To be able to pet and have photos with one of the most dangerous animals in the world may be exhilarating, providing a feeling of magnitude; but the damages a simple photo session can do to a tiger, lion, cheetah, leopard or any other wild animal is of an enormity that we cannot even begin to imagine. Here is a behind the scenes look of what really happens:
Cubs are most commonly being bred to make money for petting and photo opportunities, YES they may be ridiculously cute and YES it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but those views are far too selfish once you know the lives these animals are truly living for your one moment of entertainment.
In the US, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) set a guideline that cubs can only be handled by the public between the ages of 8 weeks to 12 weeks of age. Before 8 weeks of age, it is said that the cub’s immune system is too weak, and after 12 weeks, the cub may cause danger to humans, therefore only allowing a ‘4 week window’. The first resulting problem of this is that this causes intense breeding of such animals only for them to be used for 4 weeks of their lives. Then where do they go when they hit 12 weeks of age? If ever you have been told that they live a great life in a huge sanctuary- there is no such thing. In America alone, hundreds of tigers a year are being bred for this sole purpose of cub petting, there is no sanctuary that has the ability to then care for this amount of animals after they hit 12 weeks of age, especially since it cost around $10,000 to feed 1 tiger for 1 year. In particular States, the law allows these exotic cats to be handled up to the weight of 25lbs, which usually results in starvation to keep the cub smaller for longer. Cubs of this age want to explore, play and sleep without interruption; however on display and in petting zoos this will never be possible. Even sick cubs have been seen on display; continually woken up, handled, tossed around, and camera flashes in their faces.
Learn more about ‘The Big Cat Handling Crisis’ - http://bigcatrescue.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/FactsheetBigCatsHandling_rev.1.pdf
Are these facilities breeding to help conservation and species numbers in the wild? NO! These inbred, human imprinted and psychologically damaged animals cannot be rehabilitated back into the wild. When these animals are too old or too large to handle they can go to a number of places; often the pet trade, performing shows; or canned hunts. Canned hunting is the shooting of exotic animals in a confined area. This is legal in a number of countries including some US States, where you can pay a large fee to shoot your trophy and take it home with you. The more tame the animal, the more likely it will simply walk towards the shooter, therefore these are the most favoured animals, and consequently this will be the outcome of a lot of ‘petting cubs’. If you have ever pet a cub, imagine where it might be now?
In order for these wild animals to be tame, they are taken away from their mothers at an extremely young age to be raised by humans; so never truly learn a lot of their natural behaviours, this will never make them tame though. What about the mothers? The mother will usually be kept in a cramped breeding facility and will live her life in a restricted cage where her only use is to reproduce, and watch each of her cubs being ripped away from her. This causes emotional pain for both the mother and the cub.
How about having your photo with a fully grown exotic cat? A lot of these facilities that allow you to touch such wild animals, even though they have tried to ‘tame’ them for years, will declaw and defang the cat, they will chain them up and even have them sedated, so that you could pay to sit on the animal and have your picture taken. You will be told that this is completely safe, but this will never be true. By declawing and defanging a wild cat, they know that their biggest defense has been taken from them, therefore making them far more aggressive. It only takes one swipe of their immensely large paw to do some serious damage; they have power behind them that we could not compete with. And unfortunately this has happened far too often where humans have been injured by wild cats that have been kept in unnatural situations.
If an animal has to be chained up and modified in order to appear ‘safe’, there is no reason for us to be anywhere near them. They are made for the wild, and that is the only place we should find them.
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