are accounted for. They do not have cheetahs, but they do have a leopard and serval cats.

Zoo owners Matthew and George Olbenburg are participating in the search to help identify the animal if they can find it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BIG CAT RESCUE - Fur Ball 2010

Big Cat Rescue's 11th annual Fur Ball was a roaring success! Thank you to everybody who attended, donated and volunteered, together we are helping to make a difference in the lives of big cats around the world!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tigers escape Great Cats pen

Pair of Bengal tigers slip out of enclosure
Published: Monday, October 11, 2010 8:12 PM CDT

IDAVILLE — An Indiana conservation officer explained that no one was endangered after two tigers escaped their pen at Great Cats of Indiana on Saturday.

Indiana Conservation Officer Bill Hinshaw assisted Officer Matt Tholen in investigating an incident at the big cat sanctuary after a pair of Bengal tigers slipped out of their enclosure last weekend.

“The owner was guessing that the tigers were wrestling, they fell against (the corner) and popped the board and wire enough that they were able to get out,” Hinshaw said.

But, Hinshaw said, the tigers didn’t breach the perimeter fence at Great Cats and no one was endangered.

“The whole compound has a perimeter fencing that is, I think, 10 feet tall,” the conservation officer said. “They never got out of the compound; they were still enclosed within the perimeter fencing.”

But because, Hinshaw said, the tigers were jumping up on the perimeter fence Great Cats owner Rob Craig elected to take decisive action.

“He didn’t want to take any chances of them getting off the property,” said Hinshaw. “He elected to shoot them; he ended up wounding one and destroying the other.

“They never got off the property.”

He said the tiger that was wounded was hit in a fatty area on its body and actually retreated into a cage.

“The other one got a little more aggressive and was jumping more on the fence, and he elected to put it down and was able to destroy it,” Hinshaw said.

The conservation officer believes that when the tigers’ pen broke, they left it to explore the grounds but never left the perimeter fencing.

For neighbor Margaret Haskell, her only issue with Great Cats of Indiana has been overgrown weeds.

“Really I had the impression that the pens or the cages were pretty strong and well built,” said Haskell, who lives next door to the cat sanctuary.

“One thing that has concerned me has been all the weeds that are so tall, next to our house between the two places,” she said. “I thought at different times a tiger could get out and be in there and I wouldn’t know it until they jumped my fence.”

Haskell described a mostly affable neighbor relationship with Craig.

When the incident occurred Saturday night, at around 10:30 p.m., she was already asleep but her son heard a commotion.

“My son was in the family room out here and he heard … what sounded like some gun shots,” Haskell said, estimating five or six shots.

“He didn’t see anything that evening but the next day he commented that he wondered what had happened.”

Haskell said that she’s observed Great Cats of Indiana has been mostly closed this season though its typically advertised as open to the public seven days a week.

“It’s shut down to the public; it has been most of this year,” she said. “He’s got closed signs there at the gate.”

Though the website is still online, the published phone number for Great Cats was disconnected Thursday.

“It’s just one of those things, I hope somebody double checks those cages and makes sure they’re still strong,” Haskell said.

Big Cats GO GREEN! How Tigers Recycle!

Tigers, Lions, Leopards ... we recycle a little differently at Big Cat Rescue! With 45 acres and over 100 big cats to care for we have lots of landscaping projects as well as lots of cats to keep enriched, so we do both at the same time!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Tony the Truck Stop Tiger: UPDATE

UPDATE: Tony is still "living" at the tiger truck stop in Louisiana, it's very important that we the public keep the pressure on the government agency which decides the fate of Tony.