Wednesday, September 17, 2008

They Are So Cute, But They Are Not Pets

The following is from The Texas Observer - A Tiger's Tale by Melissa del Bosque. Sometimes I really wonder about the things we as humans do to the animals that share the planet with us. This article was very disturbing to me.

You might think it’s illegal to buy or sell an endangered tiger cub in Texas, but it isn’t. For $500, you can buy an orange Bengal tiger and tie it up in your yard, no questions asked (a white tiger will cost you $5,000). It’s all perfectly legal in Texas.

When state and federal authorities seize exotic animals along the border, they often call Jerry Stones, facilities director at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. Because of its proximity to the border, the Brownsville zoo has become a kind of repository for seized animals and plants. With the animal trade booming, Stones has been receiving a lot of calls lately from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Customs asking him to please take an animal off their hands.

“It never stops,” says Stones, sitting behind his desk in a cramped office. He’s a self-described Nebraska farm boy from a “big” town of 6,000 people. He fell in love with the zoo business in his early 20s. In 1970 he left his job at the Omaha zoo to help run the brand new Gladys Porter Zoo, built and stocked with animals by Gladys Porter, an heiress to the J.C. Penney fortune. The 31-acre zoological and botanical park in downtown Brownsville has received everything from seized eastern gray kangaroos to rednecked wallabies to African lions (it currently has two). And six tigers. The influx of tigers has become overwhelming.

“I am about tigered out,” Stones says. “We have more than reached our tiger limit here at the Gladys Porter Zoo.” But he did find room for a certain set of six tiger cubs recently seized in McAllen.

Stones takes me to see a bobcat named Bodie recently brought to the zoo by South Padre Island Animal Control. The bobcat was purchased as a cub by a private owner, who had it declawed, neutered, and its canines filed down. When we arrive at the medical facility, Thomas deMaar, the zoo’s senior veterinarian, is checking on Bodie. “Basically this cat is a living pelt that can no longer defend itself,” deMaar says.

The bobcat’s owner used to drive around with the animal in the front seat of his Lamborghini. Then the bobcat reached sexual maturity. It ran away five times. Each time the local animal control officers had to track it down. “Finally, they called us and begged us to take it,” deMaar says, shaking his head. Stones and deMaar want the pet owner to provide some money for the bobcat’s care. So far, they’ve had no luck. Says deMaar grimly, “We are more of an unsubsidized humane shelter than an actual zoo.”

Back at the Gladys Porter Zoo, Jerry Stones does his best to convince the public that buying an adorable tiger cub is a bad idea. Unfortunately for Stones, the idea still hasn’t caught on. So Stones is back on the phone trying to find homes for seized and abandoned tigers and lions. “I’m not advocating that these animals be put down,” he says. “But they are living a life of hell—it’s not a good life. They are being put out in five-acre pens and shot in canned hunts or being left tied up their entire lives. It’s no way to treat a living creature.”
Read the complete story here.

No comments: