Mexico’s Harbinger of Stewardship, LIBERO Santuario Silvestre

In my last article, I discussed the disturbing trend within Mexico of “self styled” foundations which utilize social media, flashy photos, and carefully structured facades of scientific importance in order to create a false presence in circles of conservation. These groups, when one looks deeper than their social media personas and self-serving rhetoric, often have little real life experience in the fields in which they claim to be leading authorities. This is something that is usually, and to the detriment of the animals in their care, overlooked or misunderstood by devoted followers and by the public in general. It’s also a driving factor behind the actuality that these well known foundations are simply new age versions of the same old exploitation that’s existed in Mexico (as well as other places throughout the world) for thousands of years.

Part of what the I.C.A.R.U.S. Foundation does is to develop a global network of conservation organizations working together to protect and care for animals, through the creation of new international laws, as well as the enforcement of existing laws. A functioning network of institutes and sanctuaries who can rely on each other for support and the spread of awareness is vital in order to have a beneficial impact on animals and the environment worldwide. Thus, institutions which by design focus entirely on what they do, and the animals they possess and/or take in, and how popular they are, and which imply that they know more, and are better at handling situations than any other organization in existence, (some of which have been around for decades) do not, in fact, benefit animals or the environment beyond the limited scope of their own walls.

Only by working together, toward the same collective goals, rather than toward personal gain and popularity, can sanctuaries and foundations worldwide succeed in giving back at least a small portion of the planet to the animals which are being systematically eradicated from its surface. So what a foundation or sanctuary does outside the gaze of the public eye is just as important as what they do when people are watching. If you are willing to cut corners, endanger both humans and animals, threaten other groups, verbally abuse other humans, lie, and so on and so forth when everyone can witness it, then what are you willing to do to the voiceless animals behind the scenes when no one is watching?

One of my favorite quotes, which is extremely relevant to the current trends of shady foundations and exploitation of captive wild animals in Mexico, comes from Thomas Babington Macaulay.

“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.”

In this case, the character in question happens to be a woman.

Her name is Maria Garcia Dominguez, and she is the founder of LIBERO Santuario Silvestre.

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Truly the first of its kind, LIBERO is a foundation that, when distilled down to its most fundamental constructs, is a sanctuary in every sense of the term. LIBERO is a an institute that will always do what’s right for the animals, even if no other human is there to witness their actions.

Numerous social media-based groups–like Black Jaguar White Tiger–gratuitously tout the word “sanctuary” without understanding the profoundly hallowed etymology behind it, and without grasping the restraint and sacrifices required to embody that which it represents. In contrast to ubiquitous “social-media foundations”, you will not see LIBERO posting a plethora of vapid updates on their website, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook page multiple times a day, every day of the week. You will not see LIBERO showcasing photographs of cubs being cuddled and played with or celebrity guests bottle feeding them incorrectly, or of foundation workers running around being chased by captive big cats. In fact, you might not have even heard of LIBERO until reading about them in this article.

This is because LIBERO is focused on saving animals, caring for animals, protecting animals, studying them, and rehabilitating them.

They are dedicated to the animals not to social media attention and public popularity.

LIBERO does not participate in conservation in order to gain any sort of recognition. They’re not in it for any sort of admiration. They’re not even in it with a presumption of ever receiving simple gratitude.

LIBERO acts solely in the best interests of and on behalf of the animals they aid.

They have done so, in an individual manner, through the prior works of those who now comprise the human skeleton of the sanctuary since before they ever came together under the guidance of Maria and subsequently formed LIBERO. And they continue to work for, care for, protect, defend, heal, nurture, and exist entirely for the animals with whom they come into contact.

For LIBERO, social media is a tool for education and outreach, not a platform on which to build a celebrity status or cult following.

And that is exactly how a sanctuary should function.

I first discovered LIBERO through my research into sanctuaries within Mexico, or, more accurately, my research into the lack of sanctuaries and the lack of legal outlines and standards for sanctuaries within Mexico. After suffering more than one disappointment and false lead, I feared the worst when I first clicked on the link leading to the LIBERO website. You can check it out here. Maria has even made sure there’s an English option for those of us who aren’t fluent in Spanish. A margin of my wariness faded at just the mere sight of LIBERO’s homepage. Understated and elegant, lacking any pretension or declarations of being the best thing since sliced bread, or other ridiculous claims of intelligence so superior to anyone else that people who don’t agree with them are just too stupid to “get them” and their ideologies.

LIBERO’s site is easy to navigate (not every page is translated, but Google Chrome can do it for you) informative and detailed, captivating for those who already have an in-depth understanding of conservational issues, but also extremely accessible and educational for those who are just learning about conservation. That accessibility and assemblage of information is intentional. Education is something which Maria and her team believe is vital to changing the way in which residents of Mexico (and the world) perceive captive wild animals, and the environmental and conservational issues relating to them.

LIBERO subscribes to the principles of “One Health” which is a concept that dates from the mid 1800s and was far ahead of its time when it was first outlined and described by its creator, Rudolf Virchow. Of his own beliefs Virchow said:

“Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line–nor should there be. The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.”

I want to stress that the principle of One Health is not the belief that animals should be treated as if they were humans wearing fur, much like Eduardo Serio of Black Jaguar White Tiger treats his big cats, or, as he calls them, his “kids”. Followers of the One Health principles believe that animals are equal to humans in importance, emotional depth, and intelligence, but they do not support the anthropomorphizing of animals. Rather, One Health is the concept that the health of animals, the health of humans, and the viability of ecosystems are inextricably linked. This means keeping animals in their wild habitats, as active participants within the ecosystem, rather than living in peoples’ homes as pets.

Along with a sound system of principles, LIBERO has a dedicated team of professionals and specialists including doctors, engineers, lawyers, and more. You can read their individuate biographies here. Unlike the unseen, or vaguely referenced “experts” of other foundations, LIBERO’s team is forthright with their names, credentials and backgrounds. Likewise, LIBERO is dedicated honesty and transparency in all matters. You can research their financial information on their transparency page, here.

Maria herself has a career within conservation that spans more than a decade. She has worked with groups like The Humane Society International (HSI) World Animal Protection (WAP) and has collaborated on specific cases with Animal Defenders International (ADI) and In Defense of Animals (IDA), among other things. Up until 2013, Maria was a representative in Mexico for The Wild Animal Sanctuary, and was the national coordinators of rescues.

LIBERO is poised to be the harbinger of conservation stewardship in a country where captive wild or exotic animals can be more easily attained than clean drinking water. But unlike fallacious, media-driven institutes such as BJWT and the newly formed JITW, LIBERO does not yet have a fan base of millions to support them. Their refusal to exploit animals via attention grabbing videos, or for heartrending pleas for monetary support means that LIBERO cannot simply start slapping up “cutesy” incentives for people to give them money. They do not have the funds to offer “rewards” for donating to them, or, to start their own clothing line, or to offer, as with some of the foundations I’ve mentioned, “visitation rights” to those who donate larger sums of money. And as LIBERO embodies the very opposite of the exploitation so readily embraced by these well-known foundations, they cannot rely on any support from those institutes. Rather, they face competition from them, for if LIBERO is successful in changing the face of conservation, as they plan to, LIBERO will, in effect, make such exploitive foundations entirely obsolete.

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I have been in contact with Maria, and will be doing an interview article with her at a later date, and I look forward to writing other articles about LIBERO in the future.

As of the writing of this article, Maria was exploring the possibilities of seeking a stipend or other funding from the Mexican government. Supporting LIBERO would be an immense opportunity for current government factions like SEMARNAT and PROFEPA to both acknowledge the deep-seated problems occurring within their country, and to take a step toward the reform so desperately needed in order to begin assuaging the plight of captive wild animals all across Mexico. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, one of the greatest difficulties in seizing and/or rescuing captive wild animals from abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Mexico is the lack of appropriate institutes in which PROFEPA or SEMARNAT can then place animals that were removed from dysfunctional situations. LIBERO can, with monetary aid from government, expand and become the depository for confiscated animals, assuring that they will not be placed in yet another situation of exploitation, like the animals given over to BJWT.

To rescue an animal from one situation of exploitation, and place it directly into another situation of exploitation does not actually address the fact that the animal is being exploited, nor does it do anything to change the public mindset that having cubs run around a private home is somehow beneficial to the cubs and supportive of conservation. Maria and her staff understand that you cannot teach people that exploitation is damaging is by using exploitation as the basis for the lesson.

To this end, LIBERO intends to develop a facility where rescued animals will be housed within the freedom of individual habitats, liberated from human influence, and studied unobtrusively in order to better understand the complications for captive animal husbandry. Any animals which are deemed viable for rehabilitation and release will be appropriately cared for with the most minimal human involvement as possible, and their release will subsequently be orchestrated. Knowledge gained from such rehabilitations and releases will be funneled directly back into LIBERO and used within their educational outreach, furthering the cause of changing minds and perspectives.

Government funding could go a long way in getting LIBERO completely off the ground and flying. Now, more than ever before, Mexico needs a genuine sanctuary. Mexico’s animals need a genuine sanctuary. The question is, do SEMARNAT and PROFEPA–the very agencies charged with overseeing the welfare of wild, and captive wild animals within the country of Mexico–understand just how desperately those animals need a sanctuary like LIBERO? And even more importantly, will SEMARNAT and PROFEPA admit, by helping LIBERO to secure government aid, that it’s finally time for a change in how captive wild animals are perceived and treated in Mexico?

Only time will tell. But for now, I implore you. Follow the links within this article, or posted below, and discover Maria’s LIBERO Santuario Silvestre for yourself. Then share the information and encourage others to share and follow them. Mexico needs a true wild animal sanctuary, and LIBERO needs you to support them so that they can be the wild animal sanctuary that the animals of Mexico need.

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LIBERO Santuario Silvestre

LIBERO Instagram

LIBERO Facebook

LIBERO Twitter

Author: Artemis Grey

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The Troubling Trend In Paradise

Countless Americans see Mexico as the place to vacation and capture a few weeks of paradise. Even with the current political unrest, I’ve had multiple friends and family travel down to all inclusive resorts, and all of them have posted dozens of photos of white sand beaches and beautiful oceans. It seems perfect.

But looks can be deceiving. There’s a very troubling trend in paradise. Just as those all inclusive resorts are usually bordered by razor wire and tall fences in order to guarantee protection to the well-to-do tourists, who know nothing of the troubles which the majority of Mexico is faced with, the rest of the world only sees and understands a glimpse of the genuine problems with captive wild animals in Mexico.

Yes, most everyone has heard how the drug cartels own private collections of exotic animals, and if you’ve read my articles here on the I.C.A.R.U.S. Foundation’s blog, you know that Black Jaguar White Tiger is a foundation that has become a social media icon solely by showcasing captive animals being treated as pets (despite Serio’s incessant use of #notpets as a hashtag). But what virtually no one in America, and most others throughout the world seem to realize is that the cartels with their private zoos and menageries are nothing special in Mexico, just as BJWT is nothing new to the country. As we’ve pointed out before, there are no regulations on breeding big cats in Mexico. And owning one is as simple as filling out a form. Anyone who wants to, can collect animals into private collections. And they do. Some of them even “rent” cubs for as long as they’re small and then turn those cubs in to the breeders only to “rent” new, small cubs back out again.

The world in general sees BJWT as something “special” or “different” but the truth is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Mexico doing the exact same thing Serio does. Here are a few shots taken from public Instagram accounts involving private zoos or collections, “ranches” as they’re often called. Because these photos came from a civilian Instagramer and at least one contains a child, I’ve hidden the user’s information and the child’s face. It should be noted, however, that this is the person whom Eduardo Serio has tagged on Instagram under photos of the giraffes that he’s gone to visit on numerous occasions.

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Somehow, the hashtag #saverhinos is supposed to indicate that riding one like a horse is beneficial to preserving the species.

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Most often the people involved with these accounts state that they’re “preserving” the species, when, in fact, they’re just breeding them for their own private pleasure, and/or participating in the black market actively making money. A thriving market repeatedly overlooked and ignored by SEMARNAT and PROFEPA.

Unfortunately the trend of private ownership is not something new in Mexico. But here’s something that is. Since the rise of Black Jaguar White Tiger (and for anyone who is confused, or doesn’t realize it, BJWT has only existed for 3 years, and their current popularity is one that’s been bought and paid for by the exploitation of what began as three pets Eddie got for himself, and what’s turned into a rotating circus of babies) other established zoos have noticed how successful Serio has been with social media popularity. And many of them want in on the party.

Case in point: Jaguars Into The Wild.

JITW appeared on our Instagram radar roughly a couple of months ago. They describe themselves as a foundation devoted to rescue, research, rehabilitation and release. Emphasis on RELEASE, in all caps. The photos of their animals (jaguars predominantly) are gorgeous. We followed them with great excitement. Here, it seemed, was finally a group who was truly different.

Then, one of the I.C.A.R.U.S. team, while scrolling through the JITW Instagram feed, discovered a troubling photo of one of the founders out for a walk with two small jaguar cubs.

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It was supposedly an “old” photo of two now-adult cats. Nevertheless, it was concerning that a group who claimed to focus on rehabilitation was actively participating in hands-on interactions with cubs. Especially because they clearly listed the “mom didn’t feed them” excuse that literally everyone claims in regard to why cubs are being hand reared. So we started researching JITW, how they’d been founded, who the founders were, etc.

What we discovered was equal parts confusing and distressing. Instagram is a social media site, and like most social media sites, it intends to ephemeral. It’s not designed to plow through and is often difficult to backtrack as it wants to freeze. However, we soon discovered that JITW really doesn’t go back farther than a year, at best. The foundation literally appeared overnight. And diligent effort started producing more results. Most of them involving both the founders of JITW playing with big cats, training them to interact with humans, and to perform for a public audience. We also uncovered some clashing information about the foundation’s “star” jaguar, Andromeda, the “first to be raised without human intervention” whom they tout as the best hope for a wild release.

It seems that Andromeda is owned by a zoo. The Oaxaca Yaguar Xoo, to be exact. Here’s her birth announcement.

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But, here’s the same announcement, posted on the JITW Instagram feed, claiming that THEY own Andromeda.

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Awkward.

You would think that either one or the other would own the jaguar. But it gets more confusing. Having discovered that a zoo was claiming to own the same cat that JITW claimed to own, I started looking into the Yaguar zoo. It turns out that Yaguar loves to breed babies, and then take them from their mothers. Here’s a video (in Spanish) talking about how great they are, and how many experts they have. Experts with incredibly sticky fingers, it seems, as you’ll notice that every single one of them is holding with and playing with tiny cubs much too young to be away from their mothers in natural circumstances. I warn you, toward the end of the video, one cub is dangled in front of its mother, separated by iron bars, and the mother becomes quite desperate, injuring herself to the point of limping away from her attempts to reach her baby.

Yaguar Xoo also apparently also does a booming business with “interns” and “volunteers” who are allowed to handle and play with their animals.

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The translation for these photos is roughly “Do you like animals? Come volunteer at Yaguar Xoo!

In my research on JITW, I’d checked out the Instagram accounts of both founders, one, Víctor Rosas Cossío, literally just turned his private account into the JITW account. But his co-founder, Andrea, still has a separate account. And when I scrolled through, I found these photos.

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I was, understandably, confused. The co-founder of JITW started out as a volunteer playing with big cats at the Yaguar Xoo? It gets even more questionable. Before volunteering at the zoo and playing with lions and other big cats, it seems that Andrea had no visible association with any conservation or animal group at all. Rather, she was a fashion model. While modeling is a completely legitimate career, most successful models don’t just wake up one day and start founding wildlife organizations dedicated to research, rehabilitation and RELEASE, because, well, you have to know about those things in order to do them.

I turned to the other co-founder, Víctor, and that’s where I found the big cat expertise I’d been expecting. Only, I didn’t find it in the format I would have hoped to find it. (name) apparently worked for the Yaguar Xoo for a number of years, training their big cats to perform for the public.

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A running comparison of the social media accounts of JITW and the Oaxaca Xoo revealed what amounts to a shared presence. Pictures of the same animals on both accounts with both groups claiming to own the cats, the same photos show up in both locations, and most troubling of all, the same “enrichment area” where the Oaxaca animals are forced to perform for the public, are the same areas where JITW’s animals are shown getting “enrichment”. In addition, there is a public pool on the zoo grounds which seems to be the same pool that baby big cats are shown swimming in in JITW photos.

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What JITW is carefully NOT saying on their social media accounts is that the reason they appeared overnight is because they’re really just a new face and branch off of an existing zoo.

JITW presents itself as an entirely new foundation with an entirely new objective, but the truth is that they’re just a perfect example of how to use social media and sleight of hand to make yourself seem legitimate. By following the format created by BJWT (social media presence which is designed to lure in supporters by saying all the right things, and showing carefully orchestrated “awesome stuff” using professional photographers, and references to the future of Mexico’s wildlife) the Yaguar Xoo has, in essence, reinvented itself by creating a supposedly entirely separate entity. The problem is, the zoo shares animals with JITW, the zoo is still breeding those animals, and despite that an inside source told us that one animal had, they thought, been released, that supposed release was well over a decade ago, which would place both of JITW’s founders in their teenage years. Thus, that supposed release had nothing at all to do with JITW as it exists now.

By now, the parallels between JITW and BJWT were truly frightening:

Both foundations appeared overnight, established with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers in less time than it takes most foundations to get a roof over their head.

Both foundations have, and maintain, merchandise lines and/or retailers who are eager to host merchandise the proceeds from sales of which goes directly to the foundations, contacts and luxuries unheard of for most foundations.

Both foundations have private photographers on board, constantly promoting the foundations through art, and the animals, and helping to create merchandise.

Both foundations have already been guests at various exhibitions as “experts” in the field of conservation (despite that neither have actually had any impact at all on wild populations or conservation efforts) and despite that the founders of both foundations are, in fact, not experts on big cats, or are so young they simply can’t have the experience required to truly be an established expert.

Both foundations have been invited to participate in events where their animals and stories were highlighted, despite, again, the fact that they have not yet done anything to help wild populations and have, instead, participated in breeding captive populations.

Both foundations have stated that they are part of a “DNA bank” and mapping endeavor.

But the most damning evidence so far in regard to JITW being an imitation of BJWT, is the fact that, well, both groups are friends on social media. They tag each other on Instagram, the call each other brother, and they openly and publicly support each other.

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Now, JITW doesn’t have to aggressively denounce BJWT and their cub-petting extravaganzas. It’s a small world in Mexico, and professionalism is something I could accept. Formal responses and shows of gratitude would be completely expected. However, calling each other “brother” and thanking BJWT for sending “blue energy” over to heal Andromeda from the tragic and unforeseen Africanized bee attack (truly horrific) denotes a tad more affection than a strictly professional relationship. Never mind that there’s a huge overlap of BJWT Instagram followers and JITW followers, largely due to the link fostered by the two foundations.

Add the fact that JITW is run out of a zoo which participates in cubs petting, and for which one founder worked for years, and it’s too much for me not to form an opinion on the matter. Clearly, Mexico has a problem. Namely one which involves foundations cropping up out of the blue because they’re nothing more than existing groups renamed and revised, or owned by well connected people.

Creating conservation foundations in Mexico is the new “clothing line” of the rich and famous, and just as celebrities tout each others’ newest sweatshirt designs, it helps to be chummy with the other biggest foundation in the country. In JITW’s case, that’s BJWT. So while we’ve been told that at least one of the JITW founders doesn’t particularly like Eduardo Serio or what he does, they apparently like his connections enough to buddy up with him in order to get ahead.

Now, just in the last few days, JITW has announced that they’re working with Discovery Channel and Animal Planet on some kind of project. Frankly, Animal Planet has been dead to me for years. When you host shows like “Call of the Wildman” and “Redneck Zoo” any reputation you had pertaining to actual conservation and animal husbandry is out the window and run over by a semi. But I was sort of holding out hope that Discovery Channel might retain some standards. Alas, they obviously have no more devotion to research and actual conservation than their sister station. Really pieces of work, both stations are. Pieces of fecal matter, but whoppers of the kind, I’ll give them that. Leading the world in misinformation and pseudo-conservation, one fake show at a time.

But back to JITW. It’s unclear what sort of project is being filmed. Nothing has been said about a release date for Andromeda, and as she’s literally the only big cat at JITW that wasn’t hand reared and played with for her entire life, there’s no one else to release. But then, JITW has turned baiting cats for public entertainment into an art form they refer to as “enrichment”. Accredited sanctuaries offer their animals hidden food, or treats, special edible toys (like pumpkins in the fall) or Christmas trees to play with for enrichment. JITW brings their animals from small enclosures into one large one, and then proceed to dangle a piñata full of yummy stuff over a pool of water. If kitty wants the yum yums, kitty’s got to jump and hot dog through the air like an Olympic freestyle skier in order to get them. In front of a crowd of paying guests, of course. So perhaps Discover Channel and Animal Planet are working on a show about flying big cats? Who knows.

There’s no denying that the cats of JITW are beautiful to look at, just as it’s impossible to deny that the cubs, of BJWT are utterly adorable. The problem is, that while the animals of both foundations generate an onslaught of social media, and other media attention, the wild animals continue to suffer without notice. And while private ownership of exotic animals in Mexico is on par with that of the United Arab Emirates, and zoos which allow petting and handling abound, there remains no genuine sanctuary for animals who need to be rescued and then left alone in peace, rather than being exploited for the sake of money.

Or is there a sanctuary out there in Mexico which actually does care about the animal, first, foremost and always?

Find the answer in my next article, where I explore the only sanctuary in the country of Mexico which fits the true definition of the word.

F.A.R.T.S. Aren’t the Only Thing That Stink…

Sorry for the click-bait title, but it needed to be done.

After our recent article, and the usual accompanying “hysterism” by BJWT in response to it, we noticed a peculiar reaction by all the Eddieites. They went to another organization’s page and proceeded to scream and fuss, name call and make asshats of themselves in general. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to avoid all the trolls, but really? Having an I.C.A.R.U.S. article raise the dust, and then watch another conservation group get all the hate mongering was, well, awkward.

Then folks started contacting us and asking if we had any comment on our “relationship” with BCR. They attached links to their questions, and when we saw where those links went, it all suddenly started to make sense.

Big Cat Rescue Watch is a website run by Juan Garcia* who is devoted single-mindedly to doing anything and everything to destroy Big Cat Rescue’s reputation. Apparently Juan posted an article months ago “rebutting” one of our articles. And when I say “rebutting” I’m being generous. Basically, Juan spends the entire article trash talking BCR, while defending BJWT (no surprise, the website is designed solely to defend BJWT while trashing BCR) and lying about the photos. But it’s the bottom of the article where he really shows that he’s willing to do anything to defend BJWT.

In a screenshot of an unknown page, involving an unknown person (no names or proof that those involved have anything to do with BCR) Juan shows someone–who states that they don’t even work at BCR–saying that “the crew supports them” in response to several questions wherein Juan claims that Big Cat Rescue is somehow responsible for the I.C.A.R.U.S. article.

Aside from the fact that Juan doesn’t just objectively ask a question, but rather goes into the discussion with his mind made up and directly  asserts from the beginning that BCR is in charge of the article, and despite that the person clearly says “No, BCR wouldn’t have anything to do with it” Juan continues to assert that BCR is in charge of the articles produced by I.C.A.R.U.S. stating that “Maybe Big Cat Rescue has someone writing for them”. It’s not clear why he even included his “questions” in his article when he simply ignored the answer of “NO” and reiterated that BCR does, in fact, have someone writing articles for them under the name of I.C.A.R.U.S.

Despite Juan Garcia’s adorable “disclosure” at the bottom of his blog, his accusations that I.C.A.R.U.S.’s staff writer is “working for BCR” qualifies as libel, because our staff writer has absolutely no associating with BCR, and has never had any association with BCR. By attempting to damage her reputation by connecting her with another unrelated organization, Juan is libeling her.

But here’s the thing, BCRWatch website is nothing more than an illegitimate “shell” site, baseless and without merit. Basically, it’s nothing but a hub for those who support cub petting and places who promote it, where they can attempt to discredit legitimate, accredited sanctuaries and those who are striving to stop the practice of captive exotic animal exploitation.

Juan Garcia calls anyone who takes a stand against cub petting and exploitation a F.A.R.T. and has this, among other similar images, on his site.

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It’s the sort of “clever” humor that Serio of BJWT likes to think he possesses. Not that BCRWatch is paid for by BJWT, or anything. At least, not that we know of. Though, it is sort of curious that BCRWatch reposted his “rebuttal” article, and pinned it to the top of his page at the exact same time that “Papa Bear” was pitching his own tantrum on his live feed about destroying us. I mean, interesting coincidence, you know? Or maybe not a coincidence at all.

 

* We have no idea if Juan Garcia is this guy’s actual name, but it’s what he goes by on social media.

I thought that I’d copy and paste Juan’s disclaimer here. He’s super careful to post it under his rhetoric, I mean, articles, since his site is full of lies, I suppose, in hopes to avoid trouble from lying.

I hold no claims of ownership to the referenced articles, screenshots, or photos that are public information online. All photo references and commentary articles have been carefully researched, reported, and solely intended for criticism, comment, and nonprofit educational purpose to inform the public. Subjects not referenced with facts should be considered opinion. Testimonies from sources/interviews, comments, criticism, and articles are released without malice (i.e., without intent to harm) to any parties and intended solely for educational purposes. If any content herein can be proven to be untrue, incorrect, or illegal it will be corrected or deleted immediately, The opinions and beliefs of the contributors to this website and those of it’s administration are the result of many hours of intensive research and are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Opinions stated here are my own. The information is true to the best of my research and knowledge.

Cubs Cubs Everywhere, And With Them Oh The Funds We’ll Snare

There have been some exciting things going on over at Black Jaguar White Tiger. Exciting, that is, if you’re a BJWT fan/follower, or, as I’ve come to refer to them, an “Eddieite”.

Eddieite
Ed-ee-ite
One utterly devoted to the preachings of Eduardo Serio; incapable of seeing the fact that BJWT has contributed nothing to the conservation of big cats but motherless cubs, a plethora of hand reared animals, and numerous videos of its founder and his “special guests” playing with his own big cats. Eddieites react violently to any question posed against their adored leader, even in the face of scientific facts, and will often degenerate into sputtering curses and antiquated invocations of plagues, and poxes on naysayers of the “Blue Energy” religion of the BJWT Nation: They’re an Eddieite, they’ll believe anything Eddie says, unfailingly and without question. Synonyms: BJWT follower, celebrity conservationist, pseudo-conservationist, willfully ignorant lover of exploitive animal videos and pictures.
Origin: 2013-2016; Observations of an active animal cult.

But enough of the modern slang dictionary. We have more important things to discuss.

It’s Cub Season at Black Jaguar White Tiger!

Thus far we’re up to five “mystery boxes” the first four of which have contained one or more big cat cubs. In a June 25th “Pillow Talk” Serio stated that box 5 contained “monkey and a (unintelligible)” but we did not actually see these animals so I have no idea if those were the species, or names, or what. Then in another “Pillow Talk” on June 29th, we got this 2-frame glimpse into an otherwise ignored box in the “cub room”.

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All the other cubs were present and accounted for, but that’s no monkey lying there. The Eddieites following the feed certainly seemed to think it wasn’t a monkey, and offered up comments like:

“I saw box #5… its something black”
“Ohhhhhh I saw the black jag”
“There’s something black in box #5”
“What was black in the box?!?!”
“Saw something black, what did we see?”
“#isawnothingblack”
“Baby black jag????”
“A baby black jaguar (heart emogis)”

Excitement excitement! But we’ll just have to live off the thrill of not knowing, until Serio offers an official reveal.

There has been a small setback in the annual unveiling of Cubtopia, as one cub is already dead. (pesky inbreeding!) But it’s okay. Serio made up for the one cub dying by dubbing the surviving cubs the “Shakira Pride” after another jaguar who recently died (in a tragic Africanized bee attack) at Jaguars Into The Wild. So we’re good. Blue Energy all around, and no one’s getting dragged down emotionally over that little dead guy. Onward and upward!

For anyone who’s “sarcasm deaf” I’m dripping sarcasm at this point. It’s hard not to with daily videos of tiny, screeching big cat cubs trapped in cardboard boxes.

If you’re a regular reader of I.C.A.R.U.S. articles, you’ll recall that in other articles I’ve mentioned the fact that BJWT has a cycle as predictable as the tides of the ocean. A group of cubs arrive at BJWT with variations of the same three or four stories: Mom rejected them. The Mexican government confiscated them. Serio “saved” them from a “bad home”. Or they were taken from a zoo or circus. Recently, Serio has also started saying he’s “rescuing” cubs from canned hunting, something very peculiar, as there are an extremely low number of “trophies” exported from Mexico every year. But we’ll come back to that canned hunting thing later.

For now, the important thing to remember, is that every time a “pride” gets too big, they sort of just fade into the background, and new babies arrive, most of them so young that umbilical stumps are still raw. They are subsequently divided and put together in new “prides” and plastered all over social media for several months. Just in this year, we’ve had the Steve Jobs Pride, the Starving Union, Gustavo’s Pride, Tommy’s Pride, and most recently Shakira’s Pride.

In the three years since BJWT was founded, there have been three distinct sets of prides, some of which are now full blown adults, like The Big Pride, others which are 3/4 grown, like Cheyenne and the Super Pride, others which are half grown, like Lewis and Nicole, and then we’ve got the new babies. In all, tens of animals which all started out has bottle babies or young animals which were specifically hand reared.

Full disclosure, I might have left out some prides, and I might have accidentally named one pride by two names. It’s impossible to track each group when names are sometimes changed and there are no firm records.

Should any outsider ask where these cubs come from, Eddieites will immediately leap to the defense, insisting that Serio “rescues” the cubs and brings them to his “sanctuary” from places where they aren’t wanted like zoos and circuses, often while telling them to do “a little research” before asking stupid questions or saying stupid things. Those of us with questions find this instruction particularly amusing when there is no documentation to research, and those who ask questions are systematically blocked and called haters, something for which Serio is inordinately proud:

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The “rescue” proclamations of Eddieites are followed by avid claims that the cubs can never be released into the wild “because they were born in captivity” so Serio’s giving them the best life possible at his “sanctuary”. Or, in some cases, supporters claim that eventually BJWT will “repopulate the world” with their cats (despite that they supposedly don’t breed them).

As usual there are potholes in these claims that are large enough to blow the tires on a tractor trailer rig.

  1. Zoos, in particular, value cubs more than they do adults, it’s laughable to think that the dozens of cubs that have appeared at BJWT over the last three years were all cast out by their entertainment owners, when those same groups might well have made tens of thousands of dollars off of the cubs, had they retained them. The only way they’d let go of the cubs is if the government seized them.
  2. Felid wild reintroduction is in its infancy. There have been a very few genuine success stories. However, for there to be any hope of pursuing reintroduction, the cubs must be raised with as little human contact as possible and raised in an environment that properly mimics their natural habitat. If you keep them in cardboard boxes in your closet, handle them constantly, and consistently reinforce a personal and intimate relationship with humans, then you guarantee that they can never be reintroduced into the wild.
  3. According to I.C.A.R.U.S. contacts who are familiar with laws south of the border, there is no registry for big cat sanctuaries in Mexico. There aren’t even any outlines for sanctuaries in that country. The only two ways in which you can register the ownership of exotic big cats, is as either a zoo, or a private collection.

What does all of this mean?

It means that while Serio claims to be a sanctuary and obsessively refers to BJWT as a sanctuary (though this is a recent development that has occurred in the past months, after articles criticizing BJWT began to appear. Before that, he called BJWT a “foundation”) it’s only a word in the name of his registered zoo. Serio stomps around threatening to sue people who suggest BJWT is not an accredited sanctuary, and he uses the term “sanctuary” gratuitously in an effort to garner sympathy and legitimize the foundation.

But the title listed on zoo registration papers does not actually make BJWT an accredited sanctuary. It just means that BJWT is a zoo registered with the word “sanctuary” in its name. This is where commercialism comes in. You can name a company anything you want, but you can’t register it as an institute which is not recognized by the government with which you’re registering it.

BJWT literally cannot be a registered sanctuary under Mexican law, because there are no outlines, bylaws, or terminology to define and regulate sanctuaries within the existing Mexican environmental laws. There is, according to the Mexican government itself, no existing sanctuaries for exotic animals in the country. There are only PIMVS institutes or privately owned collections.

This is one reason that Mexico desperately needs to update, refurbish, and create laws that will clearly define the difference between a zoo, a private collection, and a sanctuary. Serio adamantly (as evidenced by recent legal attacks) defends BJWT as a “sanctuary” insisting that he’s met all the requirements outlined in order for it to be so. The problem is, he’s leaving out the fact that Mexico doesn’t actually have guidelines for sanctuaries for him to meet. They only have guidelines for zoos and private collections. And we don’t doubt that BJWT meets all the standards required of it by Mexican law in order to retain it’s operating permit as a PIMVS. That doesn’t mean it qualifies as a sanctuary as defined by GFAS.

On BJWT’s own FAQ page:

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Nowhere does it say “YES we are are registered sanctuary” because they ARE NOT a registered sanctuary, they are a registered zoo.

But back to the cubs and to the trillion dollar question: Where do all of these babies come from?

We know that at least several in “Shakira’s Pride” actually came from a zoo bought and owned by one of Serio’s friends, because Serio himself has said it on social media sites. That’s after he spun a tale about how he “didn’t have space to save the moms from the zoo, so he took the cubs to save them” leading the public to believe that it was a case of saving the animals from imminent death. Then he later admitted that his friend had bought the zoo, and all of its animals, which means that there was no need to remove those cubs from their mothers.

But moving on. That only accounts for a few of the new cubs, and the others remain a mystery, just like most of the cubs BJWT hosts. He says that the Mexican government confiscates them and gives them to BJWT, so it’s likely that some come from the government. We know that Mexico’s current system is grossly overburdened with animals, and there’s nowhere to put ones that are seized, so BJWT being the biggest name around, it’s perfectly likely they get the majority of cubs that are seized. And do at least some of them come from situations of abuse? More than likely, considering how many have arrived. But we also have videos wherein Serio admits that some of the cubs come from “private zoos” and “important people” who apparently own scads of big cats. It also bears pointing out that in the early days Serio referred to the cubs as “being adopted” but slowly began saying “rescued” later on.

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The fact that Serio recently began claiming that he was saving cubs from the canned hunting industry struck those of us who keep tabs on such things as very odd, considering the low numbers of trophies exported from Mexico, so I decided to dig a little. What I discovered was an underbelly of the exotic animal trade unlike anything I’ve experienced so far. As we know from articles like this one that owning big cats is considered a grand pastime for drug lords and wealthy individuals with too much time on their hands. And the very government groups like PROFEPA whom Serio proudly posts photos of himself buddying up to

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regularly turn a blind eye to all of this trafficking, so it makes one wonder how “valid” their regulation of groups like BJWT can be. But we know about this corruption, it’s documented regularly.

What I didn’t know, until very recently, is that the breeders who supply these sellers and private owners with animals often also run what amounts to Rent-A-Cub programs. For a one time fee, someone can “adopt” a cub, and take it home. Once the cub gets too big to handle, or starts causing problems, they can then bring the cubs back to the breeder, and return them in exchange for much younger and smaller cubs, and start all over again. Really, it’s the perfect scheme. You get all the cuteness, and none of the issues.

Now, Eddieites will vehemently defend BJWT and Serio, insisting that all of his “Angels” are still at BJWT, but we have very little proof of that, at least by way of social media. The cats might all be there in cages, or maybe they’re not. We see cubs, and then we don’t see them until they’ve grown considerably, so it’s often impossible to recognize them even if they’re shown again later. We just don’t know. We do know, however, that to start with, Serio always referred to cubs as having “been adopted” from people, often people his own cousin had contact with.

The same cousin who seemed to be the one selling the first cat Serio ever “adopted”.

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Of course, the story of Cielo has changed numerous times, each evolution making Serio’s procurement of her more and more heroic. This is one of the many issues with the lack of transparency associated with BJWT. In addition to the fact that the origins of the cubs is never properly and objectively documented, we have their use by Serio as a constant draw for support. Despite his own haughty (and often childishly tantrum-like) attacks on those who claim that he exploits his animals for the purpose of making money, he continues to put the animals front and center and use their likeness to sell BJWT merchandise.

Eddieites angrily defend Serio’s use of his cats for “advertising” claiming that BJWT needs funds in order to survive. Some even point out the need to fundraise so that “Stage 3” can be built. Never mind that Serio has been claiming that “Stage 3” is going to be completed “in a year” for the last three years.

Apparently, no Eddieites have ever been taught how to use a calculator, and think independently.

Here’s a little breakdown of things that BJWT followers clearly haven’t considered. Everything is in USD, as that’s how prices are listed on Boycott Circus.

Two weeks ago, BJWT posted new ball caps on their Instagram page (they were pretty fly, we admit) There are seven styles. Within two hours, at least one style was completely sold out. Now, we don’t know precisely how many hats BJWT had in stock, but let’s presume they started with 1,000. After all, they’ve got over 5 million followers on Instagram, it’s safe to think they’d stock new products in increments of at least 1,000 for something that only comes in one size like a hat.

The hats sell for $33.00-$36.00. So going with the less expensive hat, and presuming they had at least 1k to start, BJWT made $33,000 dollars free and clear in just two hours.

But paying for all of the “Angels” is expensive! Supporters say.

Okay, that’s true.

If just 50,000 supporters (out of 5.4 million) donate $100 dollars over the course of 1 year, BJWT makes $5,000,000.00

If just 10,000 (out of 5.4 million) supporters buy 1 $68.00 sweatshirt, BJWT makes $680,000.00

If just 100,000 out of 5.4 million) buy 1 $25.00 T-shirt, BJWT makes $2,500,000.00

If every Instagram follower buys just 1 T-shirt over the course of 1 year, BJWT makes $135,000,000.00

Ignoring that last number, and just going off the others, we’re up to $8,213,000.00 in one year.

Basic food, medical, maintenance costs for one big cat averages about $8,000 a year. Multiply that by 220, and you’re looking at $1,760,000.00 (and that’s paying for the food, while Serio has posted on Instagram boasting about how he gets the best deals from the biggest meat processors in Mexico) which is, admittedly, a lot of money.

But out of our theoretical merchandise money we’ve still got $6,453,000.00 leftover.

Then there’s staff and expenditures, etc. The fact that they’re building Stage 2B, 3B, etc. or what have you. But if, donations are coming in, it shouldn’t be a problem. Again, we don’t know because there’s no running tab posted anywhere.

Remember, I’m just throwing numbers around. I’m saying that it’s possible to make this much on merchandise and donations. I mean, come on, with 5.4 million followers, you just need them to donate $1.00 a year in order to make $5.4 million dollars. What I’ve listed here is just one possible donation, and just THREE products out of the available 69 products on BJWT’s swag site, which is devoted solely to selling products for them. And 100% of the proceeds rendered from sales on Boycott Circus go to BJWT.

And none of this includes any funding BJWT might receive from the government for taking animals if he has, as he’s said he has. It doesn’t include any donations, aside from the one reference.

And those donations do occur far more often that Eddieites seem to think. For example, last year, Hublot held a benefit brunch for BJWT that cost people between $500.00 and $1000.000 just to walk in the door.

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BJWT made $200,000.00 during the event.

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Then Ronda Rousey, whom Serio still talks about, made $23,000.00 for them by auctioning off items online.

With Eddie just posing with a new $4,000.00 “gift” from Hublot founder a few weeks ago, it’s safe to assume that the majority of the companies who donate to BJWT do so more than once. You can’t post photos of all of these supporters, and not have people expect them to be, well, supporting you. But without any financial transparency, the public has no way of knowing where any of that money goes. Eddieites presume–and insist–that it goes to the cats, and a portion of it surely does. But where does the rest go?

We don’t know. Not entirely.

But at least some of the funds raised by BJWT’s considerable efforts at selling merchandise and kickbacks from all the social media advertising (remember, people get paid for social media, too) seem to go to some pretty strange places. Like animal cloning companies who work with Korean firms to clone dead pets.

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PerPETuate’s founder, Ron Gillespie says that cloning will be the future of “building” the perfect animal, and that instead of accepting the death of an animal as part of the cycle of life, he can “offer hope” to people by using science to “bring these animals back”. It does put Serio’s mantra of “Karmis Forever” into a whole new light. Never mind the fact that in this blurb, Karma is described as a pure African lion, and this version of Cielo’s story has Serio saving her from certain death after her mother perished in childbirth, none of which has ever been mentioned elsewhere.

But back to the mind boggling issue of BJWT having stored Karma’s DNA for cloning. The cloning process is not cheap. Cloning averages around $100,000.00. And that’s after the preliminary costs of having the DNA stored and cultured, and the annual costs of keeping it banked. It should also be noted that on the website, it says that the best time to harvest cells for banking is while the animal is alive and healthy, as harvesting after death would allow for cell deterioration. So that suggests that at least a little planning went into this.

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Now, we have no way of knowing how any of this cockamamie stuff was paid for, because Serio has never mentioned the fact that he ever did it at all. For a guy who takes his Facebook live feeds to the bathroom with him when he has to pee, it seems a little shocking that he’d choose not to let his adoring fans know that “Hey, Karmis Forever is legit literal, we can bring her back whenever we want to.”

But in complete and utter fairness, maybe Serio paid for all of this out of pocket just because he loved Karma. I mean, he is pretty fast to say that he’s got “unlimited money” with which to sue people, and he claims to pay for most of the foundation himself, despite all of those merch sales and donations from supporters. It’s totally possible. Stranger things have happened, I mean. Okay, saving DNA to clone an inbred lion you “rescued” from a crappy breeder is pretty strange. But Serio could have paid for it without using BJWT donations, is all I’m saying.

And frankly, here’s something incredibly important to note, which I’m sure will go entirely unregistered by Eddieites, in favor of hating us for the article in general, but which I’m going to say anyhow.

WE DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH BJWT MAKING MILLIONS A YEAR.

What we have a problem with, is a nonprofit 501(c)3 bringing in large amounts of undocumented donations and income, when by United States 501(c)3 regulations, nonprofits must document and make public EVERY donation they receive, as well as where that money is spent (not just photos of something with the word “fiscal” in it, but no breakdown of money coming in and going out) Now, BJWT’s 501(c)3 document (so angrily posted by Serio on social media) is dated January 18th of 2016, so a full year hasn’t passed yet, and I’m not clear on precisely when they need to post their financials. Different companies end and begin their fiscal year at different times. It’s possible that BJWT is not required to post their financials until the end of this year. Which is fine, as long as they’re complying with the law.

However, Serio very publicly attacked and led a campaign against a conservation writer (whose name I will not post here because she has no personal stake in this article) who stated in a January 2nd 2016 article that BJWT was not a registered 501(c)3 company. Serio called this writer a liar, stated that he would sue her, and through various threats eventually forced her to remove the article in question.

But here’s the thing, the article stating that BJWT was not a 501(c)3 company predates the officiation of BJWT as a 501(c)3 by more than two months.

So the writer was correct, and BJWT was not a 501k company at the time of the article’s publication. The 501(c)3 document posted after the fact by Serio is dated as having been received for consideration on January 18, 2016, two weeks after the article was published. And it took another two months for BJWT to officially receive 501(c)3 status. On their website, BJWT claims to be a 501(c)3 since January 11th, 2016, which doesn’t coincide with stamp clearly visible on the documents posted on Instagram. However, even being lenient, and going with the 11th as the official recognition of their status, it still means that at the time that the article in question was published, BJWT was not yet a recognized 501(c)3 company. And furthermore, the author couldn’t have possible known that BJWT was even in the process of attaining a 501(c)3 status.

Companies change and evolve. That’s fine. What’s true about a foundation one month, might not be true the next month. But the fact that BJWT is now a 501(c)3 company does not make it acceptable for Serio to have threatened and publicly attacked someone who correctly stated that BJWT was not yet a 501(c)3 company at the time that she wrote an article about them.

Serio’s hyper aggressive actions toward anyone who questions him raise serious questions about his honesty in regard to the running of the foundation. He uses his followers as an army of rage, unleashing them on anyone who questions BJWT, and often using violent outbursts and threats as a distraction to allow him leeway and time in which to alter either BJWT’s website (so he can later claim people are lying about BJWT, as was the case when BJWT had personal visits listed in exchange for monetary donations) or change the way in which something is referred to. He also has a history of lying about what’s been said about BJWT, misquoting whomever it was that said, or suggested, something he didn’t approve of, and instead of gathering information independently, Eddieites simply repeat whatever Serio says, and then proceed with attacking whomever has questioned him. It’s all a carefully orchestrated system of misinformation.

Which leaves all of us wondering where the cubs come from, where the money goes, and if we’ll ever get an answer that’s not shrouded in hateful vitriol, rageful threats and condemnation for having asked questions in the first place.

* Addendum. 5 hours after this article was published, Serio has revealed “Box 6” which holds yet another tiny lion cub.