A month ago, I wrote an article for ICARUS about Eduardo Serio and his newest “rescue” a horribly damaged tiger cub he named Achilles. I have since gone back and added numerous addendums to the article linking to videos as posted by Serio. In my original article I stated that no rational vet would have suggested pursuing treatment in a cub that had 10 fractures throughout all four limbs, as well as other fractures, calcium deficiencies and spinal problems.
Let me be clear, at no point in my first article did I say that the cub should be euthanized because it would not live. The reason I said that euthanasia was the more responsible choice (and that is presuming that the cub actually had all of the injuries and issues Serio claimed that it had) is because should it survive, it would suffer from constant pain, would not live a natural lifespan, and would never have what the ICARUS team considered to be a “quality of life”. Just as the ICARUS team believes in hands off conservation, we also believe that the quality of a rescued animal’s life is of utmost importance.
There are times where an elderly long-suffering animal is rescued, and GFAS accredited sanctuaries have the chance to provide for that animal and give it a comfortable existence until the end of its life-which often comes much sooner than the animal deserved. However, in cases where a young animal is facing a lifetime of suffering, along with insurmountable defects or conditions caused by malnourishment, or injuries, we believe that it is the job of the rescuer to make the decision which will bring the most peace and comfort to that animal, not the decision which will drum up the most publicity. Yes, there are horrible cases in which an animal might make a full recovery. There are also cases in which the animal will never have a normal life, or even a comfortable one, and in those cases it is self-serving for a rescuer to keep that animal alive simply so they can say that they rescued it.
In the case of Achilles, Eduardo Serio has intentionally used the sleight of hand he’s known for with his “miracle” recoveries, acting not in the best interest of the animal, but in whatever manner will make him look like a savior able to heal anything “through love and positive thoughts”.
When Serio first posted photos of Achilles 5 weeks ago “just after his arrival” Achilles appeared to be about 2 months old. In the most recent videos wherein Serio and his followers are proclaiming Achilles’ “miracle recovery” and ability to “walk” the tiger cub looks–at least in body–to be approximately 6 months old. Achilles’ head, however, seems abnormally large for his body. This could mean that he’s actually even older than 6 months, and that his body is so shriveled due to lack of nutrition early on that it’s permanently stunted.
We can’t know for sure, and details like that are brushed aside by Serio as inconsequential, and anyone who tries to find them out is labeled as a “hater” and blocked from his accounts. But nonetheless, something does not fit with Serio’s timeline of Achilles arriving, and only 5 weeks later appearing 4 months larger and older. Again, we can’t know the cub’s true age, because it’s something Serio doesn’t consistently admit to. It is just one more coin under the cups he constantly shuffles, revealing only what he wants the public to know. Serio’s lack of accountability is something well documented, and pointed out by others, like Jacalyn Beales.
By and large, the fact that Achilles can perform a sort of shuffle-limp-walk for several yards before collapsing has been lauded as a “miracle” by Serio’s followers, and accepted as proof that Serio can cure the ravaged with only the power of his love. The fact is, animals are indomitable in their drive to find some way of functioning, no matter how much pain it takes to do so. I have personally witnessed, during my years in the field, animals–both wild and domestic–walking on stumps of bone, functioning while missing entire portions of their skulls, with multiple broken bones, and with entire lower jaws blown off by shotgun blasts. These animals lived, sometimes, for years, with these catastrophic injuries, and without the aid of human intervention. The mere fact that Achilles is capable of attaining a walk-like gait for a few yards, or that he can slither-crawl onto a low mattress, does not indicate that he’s no longer in pain. Just as the fact that the cub has “been under the care of a veterinarian” does not indicate that he’s being treated by a vet who specializes in big cats, instead of one who specializes in, say, exotic birds.
While Serio’s followers are elated to see these videos, the ICARUS team aches inside, knowing all too well what sort of future problems Achilles is still facing. Problems he’ll have no choice but to suffer through as Serio continues to tout him as evidence of his own superiority. Unlike a proper tiger’s conformation–with prominent shoulders, vertical, straight, forelegs, a long flat back, powerful haunches, and well angled hind legs–
Achilles’ forelegs lack muscle development, his right foreleg sports visible deformities to the bones, and that foot turns under unnaturally, his back is prominently bowed in the center, and never flattens in a smooth line as it should, his hind legs show visible atrophy of the musculature and are extremely sickle-hocked, and he walks in a hunched manner, on his heels, rather than up on his toes as he should.
This motion puts strain not only on all of his joints, but also on all of the connective tissues. The more Achilles moves in this fashion–and he likely can’t move any other way, due to his injuries and deficiencies–the more his muscles will develop incorrectly, and the more permanent these deformities will become. These are not things which can be corrected by love, no matter how much of it you give to him. He will continue to grow heavier–eventually reaching 500-700 pounds, and his own weight will continue to crush the deformed bones that are barely–infrequently–able to support the weight of a cub.
In his first posts about Achilles, Serio mentioned multiple times that the cub had pins which had been incorrectly placed in his hind legs, pins which were causing some of his problems. He stated more than once that “in about 10 days” Achilles would go into surgery to remove the pins, as they were causing more harm than good. 5 weeks on, and no mention of any surgery has been made. We don’t know if the surgery has happened, if it’s not needed, if it’s still going to happen. All that Serio is talking about is how he “cried like a baby” when Achilles first did his walk-shuffle, and how his follows should continue to “think blue” and help heal the tiger cub. Again, the lack of transparency with Serio’s “rescues” and how they receive treatment raises more questions than it offers answers. To be honest, we don’t even know that Achilles actually had all of the fractures and problems that Serio said he had. It would not surprise me if some of the problems had been fabricated simply to make the “recovery” seem more miraculous. After all, the fact that Serio publicly lies, is something I’ve discussed before. The point is, scientific details aren’t something Serio cares about, and since BJWT isn’t accredited by GFAS, it’s not something they’re required to care about.
What Serio cares about is looking like a hero.
We will never know if Achilles has actually been at BJWT for months unable to walk, before Serio first posted videos of him, whether Serio waited to make sure the cub would live before revealing him to the public as if he’d just arrived, or whether Serio overplayed what was actually wrong with the cub, just so he could later defend himself against “haters” like us, and “prove” that his love could heal an animal not actually that badly injured. The unanswered questions about Achilles’ injuries and physical inconsistencies seen between the much younger looking animal in the first videos, and the much older looking one we see now, are just more shadows over the pseudo-sanctuary Serio takes such extreme pride in.
Achilles’ future looks no brighter. The best case scenario is that he’ll live for a while, dragging himself through Serio’s videos and acting as a poster child for a man who swears he can heal the sick and injured just by loving them (or perhaps “recover” completely because in truth his issues did not involve permanent bone damage) at the worst, he’ll disappear from BJWT’s social media accounts, just as numerous other cubs have.
The only sure thing about Achilles, is that we’ll never really know the truth about him.
We’ll only know what Serio wants us to think.
I decided to come back and put an addendum on this post, as Serio just put up a new video on Instagram wherein “The Starving Union” as he dubs them, “visits” Achilles while he’s eating. Our problem with Serio’s feeding situations aside, this offered a prime comparison between Achilles, who seems so much larger than his portrayed age would suggest, and two cubs who are approximately 5-6 months old, as per their appearance and introduction on Instagram by Serio. Shortly after Khloe Kardashian’s prominent visit to BJWT (wherein she learned all about the plight of wild lions and tigers, by bottle feeding and lying on the floor with newborn cubs) back in mid October of 2015, several new cubs appeared, and one was named after her. That would make the tiger cub in this photo, Khloe, between 5-6 months old. Yet she and the Sonny, the lion cub are dwarfed by Achilles, who is actually, according to the presentation on Instagram, supposedly younger than the other two. More questions without any answers. This is one of the ways in which cubs are shuffled and disappear, at BJWT, because ages are a never given, and thus cubs seem to come and go without being able to track their growth or lifespan. Again, something that’s enabled by the lack of GFAS accreditation.