Almost every month you will pick up a paper, or read an article on line about a animal handler or caregiver being hurt while tending to the animal(s) in their care. But the media can and is our worst enemy at times. They will sensationalize any incident to the point where it can and does cause mass hysteria.
Watch the wording. Usage of words such as “savaged”, “mauled” , “ripped” etc are words that bring horror images to one’s mind of a blood bath. While I am quite sure there was blood involved on a lot of cases, it is for sure 95% of these so called “mauling’s” are simply the animal grabbed hold of the keeper/caregiver and there was no viciousness in the attack. In fact, to be honest, a lot of times, especially in big cats, the “attack” is not an attack at all, but merely the big cat’s attempt to play. This is one reason we do not have full contact with our Siberian Tiger “Spike” is because even though he is as loving as the day is long, he is also VERY playful. And let’s face it. Dead is dead, no matter on accident or on purpose. And I for one, do not want to be responsible for the death of my cat, nor to be responsible for the ramifications from the incident that will be felt around the world. Because ANY TIME there is a big cat incident, you can be sure that HSUS, PETA, Born Free, IFAW and Big Cat Rescue will be right there going “See!?”
What can you do as either a private citizen or exotic cat owner? Or for that matter ANY EXOTIC ANIMAL OWNER? First off, if you were NOT there at the time of an incident, do NOT make any comments. PERIOD. If you did not see it with your own two eyes, hear it with your own two ears, then do NOT repeat it with your ONE mouth. Remember the game telephone as a child? Well, adults still play that game, and in this day and age, the game can have deadly consequences for the animals involved.
If you are an owner of a facility that an event happens. My personal opinion is to take care of yourself, the staff and the animals FIRST. Comments if any to the media, should be well written out, short and sweet. Personally, I am NOT a fan of the media as I have YET to see one article that was not slanted to make the facility or facility owner look bad when an event happens. We ALL know what risks there are in working with these animals. It is one that I know and accept, as I am sure my fellow exotic animal owners/lovers do also. Do I fear them? NO. Do I respect them? YES.
Remember you might be saying the same thing over and over again, but to that one person/audience it may be their first time hearing it. So this is where “Patience is a virtue” comes into play. Getting nasty with people does NOT help the situation. Also remember that to the outside world, our world looks foreign and they have no understanding. How can we expect the public to know, understand, and come to love the animals we love, if we do not share the facts with them? One part of my educational tour is informing people that the captive big cats of today are NOT “ripped” from the wild, but rather are the result of over fifteen generations or MORE of captive breeding programs. You would be astounded at how many people did not know this! I utilize this to inform people of the deceptive campaign of IFAW and Born Free, stating that “There are more tigers in captivity in the United States, than in the wild”, and how that is not exactly a “lie” but an open ended statement, left that way to mislead people into ASSUMING that we are taking these animals from the wild, and it does accomplish the task in deception. Education is the key.
To all of our supporters out there, thank you for your continued support. To all my fellow exotic owners, keep up the good fight.
No matter if it is an AZA accredited facility, a sanctuary or a privately owner facility or owner, there is an inherent risk when you are working with ANY animal, either exotic, or domesticated. In fact, there are TWICE as many incidents at AZA facilities than there are in the private sector. http://www.rexano.org/Statistics/Captive_big_cat_fatality.pdf
It is up to us. The exotic owners, exotic handlers/care givers and the loyal supporters that have found out the truth, to get the truth out there. These animal’s very LIVES depend on it.