Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
If a video were to be filmed of me after watching the YouTube video “I Just Swam with a Siberian Tiger Cub,” it would be titled, “I Just Got Nauseated Watching Animal Mistreatment.”
“Tiger Cub” shows a clearly distressed baby animal being forcibly plopped in a swimming pool at Dade City’s Wild Things, a Florida tourist trap that peddles “Hands-On Animal Encounters!” that also include cuddling with a baby kangaroo. Two handlers manage to get the cub next to a woman standing in the pool; she and the cub then swim side by side for a few seconds until they reach the side. The cub scrambles out, either aided or slowed by a handler whose bare calves are covered by tattoos or scars, it’s hard to tell which. I suspect the latter.
The poor animal could not get away from that pool fast enough. It’s appalling, heartbreaking. The tiger wants to be wild — to live as a tiger, not as a prop.
This “encounter,” this photo opportunity, is so wrong. It’s just another example of the cruel things that happen when wild animals are exploited so that cold-hearted opportunists can make money. And what happens when this cub grows too old to be manhandled into a swimming pool? Is he shipped to a roadside zoo? Used to breed other “swimming” tiger cubs? Killed for the illegal tiger parts trade? Or just simply slaughtered?
How can Dade City’s Wild Things get away with this twisted “encounter,” you may wonder? Because, incredibly, it’s legal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows public contact with tiger cubs between 8 and 12 weeks old.
Born Free USA and other animal lovers — the kind of people who respect wild animals enough to leave them alone and not treat them as disposable tack-ons to a family vacation — are working to improve the tiger’s fate. That fate, you see, is very much in peril as there are now fewer than 4,000 tigers in the wild globally, a number that’s 96 percent less than a century ago and one that’s exceeded by the number of tigers held in captivity within the United States at places such as Dade City’s Wild Things.
One thing we’re doing now is championing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to rescind the “generic tiger exemption,” in which cross-bred or inbred tigers are not subject to regulation or registration.
The FWS is collecting public comments on this matter. Please add your compassionate voice to the mix by commenting before Oct. 21 (previously, the deadline was Sept. 21).
P.S. Want to learn more about tigers? Start here.