Tiger Sanctuaries and Roadside Zoos: The History You Wont See in Tiger King – Teen Vogue

Posted: April 23, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Ligers (the offspring of a female tiger mixed with a male lion) or tigons (a female lion plus a male tiger) are unnatural crossbreeds that dont exist in the wild. They have no conservation value and usually suffer from health problems because of the inbreeding. As noted by National Geographic, the number of ligers and white tigers seen in the docuseries were examples of problematic overbreeding. Whatsmore, because ligers and tigons arent pure tigers, theyre not protected by endangered species regulations.

This is a problem because there is truly no regulatory body on the care, treatment, or management of tigers in captivity, and these privately bred tigers are considered generic tigers by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Cancellare said. As a result, they are currently exempt from the captive-bred wildlife registration program under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. There is talk of changing this exemption, thankfully, but until then, it means it's still really easy to get and breed tigers.

In general, Guynup said the overbreeding leads to poor care and living conditions for the captive tigers. She said issues have included rodent-infested enclosures, animals living in putrid standing water, uncared for injuries and illnesses, and inadequate food. The tiger cubs can legally only be used for petting until theyre about 12 weeks old, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. That short window of time for petting also becomes an incentive for overbreeding. After that, they become too dangerous.

It presents a public safety issue because big cats are powerful predators who retain their natural instincts, Block said. They can and do injure and kill people, and they take every opportunity to escape. There have been many dangerous incidents involving privately owned big cats. Wild animals do not belong in captivity.

So, how can you know if a sanctuary is legit or just a roadside zoo using buzz words? It comes down to the venues goals.

A legitimate wildlife sanctuary or rescue center does not breed, buy, sell, offer any public contact with or take animals off-site for exhibition, Block said. Tigers and other wild animals have unique and complex needs. Providing decades of appropriate care requires substantial resources.

Additionally, tigers at sanctuaries are provided with proper nutrition and vet care. The animals at these facilities are also kept for life.

As Guynup puts it, venues accredited by the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance the Global Federation of Animals meet the criteria for a true sanctuary. You can check a facilitys certifications for yourself by visiting their respective lists of sanctuaries or members. To qualify as a member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, establishments have to provide lifelong care for abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned, or displaced wild cats. The Global Federation of Animals requirements are even more extensive: Standards are spelled out depending on the breed but include specifications regarding the quality of the applicants enclosure, sanitation, temperature control, nutrition, veterinary care, and more.

Tiger Kings Carole Baskins Big Cat Rescue is certified by both groups, but that isnt mentioned throughout the series. Unlike the roadside zoos Baskins place is pitted against, Big Cat Rescue is a legitimate sanctuary, according to National Geographic and the Washington Post.

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Tiger Sanctuaries and Roadside Zoos: The History You Wont See in Tiger King - Teen Vogue

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