In an earlier post titled ‘Why The End Will Never Justify The Means When It Comes To Conservation’ (which you can read here) ICARUS wordsmith Artemis Grey focused on the issue of ‘hands off’ conservation, particularly citing the world famous ‘Lion Whisperer’ who insists that his main focus is animal advocacy and conservation, even while he, himself, interacts with the lions under his care, and engages in the exact activities that he condemns as animal exploitation in other situations. As expected, we received a great deal of defensive response from fans and supporters of the Lion Whisperer, every one of which contained some version of the statement ‘He does those things, but…’
But he raises awareness. But the animals are well cared for. But he does more good than bad. But he has a special bond. But the only reason you’re attacking him is because secretly, you’re jealous of him. But you can’t compare what he does to ‘real’ cub-petting. But he didn’t breed his lions (up for debate) so it’s not the same. But other experts do it, so it’s not fair to single him out. But, but but….
After consideration, Artemis decided to write a second post on the matter of hands off conservation, expanding it. After all, she did, indeed, focus primarily on the Lion Whisperer, and he isn‘t the only ‘expert conservationist’ who mishandles the animals in their care, and he’s not the only well-known “sanctuary” which fails to qualify for GFAS accreditation because of direct contact with animals.
The ICARUS group maintains a strict policy against handling captive wild animals, except for the purposes of rehabilitation or medical treatment. Have the members of ICARUS made mistakes? Yes, you can read one of the first posts we ever published wherein we acknowledge that we’ve made mistakes, and subsequently learned from them, and strived to do better, here. It’s human to make mistakes. It’s exploitive to continue making those mistakes and label it as conservation.
It might be best to start with the original ‘Father of Lions’ himself, George Adamson. There is virtually no one on earth who hasn’t heard of Elsa the lion, and her offspring, or of Joy and George, the folks who raised Elsa and other lions. What isn’t well known, is that Elsa herself died tragically young (widely believed because of a tick-borne illness, but the truth might have more to do with human predation, though the pressure to cover it up is immense) and all of her offspring also died within a few years, killed either by game wardens for predation on livestock or attacks on humans, or killed by farmers as they were attacking livestock. In addition, one of the very lions used in the making of the famous movie Born Free, injured staff during filming, and was subsequently shot by George himself after mauling a child, and then killing one of George’s assistants, whom the animal had known since birth.
Joy with Elsa, considered ‘Conservation’
Tourist who paid to play with lions, considered exploitation.
It’s possible that if they were alive now, both George and Joy would have regrets about their inadvertent exploitation of the lions in their care (and of course, GFAS accreditation did not exist while they were alive). Actress Tippi Hedren shared similar experiences with lions as a young woman, but Tippi, now 85, advocates against ever possessing a big cat as a pet or otherwise exploiting them.
The word ‘but’ in regard to conservation is a dangerous, and insidious thing. When you are dealing with a public looking to you for examples of how to protect wild animals, you must make yourself an ideal example. A child who witnesses domestic violence, even if as a child they are told that hitting people is wrong, is at a much higher risk to subsequently abuse their domestic partner. While this statistic does not directly relate to animal abuse, it does represent the scientifically accepted fact that a child who witnesses something they understand to be wrong is more likely to engage in that behavior at some point, than a child who witnesses correct behavior. Applied to conservation, this means that children who idolize adults mishandling animals in their care might understand that the animals shouldn’t be handled that way, and yet still engage in that behavior themselves. It is far better to simply refrain from doing things you don’t want the public at large to do.
The late Steve Irwin is another example of someone with the best intentions, who did not necessarily set the best example. I adored Steve, I still adore Steve and his family. I think they have the best intentions, and they’ve certainly helped to bring conservation into the limelight. However, Australia Zoo continues to allow the public to walk with, take pictures with, and feed tigers and other wild animals, for a starting price of $400.00. I would never slander Steve. I simply do not condone the behavior of his Australia Zoo.
Bindi, with one of Australia Zoo’s tigers. Bindi remains a leading name in conservation.
Tourist paying to play with an adult tiger, considered exploitation.
Steve feeding a tiger at conservation-based Australia Zoo
Trainer feeding Hercules (a hybrid animal called a liger) at T.I.G.E.R.S, a group devoted to the conservation and preservation of rare and endangered species
Tourist participating in a pay-to-play scheme.
The human capacity for rationalizing is inexhaustible, much to the detriment of the animals in their care. Often times, ‘experts’ with a comparable amount of experience with their animals are differentiated by how they’re presented, not what they’re actually doing. Humans will rationalize away blatant similarities simply because they like one expert over another, or because they feel that what one expert is doing with their animals is somehow more righteous than what another is doing, when in fact both experts are exploiting their animals.
The Lion Whisperer relaxing with one of his white lions, vehemently defended by his fans as a ‘conservationist with a special bond with his animals’. His television shows depicting such interactions are not considered animal exploitation by his fans, but rather, advocacy.
It is not merely individual highly visible people who engage in this sort of ‘It’s okay for me to do it, I’m an expert’ behavior. Dade City’s Wild Things has been in the media recently after coming under fire for allowing tourists to swim with tiger cubs (for a price) but the park adamantly defends its decision to allow public interaction with its animals as outreach and conservation advocacy that gets the public involved.
Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation is an extremely recognizable foundation which claims to be a rescue center and a sanctuary. However, while it is a private organization, celebrities are often invited to come visit and play with the many young animals, and it is not a GFAS accredited sanctuary. Despite that the group advertises itself as a conservation center, the animals are uncut and allowed to breed at will. With hundreds of thousands of defending fans, Black Jaguar White Tiger is acclaimed and its founder, Eduardo, is worshiped as a savior of the animals in his possession. The truth is that he permits breeding, and handling, using the massive draw of adored celebrities playing with captive wild animals to provide constant social media exposure. This, in turn, brings in huge donations which he uses to maintain his facility.
Eduardo’s foundation is strictly for conservation and rescue, he claims.
Eduardo, and various celebrities, at the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation. The large number of cubs is not maintained through ‘intentional breeding’ Eduardo and his supporters insist, but rather, through ‘allowing nature to take its course’.*
T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) of Myrtle beach fame is another group that runs multiple parks, and multiple opportunities for the public to hold and play with the animals the group is supposedly breeding and raising in the name of conservation. Though their very name insinuates that they deal in endangered and rare species, one of the animals they’re most famous for, Hercules the liger, is not a naturally occurring species at all, but rather, a hybrid created by humans through the forced breeding of a lion and a tiger. Though T.I.G.E.R.S. says it donates a great deal of money to conservation, most of that money is made by allowing the public to play with captive big cats, and there is little evidence that any of it actual goes to conservation. They are also not GFAS accredited, despite their use of the word “sanctuary”.
Hercules, of T.I.G.E.R.S. with a trainer. They advertise themselves as experts helping to preserve endangered and rare species.
Hercules of T.I.G.E.R.S. with another trainer.
The Lion Whisperer, defended as an expert conservationist with a ‘special bond’ by his fans, riding one of his ‘fellow pride members’.
Tourist participating in a pay-to-play exploitation of big cats.
Lion tamer during his act, something that everyone who supports conservation would condemn as exploitation.
And there are many, many more groups and people who engage in behavior that is damaging to their animals. It would literally be impossible to include every single one in one post. There will always be one more person or group who is ‘worse’ or ‘less responsible’. It remains an uphill battle to speak out against such activities, as fans and followers will always defend those they adore, but the ICARUS group remains firm in their position. It is entirely possible to love a person or group, and yet not condone what they do. It is possible to disagree with their actions openly without slandering them. It is also possible to feed and shelter an animal, and still do it a terrible injustice by exploiting it.
The photographs in this post are designed to highlight the dangerous problem with using the word ‘but’ in regard to the handling of animals by people, experts or otherwise. This is one reason that the ICARUS group is evenhandedly against ever handling captive wild animals aside from giving them medical care, or rehabilitative therapy, and one reason that we chose to embrace the strict guilders of the GFAS. Humans will always attempt to rationalize why it’s acceptable for one person to carry out exploitation while it’s unacceptable for others to do the same. Thus, we take the stand that it is never acceptable. The justification of an expert’s behavior is a slippery slope the ICARUS team refuses to even start down. Instead, we choose to approach conservation and preservation by setting an example of what the public should do in regard to both wild animals, and captive wild animals, rather than showing them what they should not do.
In the words of Thoreau ‘Wildness is the preservation of the world.’
If you love wild animals, keep them wild. Support groups like ICARUS who are working to keep them wild, not treat them like pets in the name of conservation. Actions speak louder than words. If someone is receiving money in exchange for allowing public interaction with captive wild animals, or receiving money in exchange for their own interactions with captive wild animals, then they are not acting in the name of conservation, even if they are speaking about it.
Author: Artemis Grey
*This statement has been removed from the foundation’s website since the publication of this article.
38 thoughts on “There is No ‘But’ In the Word Conservation”
Everyone needs to read this. The points you are making are excellent and they indeed have been an issue for far too long.
I WOULD LIKE TO COMMENT THAT IN THE CASE OF THE ADAMSONS IT WAS STILL IN THE EARLY TIMES BEFORE PEOPLE REALLY REALISED THE TRUE CONSEQUENS OF RAISING A LION AND THEN SETTING THEM FREE.YES THEY MADE A MISTAKE BUT WE LEARNED FROM THOSE MISTAKES.AS FOR THE OTHER PEOPLE THE LION WHISPERER AND SO FORTH WELL I CAN JUST SAY THAT I PRAY THEY DONT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.
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The sad fact remains, after interacting with humans a wild animal loses its wildness. In order to survive that is the most necesary thing that they need.
Every animal has a purpose in life, like God intended it to be. Then the humans, are playing God (with a confused and ignorant mind at the cost of Wildlife), wondering what is going wrong here.
Excellent article! Thank you!
I agree 100%. It grieves me to see our apex predators rescued and put in an environment where the exploitation still continues. There are degrees of exploitation. Kevin Richardson (have met him and had an in depth conversation about the ETHICAL MANAGEMENT of apex predators in captive situations), his intentions are good and he does not allow the public to interact with his lions. Now, do I agree with how he is managing his lions? Yes, again, to a degree. But the organization I have huge problems with is Black Jaguars White Tiger. I cannot abide his ethics, or lack thereof. He is clueless. He has no idea. Eddie is a “celebrity whore” and he has pulled the wool over the publics eyes. He is “imprinting” on wild animals, while spewing forth a rhetoric of love and devotion, a love which is blind and uneducated. He is young with much to learn. But he won’t learn. And it makes me ill. It sickens me when I see images of him rolling around in his kitchen with Cubs that look only a couple of weeks old. Sickens me. Does the means justify the end? In his case NO. Will these supposed “conservationists” put aside their self serving, self promoting, narcarssistic actions to really really think about the ETHICAL MANAGEMENT of animals in activity? No. It’s far too late.
Athans, while the ICARUS group remains opposed to the Lion Whisperer and his actions, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that his animals (at least the ones seen in his movies) are kept in far more suitable habitats than those of Black Jaguar White Tiger. It also remains unclear where, exactly, the Lion Whisperer’s animals come from. While he has rescued many, the ICARUS team does not approve of buying them ‘to save them’ from canned hunting, simply because while the animal does live, it also serves to put money back into the system of captive breeding and canned hunting. If breeders can simply sell the young animals to ‘rescuers’ in addition to hunting outfits, then they can still make money by breeding the animals. However, again, we’re obliged to acknowledge that the Lion Whisperer certainly doesn’t seem to have the continuously renewing population of young animals that Black Jaguar White Lion has.
Eduardo, Rachel and Black Jaguar White Lion have become the conservation equivalent to Studio 54. All the celebrities want to be seen there, even though all of them are also smart enough to understand that there’s something illicit about flying to another country to play with wild animals, and thus there’s probably something not quite right about it. Unfortunately, it seems doubtful that Black Jaguar White Tiger will experience as short a reign as Studio 54 experienced in regard to its wildest days. Instead, BJWT seems only to be growing popularity, Eduardo’ s fans and supporters defend him, his actions, and his ‘sanctuary’ with a cult-like fervor akin to the sort of blind adoration portrayed by the followers of Jim Jones. The voracity with which the public accepts the behavior of Eduardo and Rachel, BJWT’s founders is also mind boggling. It is as if they are incapable of seeing the situation for what it is, simply because they are included in it. Much like joining a high school click the members of which are hurtful and hateful to others, but you join anyway because then you’re included. Once you’re a member, it suddenly becomes a situation wherein you don’t believe the click is really that mean, instead, you perceive everyone around you as being jealous, and subsequently just accusing the click of being mean.
I could link to numerous articles about BJWT, but I do not want to advertise them. Suffice to say that every article which promotes the foundation, cites clearly that it began with a cub Eduardo wanted to rescue, either from becoming a pet, or being used as a photo prop, and goes on to describe how he was able to buy the animal and keep it himself, and how he’s saved dozens of other animals which were used to take photos with tourists, or from being with pets. The articles then, invariably point out the celebrity visitors, and offer photographs of them playing with the animals. Somehow, every article also systematically fails to make the connection that Eduardo ‘saved’ his animals from becoming pets or photo props, and now HE owns them as pets, and plays with them and allows people to come play with them and take photographs with them. The articles also fail to even acknowledge the fact that while Eduardo’s foundation ‘rescues’ animals, they do not spay or neuter them. Instead, they allow ‘nature to take its course’ which – shockingly – provides a constant reserve of babies which then appear cradled in the arms of celebrities from Kellan Lutz to Paris Hilton, all of whom then posts photos of themselves at the foundation cuddling babies and playing with bigger cats, endorsing and advertising the place all in one photograph. Yet this blatant pay-to-play exploitation continues to go unrecognized by the public.
Unfortunately, as long as his popularity continues, and the money keeps rolling in, Eduardo and his group are going to keep ‘rescuing’ animals and having whatever cubs ‘nature provides’ and subsequently allowing to celebrities to play with them. After all, that’s exactly what drives all of the ‘petting situations’ and ‘pet situations’ and ‘exploitation situations’ Eduardo supposedly wants to save animals from. Eduardo has just taken the existing exploitations and revamped them into an old scheme with a new facade. But it’s still the animals paying the highest price.
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You see I do believe these creatures need help and yes some of the ways are a little hard to swallow. such as tiger and lion cub petting , they say the money raised goes to preservation , but its saying one thing and doing another. These big cats are not pets and ive read and read many articles that human interaction almost always ends up in the cat being destroyed.
Saying that tho if I were to become a milionaire I would certainly fight the fight to stop canned hunting and open a tiger sanctuary but with no petting. Its a trasvesty that these big cats are still used to ” entertain” the public have you seen the gladitorial games in Puy du fou theme park….it absolutely disgusts me.
There’s an huge difference between Kevin Richardson’s attitude and the others mentioned on the article: The animals under his care don’t breed. The public is not allowed to interact with them. As far as I’m concerned, it makes all the difference! In particular when compared with T.I.G.E.R.S.!
That being said, it’s an excellent article about this topic.
Jose Elias Sousa, you are correct that the Lion Whisperer possesses, at least in part, a very different attitude than some. As far as I can discern from public records, he does not allow his animals to breed, and no, he definitely does not allow the public to interact with his animals. Also, agreed that he is quite a step up from T.I.G.E.R.S.
The issue ICARUS members have with the Lion Whisperer is that by producing documentaries, and movies which focus on his bond with his animals, and showcase him interacting with them, playing with them, and even riding them, he glamorizes this sort of behavior, which is a huge blow to conservation efforts, on top of the fact that he’s exploiting the animals by using them in the movie industry. The dream of attaining that mythical unity with animals (not necessarily just big cats) is a driving force behind most of the private ownership of exotic animals. People purchase or ‘rescue’ animals believing that they will be able to develop such a bond with them. More often than not the venture ends in abuse or bloodshed. Impressionable children (and adults) watch the Lion Whisperer in action and dream of being just like him. Not of engaging in hands off conservation, but in emulating the Lion Whisperer exactly. That is why the ICARUS groups endorses strictly hands off conservation. It bears remembering that lion tamers, and trainers within the movie industry do not allow human interaction with their animals, either, yet those animals are still being exploited.
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It does not really serve any bring people who are not living up . they are not here to justify there actions. As for the Born Free Foundation. Maybe with the knowledge now they would have done it different. However, they did what they felt was right they did not go out and capture Ellsa . to infer that they were not conservationist because they did not do it your way is not fair.
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Ann, the Adamsons are cited because they are considered to be a cornerstone of modern conservation, and yet most of the lions they attempted to help died young, and as a direct result of the way in which they were raised and habituated to humans. I never suggested that they went out and captured Elsa, not did I say that they were not conservationists. I only cited the facts that their efforts (though well intentioned) did not have the desired result. The ICARUS group does not speak ill of the dead, we only seek to use their efforts to further the evolution of conservation. The Adamson’s influence remains pertinent as there continue to be conservationists who persist with handling the animals in their care, which continues to set a bad example for the public, in addition to damaging the animals themselves. It is not about ‘our way’ or ‘their way’ it is about whatever way is best for the animals.
I think what some need to keep in mind here, is that at the time that the Adamson’s were working with lions, not many others were doing so and next to none were attempting to help lions and rehabilitate them as they did. Yes, everyone makes mistakes and the best thing for moving conservation forward is to learn from trial & error, and use that knowledge to one’s benefit in the future. Let’s also keep in mind that Tippi’s situation was far different than that of the Adamnson’s or anyone else whose grown up with large cats.
Yes, we do believe that you can recognize your failures ,or mistakes if you prefer, and we would like to think that is the case with the Adamsons. Kevin Richardson , however, lives in a modern world filled with educated big cat experts and legitimate sanctuaries who operate under the highest of standards. There is just no excuse. Regardless of the rescues he is involved in he distorts the good he does by rolling around with these animals. There are plenty of sanctuaries content to do good work because it is just, not glorified.
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In addition, mine and others’ comments on your Richardson article were removed for some reason (I noticed that the comments which disagree with your article were removed, not all but many). Allowing comments and discussion is the best way to get people to learn about these issues and fosters awareness; not everyone will agree with your views but picking and choosing what comments appear better on your posts doesn’t further efforts but only hinders them. Everyone has their own objectives but I wish more would be able to state their opinions openly, as to foster conversation about conservation.
We simply have just become tired of constantly trying to get people to understand Richardson’s motive and how he hurts conservation. Frankly, we are also tired of false accusations that we are funded or connected to Big Cat Rescue. If you worked at Walmart as an unpaid intern are you therefore funded by them? If we were funded by anyone I wouldn’t be living in the “love shack” and surviving on rice and beans with two unpaid research assistants. We have over and over tried to have polite debates on Richardson, but his followers aren’t interested in anything but bashing us and an organization that I have no public or financial support from. And how do you know what comments we do and do not approve? We have in fact approved comments but had to take them down when the debate got ugly. We are in the field and just don’t have time to argue with those who will never see the reason behind our just argument.
I think you may have misinterpreted my words, as I never mentioned your removal of comments based on debates or heated discussions. When you post a rant about a specific conservationist who does contribute to lion conservation in Africa, despite his Youtube channel and pictures sometimes being suggestive of cub-petting, etc., you are bound to get a debate. The point is not to defend oneself but, rather, to take people’s comments into consideration. I also mentioned that I did not have confirmation that you were connected to BCR nor did I mention that you were funded by them; please bear in mind that discussion, debate and conversation is part of conservation and everyone has their own opinion, hence why comments are enabled on blogs, posts and opinion pieces. And, I know that comments were removed because mine were, in addition to a few others mentioning that theirs were also removed. There is no need to go on the defensive, I was not trying to offend you or your efforts. I apologize if it upset you to learn that some of your facts in your Richardson article were unsubstantiated and actually incorrect, irregardless of my agreement, or disagreement, with his methods. I myself to not agree with all of this methods. Debate and disucssion is part of being open minded. Keep in mind that you do not have all of the solutions to conservation and it is an ever evolving field. I agree with your thoughts on BJWT, as many others do. This will be my last comment, however, as I feel this is not an open forum for real discussion but rather, an opinion-piece based blog that isn’t open to others’ opinions. Best of luck with your efforts!
I agree that we were obviously going to cause some kind of controversy with our Richardson piece, he has a large following so it was completely expected. Unfortunately we don’t have the time (nor the internet facilities at the moment) to debate every single comment. I love a good debate, especially when it’s not arguing against people who have absolutely no sense, which you clearly do. Weirdly all of our comments keep getting approved and we would like to be able to discuss sensibly with all of them rather than blind approving. That’s why we approved comments that were in disagreence because we don’t want this to be one sided. However we believe that everything we said about Richardson is true and everything was backed up. I’m not sure which areas you thought were incorrect. What we did say was he treats wild animals like pets, true (riding a lion is not natural behaviour), he rents his animals out for movies (which we don’t agree with) and so on. These will always be wild animals and should be treated as such, not as toys. Anyway thank you for your time on commenting and I hope you will support our other efforts, even if you don’t approve on our information on Richardson. Sarah
Think you are being far too lax in mentioning T.I.G.E.R.S. – a notorious exotic animal exploiter and depot for tiger cubs for the pay to play industry. Somehow there are no public financials which substantiate ANY support for saving tigers in the wild, or anything else for that matter. Please do better research before you give any online cred to the really bad exploiters. Antle is one of the very worst.
I think you misunderstood the purpose of the article. Our position is that NONE of the ‘rescue centers’ or ‘sanctuaries’ listed in this article are providing responsible conservation. On the contrary it is our position is that EVERY group listed here is damaging the efforts of sustainable conservation by exploiting their animals. We agree entirely that T.I.G.E.R.S. is one of the worst examples of this exploitation. The purpose of the article is to compare people who claim to be avid conservationists, and blatant animal exploiters, and reveal that in truth there is no difference between the two. If you are using your animals to make money off of them by handling or playing with them yourself, or allowing the public to do so, then you are part of the problem, not the solution. This is why the ICARUS group maintains a strictly hands off conservation policy.
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Whilst I did not agree with every point you made in your earlier article about Kevin Richardson (I feel some of the accusations made in that article were premature and somewhat nullified a lot of the great conservation efforts Kevin works with that your organization has yet to reach the pivot of)and I think you’ve greenwashed a lot about George and his work with cats but that’s not the point of this article, I do agree wit your statements regarding BJWT. He does not discourage breeding amongst different species, allows such species to freely interact, allows cub petting and close sources of mine have told me that he has actually purchased cubs that were not in need of sanctuary or “saving.” The issue with BJWT is that he simply wants recognition and has fallen victim to the fame-bug rather than actually advocating for real conservation. The best thing would be for one of the celebrities who visited BJWT to help advocate against the exploitative activities which occur there.
There is no such thing as”the wild” anymore. There is no place on earth that is a pure, untouched wilderness. A Thoreau wilderness quote does not apply here since he died over a hundred years ago and the face of the planet is now unrecognizable from that time.
I can understand why you would feel that way. I am often disheartened by our loss of wildlife and environment, but I do believe, despite how small, there are still places ( though not untouched) that embody those sentiments and I believe that’s the intent behind that statement as Artemis used it. We still have wildness in the world, in the animals and within us and we all strive to preserve it together. Thank you for your comment.
Reading your article was very interesting for me. I honestly believe in the BJWT foundation, but it was hard to hear some of the things you mentioned. I understand where you are coming from but he has to come up with money for his foundation somehow so how do you expect him to raise these animals without the help of celebrities that have an excess of money? He can’t just pull that money out of his pocket. I understand maybe they shouldn’t be playing with them but obviously these animals can never go back into the wild because there is no where for them to go so why not make their stay here on earth more friendly so these animals don’t turn on you? And I mean Eduardo is doing the best he can to save these animals from the Circus’s around Mexico, isn’t that what matters? He is doing some good in the world.
Hi Makenzie! Utilizing the help of celebrities with deep pockets is an ideal way of supporting rescued animals, and conservation. The problem lies in the fact that Eduardo is using that money not to conserve wild animals, but to fund his own privately owned zoo. The animals of BJWT are not neutered, or spayed, and Eduardo often buys cubs and young animals. Buy sustaining a constant rotation of young animals, and allowing celebrities to play with them, he is actively supporting and participating in the exploitation of wild animals. You’re right that these animals can never go back into the wild, but not because there is nowhere for them to go. Rather, they can never be introduced into the wild because they were bred in captivity, and handled from birth with the specific intention that they ‘imprint’ on Eduardo, and those caring for them in order to create a dependency on their human counterparts. Unfortunately, Eduardo’s treatment of the animals is not about making their stay ‘more friendly’ so they ‘don’t turn on’ their handlers. Because BJWT is located in Mexico, and completely unregulated, only ‘select’ guests are invited, it’s difficult to know if the animals are declawed or otherwise maimed for the sake of the visitors’ safety. We do know that they are not being kept in a proper environment for big cats. Also, while Eduardo might have bought his first few cats from circuses, there is no evidence beyond his own word that any other animal has come from a circus. It is highly unlikely that any of his young animals – which are the primary draw of the group, and of which there is a constant supply – came from a circus setting, as there is no reason for a circus to have animals too young to perform. It is much more likely that Eduardo is either breeding the animals, or intentionally purchasing cubs to be used in his own pay-to-play scheme.
When it comes to this sort of thing, the ICARUS group maintains an ironclad policy of hands-off conservation, because groups like this who flood the internet with videos of tigers romping through living rooms, and lion cubs crawling all over guests only serve to create a need within the public to participate in such things, which in turn only feeds the machine that is captive breeding and pay-to-play.
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Thank you Artemis, this has opened my eyes to the reality of these ‘corporations’. I would love to become a conservationist myself and this was an interesting read.
I think this article, and a number of the subsequent comments , have a mistaken view of what conservation means. Am I alone in believing that conservation should be primarily focused on maintaining and protecting wild animals in the wild and the continuing provision of suitable bio-diversity of habitats ?
It seems that the animal welfare advocates have hijacked the word “Conservation”. There are many first rate wildlife sanctuaries ( and even some Zoos ) who carry out excellent care for their animals. And long may they continue to be supported.
They are however caring for captive animals which will probably never be released to live again in the wild, if indeed they ever did. This work therefore is self contained and has little to do with conserving wild animals ~ why therefore do we regard the folk who care for these animals “Conservationists”.
Captive animals have always been a popular tourist mecca. When I was young, growing up in the UK, a visit to a zoo or circus was the only option that was available for families with modest means. Then the entrepreneurs conceived the concept of Safari Parks, and these found favour from those who were concerned that Zoo conditions were cramped and poorly maintained. And now, with the explosion of international tourism and a growing public awareness of animal exploitation and the wish to combat such exploitation, we have seen a growth in Wildlife sanctuaries and orphanages. These animals tend to be the casualties of human endeavours and excesses.
These Animal care facilities need financing to survive, we should not be surprised therefore if some of them exceed their remit of care to exploit animals for tourist gratification. There is not firm dividing line between good acceptable practice and what I regard as unacceptable showmanship. We, the paying public, tend get what we expect. If it is wrong we have ourselves to blame. We should stop supporting the unacceptable operations with our patronage.
But to conclude back on the subject of Conservation. Wildlife is facing a crisis both in regard to climate change and with human population encroachment . There is less and less space for wild animals. Many of our iconic species are at risk of extinction . That’s the challenge facing conservation ~ how to make the fullest use of shrinking habitats and protect wild species. . That is to my mind the field where the true conservationist is operating.
Clive, we at ICARUS are not mistaken in our view of what conservation means. We share your belief that conservation should primarily focus on maintaining and protecting wild animals in the wild, and continuing provision of suitable bio-biodiversity of habitats. We DO NOT consider anyone who possesses or handles/allows the public to handle wild animals, and/or who actively breeds wild animals in captivity to be a genuine conservationist. Hence our terms ‘pseudo-conservation’ or ‘pseudo-sanctuary’ and ‘celebrity conservationist’ these people STYLE THEMSELVES as conservationists, and use the term to further their own intentions, and to convince the public that they should be doing what they’re doing.
The TRUTH is that these people are exploiting the animals in their possession, and possibly causing harm to wild populations by continuing to breed animals which can never be released, or in some cases, breeding hybrid or inbred animals which should never occur.
If you read our articles, you’ll notice that the theme within them is one of exposing why these activities are NOT, in fact, any form of conservation.
Facilities such as Big Cat Rescue, who offer minimally invasive tours into only a small portion of their sanctuary, and NO public interaction with their animals, and who subsequently use the money they gain to both care for their rescued animals, and to support legislation that will continue to protect them, such the Big Cats and Public Safety Act, are the ideal combination of properly caring for animals, and acting to make sure that in the future, there are no animals to care for, because the animals are in their wild habitat, not captivity.
Groups like T.I.G.E.R.S. are exploiters, not conservationists. They are showmen, or celebrities, in the media world who simply pose as being conservationists. Hence, celebrity conservationists.
Thanks for writing such a great article. This comment is regarding Eduardo and the black jaguar white tiger foundation.
I have to admit I followed BJWT on social media because I loved seeing the pictures posted of these gorgeous cats & really wanted to believe this foundation was giving them better lives.
Your article has really highlighted how BJWT & others are not true conservationists & really do not set a good example. I always thought it was very strange that there would always be new cubs coming in every week, but what really made me suspicious of this organisation is the way they deal with people who question their methods.
I think the post has been deleted now, but in early February there was post where he called his non-supporters “high-functioning retards”. Yes, seriously! I never usually comment on these kinds of things but I work for a charity organisation and that is completely inappropriate language. I have since been blocked on instagram by Eduardo or whoever manages the social media page, which is apparently what they do to anyone who doesn’t praise them like gods.
Finally!!!!!! People are seeing that this guy is a joke. I recently got blocked by the bjwt “sanctuary” simply because I was stating facts and knowledge on their page, instantly got blocked,. these guys know that they are up to something, they delete ANYTHING that has to do with information to keep the people out of reach. Seriously, me and a bunch of friends at a bar were commenting on his pictures (too many drinks) next day ALL 13 of us got blocked and they deleted everything but only keeping the “omg so cute I wanna play” comments. can’t run away from facts especially when your friends are zoologists…..
It’s definitively the best article I read on this subject. I am in awe of your tone. Your words touchs me because they sound so right. I’m not as good orator as you (especially in English) but it feels right for me to express my appreciation.
First, I felt involved when you acknowledged that you made mistakes. Because that’s a fact, everyone makes mistakes, myself included. I followed BJWT on Instagram because someone told me it was amazing, I checked it, forgot to turn my brain on, and, without thinking twice about it, I was liking picture of cute cubs every day.
It felt right when you pointed that people with the best intentions do wrong things sometimes (without even acknowledge it, or not) or when you underlined the complexity of the human nature which allows us to love someone while knowing that he did/is doing something wrong.
Finally, after giving us plenty of perfectly relevant examples, you made your point, drew a line, and gave a clear & easy-to-remenber guideline: “If you love wild animals, keep them wild.” I’m impressed with your perfect argumentation and how you conducted it without falling into the trap of slandering or using a paternalist tone.
Thank you for putting words on my concerns while prooving me that we live in a world where hatred is not the only answer and where I can disapprove BJWT without being fill with hatred.
The forum is a brhitger place thanks to your posts. Thanks!
Good luck with conservation. I think it’s an amazing effort, but with permitable hunting and lucrative killing like in the instance of Cecil(being enticed out of his safety reserve into hunting range with absolutely no penalty or charges laid against anyone) and now his cub has been killed. I see more and more hunters wanting to make a name for themselves. It is lucrative business, unfortunately. Until this mindset changes, I fear for many animals….Though I may not agree with these wild life parks, they do less harm than blatantly luring an innocent lion off a protective reserve with NO penalty, that’s cruel. More focus needs to be on stopping that and preserving their habitat and less pointing out on these parks with domesticate Cubs that can not be wild again. Just my personal opinion.
Thank you for stopping by, Concerned!
We agree that it’s vital that trophy hunting be banned, rather than monitored as it currently is. We respectfully disagree with you, however, on the matter of wildlife parks doing less harm than luring lions off of protective reserves. We DO agree that more need to be don to preserve habitat. The problem is that for the vast majority of the public, the entire perception of “conservation” is carefully and strategically being manipulated and changed by those who maintain both wildlife parks, and groups like the infamous (and repeatedly mentioned here) Eduardo Serio of Black Jaguar White Tiger. What you may not have considered is how these fake-conservationists like Serio, and wildlife parks actually use the animosity that can be conjured in regard to legal (or illegal) trophy hunters as a way to frame the false-conservation groups as heroes. Take, for example, many of the wildlife parks in SA which have just recently announced that they will allow cub petting, and just regulate it. These are not cubs which will ever know freedom. They will be bred in captivity, used for the public to play with as young animals, and then sold to canned hunting outfits. Instead of preserving wild habitat, these groups focus on “protecting wild lions from hunters” by breeding lions in captivity and allowing hunters to kill them. This is a theory and mindset which is currently being embraced by the public. Likewise, Serio repeatedly uses the term “conservation” to describe what he does, and to define how he’s “saving animals” through awareness. That said, neither he, nor BJWT have EVER had ANY impact on the actual conservation of wild big cats, in wild habitats. But for the 6.5 million people who lovingly follow Serio and BJWT, Serio’s lions playing in his house literally IS conserving big cats. That’s the huge problem with these wildlife parks, and people like Serio, and it is why we here at I.C.A.R.U.S. Inc. focus on them. Not because maintaining wild habitats, and banning illegal hunters isn’t important, but because the parks and fake-conservationists like Serio are literally re-defining what the word conservation means. To the public at large, “conservation” now mean “protecting” even if that involves “protecting” the big cats by keeping them as pets. It is THAT perception which must change before we can change the outlook of wild habitats. After all, for people like BJWT’s 6.5 million fans, the “wild” is a dangerous place for their beloved cats, and as a result, those cats are much better off in Serio’s bedroom, and backyard, playing with his guests, than they would be as wild animals.
Honestly I’m of the view that zoos, sanctuaries and other facilities that hold captive wild animals should all back away from the term conservation unless they’re directly tied to a program that does work with wild populations. The only facility that makes that mark for tigers ( I know less about the conservation of other panthera ) would be Alekseevka Rehabilitation Centre which works with captured wild tigers and leopards ( generally orphans due to poaching ) and has had some notable success in re-introduction.
Everyone else is there for either animal welfare reasons or awareness and doesn’t do any of the actual WORK of conservation, simply advocacy and unfortunately words won’t do much to help see tigers survive this century in the wild.
We are agreed. Conservation is far too loose a term these days.
We would love to know more about the rehabilitation center you mentioned. Our founder does doctoral research if rehabilitation techniques.
Thanks for commenting !
From what I can tell that’s the facility behind this reintroduction which is the culmination of the many years of good work being done on behalf of the Siberian Tiger, the Kazakhs are now contemplating plans to reintroduce tigers in their country on the basis of this sort of work.