Category Archives: Captive Exotic Animals

Death of 17-Year-Old Endangered Gorilla Sparks Debate About Zoo Killings

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Many took to social media in protest after learning of the death of a beloved western lowland gorilla, one of a gorilla subspecies labelled “critically endangered” by the World Wildlife Fund. The 400-pound male, Harambe, was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo Saturday, May 28, when a four-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure. After the gorilla dragged the boy through a moat as a crowd of tourists watched in horror, the zoo’s response team felt that the toddler was in “life-threatening” danger and shot the gorilla with a rifle.

However, upon seeing video footage of the incident, some observers believe the gorilla was merely trying to protect the child from perceived danger upon hearing the screams of surrounding tourists, and #JusticeForHarambe began trending online in response. In the clip, Harambe appears to be shielding the boy from the panicked cries around them, and does not seem ready to lunge at or attack the child. More than 70,000 protesters have petitioned on Change.org for the child’s parents to be examined for signs of child neglect, claiming that Harambe’s death could easily have been prevented had they been actively watching their son.

Western lowland gorillas remain the most widespread gorilla subspecies, according to the WWF, but face significant threats from deforestation, as well as from poaching and diseases that have reduced the most recent generation’s population by more than 60%. Aside from being totally extinct or extinct in the wild, being critically endangered is the most dire label an animal population can receive.

Saturday’s event brings to mind a 1986 occurrence that took place on the UK-dependent island of Jersey, in which silverback gorilla Jambo famously stood guard over a five-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure, rubbing the child’s back and protecting him from other gorillas, until keepers were able to extricate the child. However, unlike Harambe, Jambo was left unharmed and made into a local hero, featuring in a life-sized statue and even on Jersey stamps.

Coupled with a similarly-fatal incident last week, in which two lions were killed at a Santiago, Chile zoo when a man attempted suicide by climbing into their cage, Harambe’s death has led many to question the standard emergency procedures zoos currently have in place for unexpected encounters between animals and humans. For instance, some are questioning why zoo staff don’t carry tranquilizers that could be used in such incidents to incapacitate rather than kill animals who are in close and potentially deadly contact with visitors. The Cincinnati zoo staff responded by noting that tranquilizers take a much longer time to kick in, and that the boy’s life would have remained in danger until further action was taken.

As for 74-year-old trainer Jerry Stones, who raised Harambe from birth and described him as a “gentle giant,” the gorilla’s death is especially painful. “He was a special guy in my life. Harambe was my heart. It’s like losing a member of the family.”

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Sources: Gladu, Alex. “How endangered are western lowland gorillas like the one at the Cincinnati Zoo?” Bustle. 29 May 2016.

BBC News. “Gorilla killing: Harambe’s death at zoo prompts backlash.” 30 May 2016.

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Wildlife Trade on Facebook

Illegally-imported orang-utan Cambodia

Social media’s ability to put illegal wildlife traffickers in touch with many potential buyers quickly, cheaply and anonymously is of great concern for threatened wildlife and enforcement agencies

From the Malayan sun bear to a blood python, Malaysians seem to have found a booming marketplace for wild animals on Facebook for primarily the illegal pet trade of protected species. Much of this online trade is carried out in closed Facebook groups, and involves live, high-profile and threatened species for which trade is strictly prohibited in Peninsular Malaysia.

During a four month period,  TRAFFIC’s team monitored the activity of 14 groups on Facebook. They found that more than 300 individual animals, belonging to 80 different species, were for sale in the “private/closed”groups.

tiger cubs caged

Most of the 14 Facebook Groups involved in the illegal trade of wild animals were “Closed Groups”, according to the report, and needed membership to view or trade within the group. These groups had close to 68,000 members

What was also found, 93% of the species that were put for sale on Facebook, have legal protection in Peninsular Malaysia.

Mark! FACEBOOK needs to put a STOP to this IMMEDIATELY.

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Frightened Baby Tiger Caged at Football Game

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The dumbing of  America is never more present when “traditions” at High school football game in Ohio wheeled a baby tiger in a cage to thousands of screaming fans.

For 44 years, ignorance and stupidity have been the norm at Massillon Washington High School. The new “Obie,” a baby tiger is kept in a cage and wheeled around a loud stadium. He is the latest victim of a cruel tradition that violates animal cruelty and ethics. The cub stands up and puts his paws on the bars of his enclosure as ignorant people scream, shout and take pictures.

Every year Massillon Washington High School acquires a new tiger cubs and has been accused multiple times of discarding the tiger cubs after the season is over.  It is believed that after the football season is over, these “Obie” tigers are sold to private owners, wind up as caged roadside attraction, become breeding animals, pets or sold to canned hunting operations. Animal conservationists have questioned about the legal loophole for educational institutions that allows them to have exotic animals, and a number of petitions protested the tradition.

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Despite this, the Massillon Tiger Football Booster Club unveiled a new cub mascot, called an “Obie”and is keeping facts about this recent appearance private, they refuse to disclose where the tiger comes from. IS THIS LEGAL?

One fans interviewed at the football game stated “We’re really glad he’s here. He’s been around forever,” (Perhaps too stupid to comprehend that each Obie has been a different tiger cub). “For people that live and breathe football, he’s a huge deal.”

Matt Keller, president of the booster club, told the CantonRep.com. “It’s a tradition we were able to continue, even if just for one game.

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There is an estimated 5,000 tigers are held in captivity throughout the United States; 95% of these animals are privately owned.

* To stop this act of animal cruelty, sign the petition to end the cruel “Obie” Cycle. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/807/480/353/stop-the-yearly-tiger-cub-purchase-by-ohios-massillon-washington-high-school/

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Rescued Bears Roam Free

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Fours bears were forced to perform tricks and kept in tiny cages at a roadside zoo in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years.  Even when the zoo was shut down in 1995 because of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, Fifi, Bruno, Pocahontas and Marsha were never allowed to leave their enclosures, not even for humiliating bicycle-riding for small crowds. The bears paced restlessly in their cages, had nowhere to hibernate, suffered from severe arthritis and another of other medical conditions.

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Thanks to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), all four of these bears got a new lease on life in 2014. The  bears have been brought to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. There they will recover from their plight, learn how to be wild and live their remaindering days in dignity. The fours bears now live in two vast 15-acre permanent habitats. They can now ample space to climb and roam and bathe in pools. They can even hibernate in underground dens.

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Bruno in his new home, living a life with dignity.

PETA has now rescued 41 bears from roadside zoos and backyards across the country. I commend PETA for taking this action and rescuing these animals from a life of misery.

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Tigers forced to Perform at State Fair

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A “show”, called the Amazing Rainforest Experience, is run by Robert Mullen of the Orlando, Florida–based PM Productions Entertainment Inc., a production group that features traveling shows with a host of exotic animals.

Hundreds of visitors have complained the tigers appear severely emaciated, with prominent spines and hip bones. The cats also appeared lethargic, or even drugged. One described them as “skeletons.”

Julie Hanan, of the Minnesota-based Wildcat Sanctuary, told The Dodo that her group has been flooded with “desperate pleas” from people who’ve visited the fair and were shocked by the state of the animals.

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Abbie Knudsen, a biologist with Missouri’s National Tiger Sanctuary, has heard similar concerns from the public. “I have heard tons of accounts from people that have seen the animals, and visited the animals firsthand, that they do not look in good body condition,” she said.

Despite concern from both the public and big cat conservation groups the Missouri State Fair said that the tigers were being regularly inspected, implying that the animals were in satisfactory condition: “In accordance with the State Fair’s Animal Care policy, all animals and livestock shown, housed or displayed, shall receive care that is healthful and consistent with accepted husbandry practices and the rules and regulations set forth by the Missouri State Fair. This policy applies to animals in entertainment acts, such as the Amazing Rainforest Experience, as well. The Missouri Department of Agriculture state veterinarians monitor the tigers twice per day. These practices reflect the care and concern that Missourians have for livestock, poultry, companion animals and wildlife. ”

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The state of the tigers raises concerns about food deprivation, a common method used by trainers at circuses to keep animals in line. “Of course we can’t speak to the exact issue with this exhibitor, but we have seen in the past that they will tend to keep cats hungry to perform,” Hanan said.

In an interview with a local outlet, Mullen said that he fed the tigers 13 to 14 pounds of chicken daily. Both Bass and Hanan said if this is all the tigers are getting, the diet is insufficient: They would need more food, as well as red meat, bones and organs, to thrive.

Whatever the reason, it’s evident from the photos that the animals aren’t healthy. In one photo that shows a tiger on his hind legs, the ratio between the animal’s waist and his hips is disturbing.

This mistreatment by the “Amazing Rainforest Experience”,  is not new. A 2013 video released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare appears to feature the same company and shows several disturbing interactions between a trainer and the cats.

When a tiger initially tries to exit the stage, the trainer deters him and the animal listlessly makes his way through his routine. When the trainer later tries to shut a door on him, the tiger takes a swipe at him.

YouTube/IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare

Another scene features a severely underweight cougar, his hip bones standing out like blades. When he’s reluctant to leave the stage, the trainer grabs him by his collar and literally drags him out as he resists.

YouTube/IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare

If you find these picture and video disturbing and you want to help, you can let the Missouri State Fair know how you feel, click here: https://www.facebook.com/MissouriStateFair?fref=ts

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Injured Captive Orcas

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Recently a wildlife veterinarian, Heather Rally, who works for PETA recently visited SeaWorld’s San Antonio park. She was there to take a look at its orcas and saw severe dental trauma in the cetaceans and sea lions at risk of blindness.

One big issue was the terrible state of the orcas’ teeth. Captive orcas are already at risk for dental trauma — bored and stressed, they often begin gnawing on the edges of their tanks — but Rally said she was alarmed by the frequency and severity of the dental trauma she witnessed.

“Every single orca that I observed had significant wearing on their teeth, specifically on the lower mandible. They start chewing on their tanks, as a result and stress … as soon as they start doing that they start to traumatize their teeth.”

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The damage is much more than cosmetic. When the orcas, bored by captivity, begin to chew on the hard parts of their tanks, they fracture their teeth. The fractures expose the dental pulp, the living tissue within their teeth. Not only is this painful, but the fractures act as a “direct portal” for bacteria to enter the bloodstream — and can lead to heart problems, pneumonia, sepsis and death.

As a result, SeaWorld vets perform a “root canal” of sorts to clean out the pulp of the tooth. For the rest of their lives, the orcas have to undergo daily cleanings to keep their teeth fit, Rally said. “It’s not a pleasant experience,” she explained. “It takes a lot of time to train these animals to endure something like this.” Severe dental trauma is very rare in the wild

The cramped tanks also lead to in-fighting between whales, and sometimes gruesome injuries. In the wild, such encounters are very rare because the submissive animal can just swim away. But because SeaWorld houses its orcas in such unnaturally small quarters, tensions can quickly turn violent when they wouldn’t in the wild — leaving the whales at risk.

SeaWorld orca, Nakai with injury on chin area.
                                                SeaWorld orca, Nakai with injury on chin area.

Some of these injuries have been dire, such as in 2012 when a male named Nakai had his entire lower jaw torn off during a fight with another whale. In 1989, a female named Kandu broke her own jaw and severed an artery when she attacked another whale — she bled to death as her panicked infant calf swam circles around her.

SeaWorld drugs its whales with benzodiazepines to alleviate aggressive behavior, but the aggression does not stop. Former trainers have revealed that the park uses food deprivation to make whales perform, separates infants from mothers and pumps them full of drugs. Orcas also live shorter life spans in captivity than they do in the wild

The DODO: For the Love of Animals is an online news journal

Costa Rica Bans Sport Hunting

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Costa Rica just became the first country in Latin America to ban sport hunting. Costa Rica’s Congress voted unanimously on Monday to approve the ban, which will protect the country’s wildlife – including several species of native big cats. Any hunters caught breaking the new law will face jail time or hefty fines.

Hunters from around the world travel to Costa Rica to hunt the country’s jaguars and pumas for sport and to capture these species of cats and sell them on the black market as pets.  Illegal hunting tours bring in a pretty penny for tour leaders, and their popularity helped spur the newly announced ban. Parrots are also a target, since they can be captured and smuggled out to be sold as pets around the world.

Kinkajou climbing on branches in Costa Rica. ca. 1980-1997 Costa Rica

The Costa Rican people started the initiative to protect their wildlife  it began as a grass-roots campaign that brought over 177,000 signatures to the national Congress. Now that the bill has been approved, violators of the hunting ban will face up to four months in jail and fines up to $3,000.

Earlier this fall, an amendment was made to the country’s Wildlife Conservation law. The new hunting ban strengthens this reform. Costa Rica is a very environmentally conscious country, and it has placed a major focus on conserving its rich biodiversity.

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Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS
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