Tag: leopards

Finally, The US Is Poised To Outlaw Big Cat ‘Ownership’

Even though Tiger King, the tawdry Netflix documentary about a redneck and his “zoo” full of tigers, focused more on the eccentric people involved than the plight of the big cats in their “care,” it got people talking about the problem of captive tigers in the US.

In 2020, congress passed a rare bipartisan bill to ban all big cat ownership in the US. The bill stalled when the senate failed to vote on it before the end of the legislative session, but now it’s back — and the recent saga of a confused tiger wandering around Houston may finally provide the nudge for politicians to pass the badly-needed bill.

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After almost exterminating tigers, Chinese poachers have turned to South America, where they’re poaching jaguars at unprecedented rates to feed demand for big cat parts in the traditional Chinese medicine market. Jaguar poaching has increased 200-fold in the past five years to fuel Chinese demand for their body parts.

There are more tigers living in Texas and Florida backyards than there are in the wild, an ignominious fact that says volumes about humanity’s indifference to the plight of the Earth’s most powerful and iconic predators. Devastated by habitat destruction and poaching to feed the bottomless Chinese appetite for tiger parts used in traditional Chinese “medicine,” the worldwide wild tiger population is about 3,900, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

By contrast, there’s an estimated 7,000 tigers kept as “pets” in the US, with as many as 5,000 of them in Texas.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban the private ownership of tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cougars and cheetahs. It would also outlaw the practice of taking tiger cubs from their mothers so guests can hold them and take selfies with them, which has become an increasingly-popular and controversial feature of “roadside zoos” — unregulated, poorly run, unaccredited facilities — in the US.

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Cheetahs, already critically endangered due to habitat loss, are on the verge of extinction as they’ve become the exotic pet of choice among the wealthy of the UAE and Russia.

The Houston tiger, named India, is one of those unfortunate cubs. While the public freaked out and Houston residents huddled in their homes, hoping to record footage of the wandering tiger, an important fact was often left out of media reports: India is only eight months old. He’s essentially a baby, albeit a 175-pound one, and he had no idea what was happening to him, where he was, how to feed himself, or how to escape the endless sprawl of urban and suburban Texas.

Despite the fact that he was a confused-yet-playful cub, India could have easily been shot by authorities. Thankfully he survived his ordeal, and while his “owner,” Victor Cuevas, is sitting in jail on $300,000 bond, India has been relocated to a sanctuary in northern Texas, where he’ll be looked after and will get to live in the company of other tigers.

In the meantime, we all have an opportunity to lobby our respective senators and demand that they vote for the Big Cat Public Safety Act. You can fire off a letter to your senators and congressional representative in less than two minutes using the Animal Welfare Institute’s site — just punch in your address and the site will draft automated letters to all three, with fields to sign your name and to personalize the letters.

Tell them you support the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and you’ll take their vote into consideration the next time you head to the ballot box.

All images credit Wikimedia Commons.

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In the wild, tigers range more than 50 miles a day. Backyards, no matter how large, are not suitable environments for them.

 

Spectacular Photos Show Big Cats As They’re Meant To Live

One photo shows a melanistic leopard — better known as a black panther — cautiously but curiously poking its head out from behind a tree. Another shows the same cat, tail raised and ready to spring as it stalks prey in the jungle mists.

The photos went viral this week, accumulating millions of views as people hailed the leopard as the second coming of Rudyard Kipling’s Bagheera, the beloved leopard from The Jungle Book.

Both photos come from the lens of Shaaz Jung, known as the “Leopard Man of India” for his astonishing shots of the majestic cats taken deep in the country’s jungles and forests.

“When people see these pictures, they think there are several leopards, but actually there’s just one black panther where we are — one melanistic leopard in the dense forest of Nagerhole. So it was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Jung told BusinessInsider.

The leopard has been named Saya by local wildlife enthusiasts, and he’s a bit out of his element in the deciduous Kabini forest, which is also home to a tiger preserve. Normally, leopards like Saya live in dense jungle, where the thick canopy and lack of light play to their advantage.

Jung patiently followed Saya, snapping photos of the big cat hunting, fighting and courting potential mates.

“He’s not just surviving, he is thriving,” Jung said.

Jung is a wildlife photographer, NatGeo’s director of photography for films and a big cat specialist in his own right. He also photographs India’s tigers, and his shots reveal a connection to — and a deep appreciation of — these regal apex predators who have been pushed back by human development and the resulting habitat loss.

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The man behind the camera: Shaaz Jung.

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Tigers share a quiet moment as they trade scents. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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Leopards are known for their exceptional climbing ability as well as their preternatural hunting skills. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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A leopard enjoys a mid-day respite from the sun — and bothersome rivals — on a broad tree branch. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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A tiger stops for a drink with the water reflecting its wary gaze. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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Tigers are the world’s largest, heaviest cats, the apex predators among apex predators. This close-up is a reminder of how beautiful and regal they are. Photo: Shaaz Jung