Something the ICARUS group repeatedly talks about is the method of hands off conservation. It is one of the foundation stones of our ideology, which focuses on keeping wild animals wild. No, not every animal that is rescued or saved can be returned to the wild. Many are habituated to humans, and would never survive in their natural environment, and others, tragically, have no environment to even be returned to, were it possible. One reason that the ICARUS group is so vehemently against the handling of wild animals (as usual, excluding the handling necessary to rehabilitation and to medical attentions) is because it is impossible to justify handling in one instance, and condemn it in another. It is also why we so strictly consider only GFAS accredited sanctuaries as being genuine sanctuaries. The public has proven time and again that it is incapable of watching someone handle wild animals, and then refrain from engaging in the same behavior if given the opportunity to do so.
After reading the best article to date calling out Black Jaguar White Tiger, by Jacalyn Beales, I decided to write an ICARUS article on the subject. My articles are not nearly as analytical–though I do research them– and instead my writing contains a more visceral component. One which is intended to set the reader back and make them think about what they’ve just read. Perhaps if several articles are released closely together, we can do better than making page 7-8 on a Google search regarding the failings of the foundation.
Major case in point: The vastly growing empire that is Black Jaguar White Tiger. Within the span of just two years, this foundation has become a world wide phenomenon touted as the leading edge of conservation, endorsed by dozens of celebrities, and monopolizing social media to the point of being able to shut down sites like Instagram just with the traffic associated with their account. If you Google the foundation including words like ‘abuse’ or ‘criticism’ or ‘controversy’ be prepared to flip an average of 7-8 pages over through your search before you find any article that actually contains legitimate criticisms about the foundation, rather than bait and switch wittily worded endorsements of it. Instead, what you’ll find is a “sanctuary” which only meets the barest minimums required by Mexican law.
The terrifying part of all this support and lavish praise? It’s all in regard to a man who raises lion cubs in his walk-in closet and allows them to run rampant inside his house. No, I haven’t accidentally started talking about Siegfried and Roy, I haven’t accidentally referred to a retired circus performer who hoards ‘rescued’ big cats in his central Texas cape cod home. I’m not being sarcastic, or overly dramatic.
Eduardo Serio, the owner and founder of Black Jaguar White Tiger keeps newborn big cat cubs in his walk in closet so that they can receive ‘around the clock care’ from him personally. Once they’re a few weeks old, they move from the closet into a ‘communal area’ in the main section of the house wherein they’re all fed together–something that can often result in dangerous fighting, and even mortal wounds in larger animals. Eduardo talks candidly about his grossly incorrect handling of his animals, and shockingly, the public hangs on his every word. In fact, people pine for the chance to visit the foundation and join in the glorified mishandling.
A master of selling ideas, Eduardo runs multiple social media accounts followed by millions of people all over the world and they worship him for his exploits.
I mentioned the other day to someone that my personal house cat, Ari, who is dealing with end stage heart failure, now sometimes has trouble making it to the litter box. The person wrinkled their nose in disgust and suggested that it was ‘probably time to put him down, then, because he could live comfortably for months, yet, and think of the mess.’
However, Eduardo posted this video with the caption ‘And of course, Ayrton’s signature pee on my wall…’ and within two weeks, it’s received 64,500 likes. Aytron is a wild animal trapped inside a house spraying on walls–repeatedly, and everywhere–to mark his territory, and in 14 days 64,500 people have liked the video and inundated it with comments like ‘That boy is so spoiled.’
Spoiled indeed. As well as continually mishandled.
Similarly, in the summer of 2015 Dade City Wild Things came under severe fire (and rightly so) for allowing guests to swim with tiger cubs. Meanwhile, Eduardo posts videos like this and is rewarded with 30,500 subscribers to his YouTube channel. Often, his commenters compliment his “sanctuary” without realizing that it’s not actually an accredited GFAS sanctuary because of how he houses and exploits his animals.
Article after article after article lavishes praise on Eduardo and his Black Jaguar White Tiger foundation, all of them overlooking the simple basic failings of the situation. This article, dated in May of 2015 states that Eduardo has purchased 100 acres to house his growing group of rescues. However, this article, dated October of 2015 states that ‘Stage 3’ of Eduardo’s ‘rehabilitation program’ is ‘in the making’ and will eventually offer ‘thousands of acres’ for the cats. This same article lists ‘Stage 2’ as 8 acres where the older animals can run and play. This article also mentions that ‘Stage 3’ is ‘in the works’. But it also states that Black Jaguar White Tiger currently has 152 big cats in its care.
On 8 acres.
You can’t properly care for 8 horses on 8 acres, never mind 152 wild big cats. Every article I have cited, thus far, was published in 2015 and according to these articles the number of animals in Eduardo’s care varies (and let me remind you, Eduardo himself is giving these interviews) from 45 animals, to 152 animals. Meanwhile, Black Jaguar White Lion’s own website claims to have rescued and be houses 180+ animals. On, let me repeat this one more time, 8 acres. And one house.
If I told you that an Arizona housewife living on 8 acres had 180 house cats, you’d suggest I call animal control because she couldn’t possibly care for all of them properly. Even if she had help, there just isn’t room in one house and 8 acres for 180 house cats. But Black Jaguar White Tiger claims to be ‘rescuing and properly caring for’ over 180 200-500+pound exotic cats, inside a house that’s lived in by humans, and with just 8 acres of land. Yet, the praise and hero-worship continues in articles like this.
‘What if someone told you that animals treat us as equal as long as you give them love?’
‘And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.’
Both of these are inspirational quotes, provoking a deep reaction of unity with the world around us.
The first one is a summary of Eduardo Serio’s beliefs about big cats, taken from an article that goes on to wax poetic about the kindnesses he’s done for the 180+ animals crammed on 8 acres and how love is the end all when it comes to helping animals. The article ends with this purple prose humdinger: ‘All you need is a few minutes on the Black Jaguar, White Tiger Instagram account to feel like a better person. Eduardo and his team share moments of love, between feline and human, that we never thought were possible. He shares the stories of each lion, tiger or jaguar that lives in the organization, showing us time and time again that all is possible with love.’ And, of course, there’s a link for donations!
That second quote, such a mirror image to the first in proclaiming that we’re all one and the same with love? Yeah, that’s from one of Jim Jones’s sermons. If you’re under the age of about 35, you’re going to have to Google Jim Jones. I’ll save you some time and put in a link here. But if you don’t want to even bother with that, I’ll give you the high points.
Jim Jones was a preacher who did something no other church in his time (mid 70s) had done. He ran a church wherein everyone–literally everyone–was equal. I’m talking black, white, illegal immigrants, gays, lesbians, bisexual, transexual. Everyone was welcome and seen as equal in the People’s Church. The entire point of Jim’s ideals were that we were all the same inside, just like Eduardo claims we’re all the same. It was great. Up until Jim Jones lost his shit and orchestrated the largest mass suicide you’ve probably never heard of. 914 died that day, 5 of them shot to death as they tried to escape via airplane to warn the government of what was happening. 909 people died because they drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid Jim Jones told them to drink.
I can almost hear your eyeballs rolling around in your head now–those of you who support Black Jaguar White Tiger, anyway. You’re thinking ‘How could 909 people be so stupid as to listen to one guy telling them to kill themselves?’ Meanwhile Eduardo’s supporters are sharing the photos and videos and every other social media shareable thing of a man who has anywhere from 45-180+ captive big cats crammed onto 8 acres of land the location of which is a closely guarded secret. They might as well be giving money to the government to help feed the aliens living at Area 51. They’ve got the same level of proof that the cats in Eduardo’s care are alive and well as they do that aliens are hiding at Area 51.
This is the danger of social media in 2016. If enough people–especially wealthy, celebrities– say something, then it must be true. So a few dozen celebrities have gone down there to Black Jaguar White Tiger. *If* they saw abuse, how many of them do you think are going to come back up here and announce that a man who basically owns Instagram, among other social media outlets, is a liar and fraud? Do you really think these celebrities are going to ruin their careers over this? How many celebrities have kept silent for decades about sexual assaults or worse because the perpetrators were people in high places who could ruin their careers?
It’s up to us as individuals to not get sucked into the social media frenzy. Think of Instagram as the supermarket tabloid of the internet. Not everything you see on the cover is the truth. Now go read Jacalyn’s article again, and think twice about sharing that oh-so-adorbs photo of what’s-her-fabulous-face cuddling a baby lion or tiger at Black Jaguar White Tiger.