‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S.

April 24, 2020 by  
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Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” documentary series has been progressively sweeping the nation since it first aired on March 20. As an outrageous, binge-worthy drama released when self-isolation and uncertainty were spreading around the world, the show certainly came at the right time to provide an escape from the news. Overnight, it seemed, conversations that didn’t revolve around the coronavirus or Joe Exotic were hard to come by. Photos of celebrities who’d visited the zoos were flooding the internet, Joe Exotic’s power-ballads were hitting it big on Spotify and even President Donald Trump was fielding questions about the gun-toting zookeeper during press briefings. While the eccentric documentary reveals some disturbing truths about the enigmatic underworld it portrays, the show’s colorful characters tend to overshadow serious animal welfare issues. The dizzying murder-mystery component camouflages animal cruelty behind a jaw-dropping “you have to see it to believe it” drama. Now that the initial buzz of the show has started to die down, animal conservationists are begging the public to take a closer look at what the series failed to address: why, and how, these types of animal “sanctuaries” are legal in the United States. Related: Bronx Zoo tiger tests positive for coronavirus The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes that the illegal wildlife trade presents the most substantial incentive for exotic animal breeding and estimates that a vast majority of the captive tigers in the U.S. are living inside people’s backyards, roadside attractions and private breeding facilities. “Tigers should not be kept or bred for entertainment or trade in their parts and products,” said Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy for WWF USA. “As a leader in promoting the conservation of tigers globally, the United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders.” The tigers remaining in the wild currently number around 3,900 and are continuing to be threatened due to poaching , illegal trade and habitat loss. Surprisingly, only an estimated 6% of the captive tiger population in the U.S. live inside zoos and facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Because tigers in the United States are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local laws, there is no single government agency monitoring the location, ownership or sales of the tigers or what happens to their parts when they die. According to Henry, any supply of tiger parts into the black market stimulates trade and customer demand, posing additional risks to the wild tiger population. Tiger abuse in the U.S. was on the radar well before Netflix aired “Tiger King.” In 2006, Joe Exotic’s GW Exotic Animal Park was fined $25,000 by the USDA for not providing adequate veterinary care or sufficient staff. Back in 2011, the Humane Society put an investigator undercover as an animal caretaker inside the park for about four months. They found hundreds of animals caged in barren conditions, cared for by workers with little-to-no experience and tiger cubs that were “punched, dragged, and hit with whips.” During that time, GW Exotic Animal Park was under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs between 2009 and 2010. Even Emmy Award-winning comedian and political commentator John Oliver recently recalled learning about Joe Exotic in 2016. “Our researcher went back through his notes and did say, ‘It seems like the park he’s running is a little bit dangerous, we may not want to hold hands too closely with this, “ Oliver said . “Plus he started ranting about a woman named Carole.’” For the places that make their money from public encounters with tigers, continuous breeding is key in maintaining a constant supply of cubs for entertaining guests. Because of this, tigers are often inbred, causing birth defects and health issues that make them unsuitable for reintroduction into the wild . Most of the privately owned tigers in the U.S. are of mixed or unknown lineage, making them unable to participate in legitimate captive-breeding efforts in accredited zoos and institutions as well. “Facilities like Joe Exotic’s and Doc Antle’s masquerade as rescue or conservation operations, but in fact they breed tigers and subject the cubs, who are torn from their mothers immediately after birth, to stress and abuse,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and the CEO of Humane Society International. “After a few months, when the cubs are too large for close encounters with the public and the opportunity for profit is over, the cubs are caged, sold into the pet trade or die. This cycle of breeding for temporary use leads to a surplus of unwanted animals who languish in horrible conditions.” When it comes to ethical animal sanctuaries, the leading authority is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This accrediting organization requires sanctuaries to meet animal-welfare standards exceeding the federal Animal Welfare Act minimum. National Geographic also outlines several things to look for when participating in wildlife tourism . According to the GFAS, sanctuaries must provide lifetime care for abused, injured or abandoned animals, and rehabilitation or rescue centers are meant to provide temporary care with the goal of either releasing animals back into the wild or placing them in permanent care. To be accredited in the AZA, the leading non-profit organization connected to zoos and aquariums in terms of conservation, companies must go through a rigorous application process . Both the AZA and the GFAS provide lists of accredited facilities on their websites. Since the documentary was filmed, 39 of Joe Exotic’s tigers have been rescued and are now living peacefully inside The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado (you can see a video of the tigers’ new living conditions here ). WWF and the Humane Society are continuing to call for greater supervision and protection of captive tigers with the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act . The act and its accompanying bill prohibiting cub petting are scheduled to be voted on by the end of the year. One could argue that “Tiger King” inspired viewership in ways that a more deliberate, expose-style documentary simply could not accomplish. Though the more severe components of the documentary have been masked by a barrage of memes and Twitter-fueled jokes, the ones who suffered the most in this human drama were actually the animals . Hopefully, what begins to come out of “Tiger King” will be the public’s refusal to let spectacle overpower mindfulness and that we all learn to see beyond the flashy images to realize that animal abuse is wrong — no matter how captivating the abusers are. Via National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund Images via Pixabay

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‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S.

Crowdfunded Company Launches Site to Help Eco Nonprofits

May 8, 2017 by  
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In 2010, Peter Dering found himself doing what many young 20-somethings do, taking a four-month-long backpacking trip around Asia. He practiced his love of photography by capturing the exotic sights he encountered in each country, but he found his…

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Crowdfunded Company Launches Site to Help Eco Nonprofits

49 Animals Killed After Suicidal Owner Released Them

October 20, 2011 by  
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Photo: wwarby / cc For more than twelve tense hours, heavily armed police officers near Zanesville, Ohio scoured the region for big cats, bears, and other exotic animals set loose from a local wildlife farm — ultimately killing nearly 50 of the 56 escapees. Among the dead animals are 18 endangered Bengal tigers, 17 lions, two grizzly bears, six black bears, a baboon, and seven bobcats. Although the public was cautioned to rema… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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49 Animals Killed After Suicidal Owner Released Them

15 (More!) Terrific Towering Tree Houses

August 22, 2011 by  
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[ By Steph in Art & Design & Home & Garden . ] There’s something about human dwellings perched in trees that brings out the child in all of us, gazing up in wonder at seemingly endless staircases and platforms so near the sky. These 13 ( more! ) tree houses range from rustic cabins that seem like overgrown versions of children’s playhouses to modern interpretations gleaming in glass and stainless steel. Fairytale-Inspired Forest Tree House, British Columbia (images via: enchantedforestbc.com ) Deep in the woods of British Columbia is the Enchanted Forest, a fairytale-like theme park filled with ‘jolly fairy folk figurines’, boardwalks, nature trails, castles and BC’s tallest treehouse. The latter is certainly a magical place, spiraling into the air , supported both by tree trunks and added beams. Reverend Burgess’ Reclaimed Treehouse, Tennessee (images via: stephanie alice rogers ) Thought to be one of the largest treehouses in the world, this wacky structure located in the small town of Crossville, Tennessee was built over 15 years by Reverend Burgess, who believes he’s on a divine mission. Burgess has built the 10-story, 100-foot structure out of reclaimed wood, and it now occupies six mature trees. Camp Treehouse (images via: the lettered cottage ) Camp Treehouse was built by a group of friends for Wandawega Rentals, a private resort in Wisconsin. The two-story treehouse was built on an old dead tree trunk and includes a wrap-around porch, a vaulted ceiling with a loft, a hammock, a ladder and a rope swing. Nearly all materials were reused or handmade. Lord Northumberland’s Scottish Treehouse (images via: alister cameron ) Another contender for the world’s largest treehouse was built for an astonishing $7 million in 2006 (compare that to the $12,000 spent by Reverend Burgess!) Scotland’s Lord Northumberland commissioned the treehouse from Treehouse Company. It features disabled access and full facilities for its 120-seat restaurant. The treehouse is suspended between 16 lime trees and is located on the grounds of Alnwick Gardens. Lifepod by Kyu Che Studio (images via: kyuche.com ) A traveling yurt that can be placed nearly anywhere, the ‘Lifepod’ by Kyu Che Studio also makes for one incredible (and slightly scary, for those afraid of heights) suspended treehouse. The prefab pod home concept can be shipped worldwide within weeks of ordering, and fits within a 40-foot shipping container. Sky High Treehouse, Saleve Mountain, France (images via: curbly ) This unbelievably high treehouse is perched near the apex of a 130-foot Austrian pine in Saleve Mountain, France. The treehouse is supported by a hidden ring; guests who brave the nearly 70-foot spiral staircase are rewarded with views of Lake Geneva. Home Built Around a Tree (image via: the chive ) Homes like this unidentified castle-like abode prove that homeowners building on untouched land don’t necessarily have to clear out trees in order to bring their dream home to life. This treehouse appears to be about one story above the ground, with branches poking through the roof and deck. Nussraum, Dusseldorf, Germany (images via: cimots ) Supported on stainless steel legs, the Nussraum design by Baumraum, a German company specializing in modern treehouses, could either be assembled around a tree like conventional treehouses, or stand alone. Nussraum, which translates as ‘Walnut Room’, gets its name from the walnut wood used to create it. This one stands in a garden in Dusseldorf. Towering Twin Treehouses (image via: edmerritt ) The provenance of this incredible treehouse photo is unknown, but it’s certainly captivating. Two tiny cabins teeter atop fir trees, accessible via spiraling staircases. Cedar Spire, Fife, Scotland (images via: erindale real estate ) Located on an estate in Fife, Scotland, Cedar Spire is a castle-like treehouse with stained glass windows, a turret-like main room, a balcony and a suspended walkway leading to a viewing platform on an adjacent tree. Pharrell Williams’ Eco Treehouse Concept (images via: oppenheim architecture ) Rapper Pharrell Williams is collaborating with architect Chad Oppenheim on a vision for a treehouse-inspired youth center in William’s hometown of Virginia Beach. The 30,000-square-foot Pharrell Williams Resource Center features three modern volumes set within a dense forest. Wilkinson Treehouse by Robert Oshatz (images via: oshatz.com ) Noting the sloped grade of the site, architect Robert Harvey Oshatz saw an opportunity to bring the main level of a commissioned home up into the tree canopy. The Wilkinson Residence is an organic, flowing home with shapes that mimic those in nature. While the home is not supported by trees like a traditional treehouse, it achieves a similar effect with its unusual shape. Spiral House, Rambouillet Forest, France (images via: independent ) HIdden within Rambouillet Forest in France, the Spiral House is a tiny cabin high up in a tree, accessible only by a tall staircase. DIY Traditional Tree House (images via: edmund sumner ) This treehouse , built without help from an architect or skilled carpenter, perches almost frighteningly high in the sky on just a few skinny supports. Used as a tea house in Japan, the treehouse was created by a tea master who harvested the logs for the support from a local mountain. Takashi Kobayashi Treehouse (images via: treehouse.jp ) Designed for an advertising agency client, which used it to film an ad for Nescafe commercial, this rustic, playful treehouse resembles a bird’s nest. It was conceived and built by Takashi Kobayashi, one of Japan’s foremost tree house designers. “What exactly is it about treehouses that would so captivate a slacker like me, a man who could never devote himself to any one cause or finish anything he started?” says Kobayashi. “What is it in treehouses that attracts anyone? I’ve come to think the answer lies in the vitality of the trees themselves. Everlasting life.” Want More? Click for Great Related Content on WebEcoist: Suspended Swedish Tree Hotel Reflects Natural Environment Experience the woods of Northern Sweden as would a bird nestled into a hole in a tree at the Tree Hotel, a mirrored cube in the sky with room for two. 1 Comment – Click Here to Read More »» Play Tarzan & Jane? 12 Exotic Treehouse Eco-Vacations Whether you want to take it easy on the environment or want to play Tarzan and Jane, step off the grid and climb a tree. Here are 12 exotic treehouse eco-vacations. 1 Comment – Click Here to Read More »» Man-Made Jungle: Exotic Architecture for Rain Forests & More These 12 jungle dwellings – from tiny tree houses to entire communities – are uniquely suited for their harsh untamed environments. Click Here to Read More »» [ By Steph in Art & Design & Home & Garden . ] [ WebEcoist | Archives | Galleries | Privacy | TOS ]

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