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WILDCAT CHAT 2008 ~ 2013


WildCat Chat July 2008 to October 2013 Lisa A. Salamat, Esq. Chief Executive Officer WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society



WildCat Chat

Dear Wildcat Friends: Thank you for seeking out WildCat Chat over the past eight years. In reading through my last eighteen entries, I am not surprised that the compilation of WildCat Chats in this publication are just as relevant today as when I first began writing them in 2008. Though in recent months positive changes in terms of wildcat protections culturally and legally are beginning to take place, much more work remains to be done. The first WildCat Chat I wrote dealt with the issues on hunting Bobcats and Canada Lynx for the fur trade. I am thankful that despite efforts by the U.S. to downgrade Bobcats from CITES Appendix II to Appendix III which would allow for an increase in hunting and trade in their fur was not passed during the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP15) in 2010. Though the U.S. argued that precautions would be taken with respect to correctly identifying Bobcat furs against other wildcats, the Parties were not convinced and argued that these procedures are not fool proof and some wildcats listed on Appendix I and Appendix II could pass for Bobcat fur thus opening up the cat fur trade all over again. All wildcats are listed on CITES Appendix I or II in part due to the over exploitation of trade in wildcat furs that occurred in the 1960s through the early 1980s—so much so that without these trade restrictions many wildcats would now be extinct in the wild. WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society completed Project Redesign earlier this month with a brand new look and a powerful sophisticated website that we trust will capture a wider audience and encourage participation in wildcat advocacy and our work, programs and services. The transition for me is bittersweet as we retired our stately lion and the old sepia tone safari look to a brighter and bolder presentation. Our dedication and devotion to our mission, “to protect and defend all native and non-native wildcats ~ ensuring a wild future for all wildcats,” remains the same. In keeping with our brand new look, WildCat Chat, my blog on wildcat issues, will continue in a new and timely format on our website as a separate section on our Wildcat News Brief & Chat page. WildCat Chat has its own brand new look but the tone and feel of my opinions on wildcat issues will never change: they evoke conviction, emotion, a bit of humor, and always a heaping spoonful of common sense. I personally invite you to engage with me in conversations on wildcat issues. Your comments and questions are always welcome.


WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society ~ January 2016


WildCat Chat

For All Wildcats & Wildcat Friends


WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society ~ January 2016



July 2008

Dear Wildcat Friends: This first entry in WildCat Chat is dedicated to the bobcats, lynx, and countless other wildcats who have and will sacrifice their lives for the fur trade. Bobcats and Canada lynx are among the few wildcats that are indigenous to the U.S. and are among the most heavily exported to supply the commercial fur trade. In 1975, CITES banned the trade of cat skins by listing leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards, clouded leopards, tigers, jaguars, ocelots, and margays on Appendix I and in 1977, the remaining cats were listed on Appendix II. The demand for cat fur though did not decrease. To meet the demand, the “industry� turned to the smaller spotted cats including bobcats and Canada lynx. The number of bobcats and Canada lynx skins legally exported for commercial trade between 1980 and 2006 are astronomical. The U.S. exported 876,334 bobcat skins, not including, an additional export of 5,149 skins reported in kg (11,351 lb) and 89,963Canada lynx skins with an additional 3,105 skins reported in kg (6,845 lb) (CITES Trade Database). The high demand for Canada lynx is more than likely the primary cause of the sharp decline of Canada lynx populations in the U.S. In 2000, the U.S. listed the Canada lynx as a threatened species. Hunting and trapping of Canada lynx is now prohibited in the U.S. with the exception of Alaska. Bobcats, however, have a different story. Bobcats have a larger habitat range than the Canada lynx and are not dependent on the snowshoe hare as its primary prey. Bobcat populations have remained steady but due to the lack of reliable population statistics, increasing loss of habitat, and persecution, researchers believe that bobcat populations are declining and will continue to decline in the future. In 2007, the U.S. submitted a proposal to CITES to delist the bobcat from Appendix II which would have resulted in the removal of trade restrictions. Thankfully, the proposal was rejected for several reasons; most notably, being the difficulty in distinguishing the differences between a bobcat skin and the skins of all lynx species and other small spotted cats that are still being illegally traded.

In the U.S., hunting and trapping of bobcats is regulated by the wildlife or natural resources agencies of each state. Currently, there are 38 states that permit bobcats to be hunted/trapped. (The states that prohibit this practice is due to either very small bobcat populations or bobcats have been extirpated. These states list the bobcat as a protected fur bearer or game animal.) The individual states determine the means, methods, geographic regions, and number of bobcats that may be hunted/trapped in a given season. However, because bobcats are elusive and nocturnal, most are caught by using box traps, steel jawgripping body or leg hold traps, and cable snare traps. Over a period of time from being “trapped and wounded,” the bobcat dies due to starvation. A “trap” does not discriminate–it does not know the bobcat’s gender or whether the bobcat caught has kittens nearby not old enough to be without their mother and thus will also die. Nor do these traps discriminate between species. Thus, where bobcats and Canada lynx share geographic regions, Canada lynx fall victim to these traps. The states which permit bobcat hunting/trapping are, required under federal regulations, to ensure Canada lynx are not caught, injured or killed. Most states provide “educational materials” to hunters on the differences between bobcats and Canada lynx and require hunters to report any “accidental takings.” These procedures are necessary to protect the Canada lynx but some states have neglected their duty. Just in the last year, both Maine and Minnesota were challenged in federal court for their failures. Both states were found in violation of the Endangered Species Act and were directed by the courts to promptly take all actions necessary to ensure no further takings of Canada lynx occurs. Most states do limit the number of bobcats killed in a given season based on guesstimated total populations, but provide little or no accounts on how many kittens were killed, the remaining number of mature breeding females, or provide an accurate analysis of total populations that remain in a particular geographic region. Equally alarming though is that both the bobcat and Canada lynx are permitted to be captive-bred in the U.S. solely to furnish the commercial fur trade. Captive breeding of animals that are listed as endangered or threatened should only be permitted for legitimate conservation purposes and not for commercial trade of any kind. Meeting the demand of the commercial fur industry has absolutely nothing to do with conservation of the species. And yet, when the U.S. listed the Canada lynx as a threatened species, special rule 4(d) allows U.S. Fish and Wildlife to issue CITES export permits for captive-bred Canada lynx and captivebred Canada lynx skins to be exported. Contrary to hunting, trapping, and fur farm publications, fur or skin is not a “natural renewable resource” nor is the term “harvesting” an accurate description for killing. There is no cat skin seed that is planted in soil, watered and nurtured that yields a fur field for autumn harvest. Bobcats reach reproductive maturity at two years of age. Breeding takes place between February and June. The gestation period is between 50 to 62 days and the average litter size is one to three kittens. Kittens are nursed until they are 12 weeks old. They accompany their mother on hunts at around the age of five months. Young bobcats stay with

their mother until they are nine months old but others stay until they are two years old. If you compare the breeding season, gestation period, and the time to raise kittens with open hunting seasons, there must be many kittens that perish as a result of females being killed by hunting/trapping. One state notes in their “literature” that the “economic value of a bobcat pelt varies depending on demand, fur thickness, color, number and brightness of spots, and pelt size. In 2000-2006 bobcat hunters and trappers have received $25.00 to $70.00 per pelt, depending on size, color, fur thickness and spottiness.” Seems hardly worth the effort coupled with the fact that the “industry” notes that bobcat fur does not wear well. Why the demand then? Why do we continue to accept this practice? While researching the states hunting and trapping regulations and taking into account the number of bobcats being killed for sport, trophies, and the commercial trade, my curiosity got the better of me. I ran a Google search for “bobcat pelt” and was appalled by the number of hits returned that also included Canada lynx pelts! I am sad to report that within a week, I had, in my possession, a bobcat pelt complete with its facial mask, ears, paw pads, claws, and tail–it looks like a deflated cat. I was heartbroken. What a waste of what was a beautiful bobcat. I wonder why this particular bobcat was sold on an internet auction. Did it not make the grade? the cut? The bobcat pelt will be appearing in WCCLAS educational programs to demonstrate what this practice or tradition is really all about and in doing so find some comfort in knowing that he or she did not sacrifice its life needlessly. Wildcats cannot live without their fur and skin. Their fur and skin is a viable organ just like ours. It doesn’t wear well because we are not supposed to wear it– they are–they need it for protection just like we need our skin for protection. We cannot live without our skin either so it is not “a natural renewable resource” it does not grow back after these cats are skinned–these cats must die and truly for what? There are alternatives and this practice or tradition is not “necessary” in order for us to live. Let’s start a new practice—a new tradition—one that does not include acceptance of killing wildcats for their skin and fur and turn our attention and support to their future survival. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at Signing off,


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dear Wildcat Friends: In December 2003, President Bush signed into law, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA). The CWSA amended the Lacey Act by making it illegal to move live big cats across state lines or U.S. borders. Protected cats include: lions, tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, all subspecies, and hybrids. The CWSA prohibits anyone from importing or exporting protected cats, selling or buying them through interstate commerce, transporting them across state lines and U.S. borders, and receiving or acquiring them if moved from one state to another. The law applies to all individuals of these species of cats regardless of when they were acquired and to all persons or entities except those identified as exempt. The corresponding federal regulation, implemented by the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) was finalized and published in the Federal Register on September 17, 2007! However, the original amendment was not written into the Lacey Act such that it would allow FWS to enforce the law! A new technical amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives on January 3, 2008; reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on March 31, 2008; passed the House, received by the Senate, and referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on April 1, 2008. And now it sits—pending the review and approval of the Senate. If and when it is passed in the Senate, it will then need to go through the federal regulation process. It took almost four years for the CWSA to complete the regulation process. “We” can only hope that the technical amendment needed to enforce CWSA does not take another four years! Our legal and legislative system is a powerful tool but it is just one of the means available to help combat the exploitation of wildcats. There is, however, another system—one that is just as powerful as any court or law of the land—and that is simply us! We must shift our social and cultural acceptance of certain practices such as private ownership of wildcats as pets. Captive possession of a wildcat as a pet or to be used solely for commercial gain is just absurd.

The definition of “captive possession” is ominous. The literal meaning of “captive” is ‘one kept in bondage or in the power of another; held in bondage or in confinement.’ The literal meaning of “possession” is ‘the having, holding, or detention of property in one’s power or command; ownership whether rightful or wrongful.’ The literal meaning of “wild cat” is ‘belonging to the family Felidae, living in a state of nature; inhabiting or existing in natural haunts, as the forest or open field; not easily approached by man, not tamed or domesticated; savage, ferocious, strong.’ These terms “captive possession” used together to describe a state of being for any wildcat is beyond abusive or cruel—it is torture. There are no valid arguments or any logical reasons for anyone to engage in captive possession of wildcats. There are only self-serving hypocritical rationalizations that lack compassion for one of nature’s most incredible beings. To see these incredible beings that epitomize the meanings of strength, beauty, power, and stealth reduced to a state of being chained, confined to an area the size of a parking space, their teeth and claws removed, lack of a proper carnivore diet, exercise, and their innate need to be “wild” to roam, to hunt, to protect their territory, to live as nature intended them to is shameful; it serves no purpose. It does not promote animal welfare nor does it have anything at all to do with the protection or conservation of wildcats. The CWSA technical amendment report by the House Committee on Natural Resources notes that the purpose of the law is to prevent the sale of these species as pets. The federal government is slowly but surely coming to realize that “captive possession of wildcats” is not a good practice. In the meantime, collectively, we have the power to end this torturous practice through social and cultural nonacceptance. Whether you take a “safety” position—not wanting an inherently dangerous animal living next door or across the hall or a compassionate advocate position—knowing that these incredible wildcats are being held against their nature is absurd. Either way, the wildcats will be the beneficiaries and their dark days of captive possession will finally end. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at Signing off,


Wednesday, November 26, 2008 Dear Wildcat Friends: The holiday season is once again upon us and gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past year, give thanks for what we have, and share our bounty large or small with our loved ones. For many of us, the past year has been nothing short of a bumpy ride and we may feel the effects for several years. Despite the turbulence, we collectively decided to give ourselves and our country a renewed sense of hope through our new president. Mr. Obama, along with his new administration, will change our present course and steer us into a brighter and prosperous future. We too have the ability to change the course for all wildcats either bred in captivity or taken legally or illegally out of the wild for commercial purposes. Economics is a tough subject but one relatively simple aspect of it is supply and demand. If there is no consumer demand for particular goods then the supply side will eventually cease. As long as there remains a demand for “wildcat goods” whether it is sport hunting for trophies, bones, fur and skin for garments or rugs, medicine, wine, meat or live cats for the exotic pet trade and entertainment, the supply will be met even if it means killing the last remaining cats in the wild or breeding them in “farms.” The trade in wildcat goods will continue even if it is illegal. Wildcat goods are “luxury items” that are advertised for use in “decorating your home, office or lodge,” or to “wear on the slopes or for that quick trip to the mall.” Here are just a few examples of finished wildcat goods I found on the internet: Women’s Lynx fur short jacket or vest - $2,000 to $5,000 (it takes at least 15-20 Lynx to make one short jacket); Mountain Lion rugs with head, paws, and tail - $1,900 to $9,000; Bobcat and Lynx pelts - $140 to $600; and Wildcat skulls and skeletons from African Lions to Bobcats - $90 to $2,500. These particular goods are legally allowed to be traded. But buyer beware: there are

numerous products and live cats sold in the U.S., on the internet, and overseas that are illegal and the costs for these goods (not to mention criminal and civil penalties and legal fees) can be very expensive. The sale and purchase of wildcat goods and live cats does not facilitate conservation of the species or their natural habitats. It is purely a commercial industry. Sellers of wildcat goods state they will cater to your “every need” but wildcat goods are not a necessity. We don’t need them to sustain our lives. These are luxury items that we “want.” We don’t need a Lynx fur coat or Mountain Lion rug. There is no magical cure in eating or consuming wildcat meat or organs, taking medicines containing tiger or leopard bone, or drinking tiger wine. We live in a time in which we have high quality alternative materials and ingredients available that pose no threat to our health and safety or to the wildcats! With our world becoming smaller and smaller and our natural resources—land, timber, oil, flora, and fauna—depleting at rapid rates, at some point our over-consumption and “want” versus “need” will catch up with us if it hasn’t already. During this holiday season, please keep the wildcats in your thoughts and heart! By being informed and conscientious consumers we can very easily reduce and end the demand for any and all “wildcat goods.” Peace on earth and goodwill toward all wildcats! I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at Signing off,


January 2009 Dear Wildcat Friends: In October 2008, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) presented its latest edition of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The new and “most comprehensive assessment of the world’s mammals has confirmed an extinction crisis with almost one in four at risk of disappearing forever,” and the “population of one in two is declining.” How are the wildcats doing? For some, not so well. The Iberian Lynx is in the highest threat category—Critically Endangered—which means it is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Its current adult population is between 84 to 143 and is continuing to decline due to a shortage of its prey, the European rabbit. The Fishing Cat moved from Vulnerable to Endangered which means it is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. The Fishing Cat’s decline is a result of habitat loss in the wetlands. Other wildcats such as Oncillas moved from Near Threatened to Vulnerable meaning that they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild and Leopards (Africa) moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened meaning that they are close to qualifying for a ‘risk of extinction’ category in the near future. Researchers note that recovery of endangered species is possible through “targeted conservation efforts.” I assume this would mean and include some serious changes with respect to human actions, behaviors, and attitudes. It makes little or no sense to spend precious time and money on preserving areas of land, bringing prey species up to sustaining levels, and ‘relocating’ cats from other areas to begin recovery efforts if commercial demand, poaching, lack of law enforcement, habitat and prey loss, and depredation continues to exist. The extinction crisis that we are now facing is not a result of some cosmic storm, a plague, or some other ‘act of nature.’ It that were true, we could wipe our brow with a sigh of relief knowing that this present condition had absolutely nothing to do with us. Unfortunately, this time, we cannot look to the sky, shake our fists, and curse at the universe, because this is a direct result of our actions—our over consumption of land, hunting, commercial exploitation, and gross overpopulation of one species. Civilizations years ahead

of our time, will not have to look back and point to a meteor disaster that darkened the planet before new life in different shapes and forms began to re-emerge, in order to provide them with an explanation of why so many lives vanished. We have and are leaving our foot, hand, fingerprints, DNA, paper and electronic evidence all over this crime scene. Despite our catastrophic misdeeds, we can stop this extinction crisis—if “we want” to. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at: Signing off,

(For more information on the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, please visit:


March 2009

Dear Wildcat Friends: Reintroduction is a term that is commonly used to justify breeding wildcats in captivity which for the most part is admirable. However, to use the term “reintroduction� as a public relations, marketing and development tool or to validate a commercial enterprise is simply wrong! The methods and means behind reintroduction actually consists of four processes as defined by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. Reintroduction is an attempt to establish a species in an area which was once part of its historical range but is now extirpated or extinct (Reestablishment is a synonym but implies that the reintroduction was successful); Translocation is the deliberate and mediated movement of wild individuals or populations from one part of their range to another; Reinforcement/Supplementation is the addition of individuals to an existing population of conspecifics; and Conservation/Benign Introductions is an attempt to establish a species for the purpose of conservation outside of its recorded distribution but within an appropriate habitat and eco-graphical area. This is a feasible conservation tool only when there is no remaining area left within a species historic range. To implement a reintroduction initiative is a massive undertaking. Major studies need to be completed on the historical background of a given species, genetic studies, and the reasons why the species become extirpated or extinct from a given site. The reintroduction site should be within the historic range of the species. Other site factors include finding a quality habitat that is large enough, availability of prey, and limited human accessability. In addition, other factors that require evaluation are: a change in the legal, political or cultural environment; the site should be sufficient to sustain future growth; identification and elimination, or reduction to sufficient levels, of previous causes of decline that could include: disease, over-hunting, over-collection, pollution, poisoning, competition with or predation by introduced species, habitat loss, adverse effects of earlier research or management programs; and if the site has undergone substantial degradation caused by human activity, a habitat restoration plan should be initiated before the reintroduction is carried out. Next, a study of available species for the program is needed and a whole host of factors

are considered if the species are wild or captive. Care should be taken to ensure that potentially dangerous captive bred animals such as large carnivores are not so confident in the presence of humans that they might be a danger to local inhabitants and/or their livestock. Reintroductions are long-term projects that require the commitment of long-term financial and political support. Socio-economic studies should be made to assess impacts, costs, and benefits of the reintroduction program to local human populations. Then there are all the activities that are involved after a release is made. The assessment described is just a small sketch of what needs to be done in order to undertake and implement a reintroduction program. It is important to know, at least on a small scale, what reintroduction really means. Captive born carnivores and, of course, wildcats, are not prime candidates for reintroduction. First, we know from reintroduction programs in which “wild” cats were used that longterm survival is minimal. For example, in 1999 Canada lynx were brought to Colorado from British Columbia to reestablish a population. The first four lynx “with the task of go forth and multiply,” died of starvation. More lynx were released and more died. By the end of 1999, 17 out the 41 lynx released were dead; most likely from hunters, vehicles, or disease. Other examples include a leopard cat in Thailand that became “lost” after five months. Florida has had some success with translocation of panthers (pumas) from Texas. The initial group of seven brought in 1989 did not make it. Another group in 1995 faired better but some were lost due to “human accidents.” But these were all “wild” cats not captive cats. Because of the inherent nature of wildcats, breeding and keeping them confined in captivity messes with their survival skills. They cannot develop properly, nor can their mother teach them the survival skills needed to become effective hunters and protect themselves from other predators— including us. Also, unless captive cats are bred within the Species Survival Plan that ensures genetic diversity, captive cats are inbred and bred with other cats that produce a hybrid. Inbred and hybrid cats will never be candidates for reintroduction. Next, there is the problem of disease. Captive wildcats can develop and spread disease in a wild population. And finally, there are more nonnative wildcats bred in the U.S. than native wildcats. In 2008, Kristen R. Jule published an article on the reintroduction success of wild versus captive carnivores, “The Effects of Captive Experience on Reintroduction Survival in Carnivores,” and stated that “wild caught carnivores are significantly more likely to survive than captive; humans are the direct cause in over 50% of all fatalities; and captive born carnivores are particularly susceptible to starvation, unsuccessful predator/competitor avoidance, and disease.” When we use the term “reintroduction” let’s use it in a meaningful way and not as a means to justify the continued over-breeding of nonnative wildcats in the U.S. for commercial purposes. To use “reintroduction” solely as a public relations tool, knowing that the probability of any captive wildcat in the U.S. will ever be used in a reintroduction program is

less than zero, to persuade the public that breeding these cats is not only for their own good but also for the good of their “wild� comrades, is false, misleading, and irresponsible. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at: Signing off,


May 2009

Dear Wildcat Friends: Noel Simon founder of the Kenya Wildlife Society which later became the East African Wildlife Society, passed away on October 20, 2008 at the age of 86. Simon was a champion of game and land conservation in Kenya and East Africa. He persuaded the Kenyan Government to enlarge the Serengeti National Park to encompass the entire migratory range of the wildebeest and as a deputy director with the Kenya National Parks was able to get the Kenya Government to recognize the seriousness of poaching wildlife and provided the means to counter poaching. Simon also spent several years with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and single-handedly prepared the Mammalia volume of the Red Data Book, the official international compilation of the world’s rare and endangered species. Since then more than 150 Red Data Books have been published. Simon became a prolific writer having penned more than 36 books. One book, “Between the Sunlight and the Thunder: The Wildlife of Kenya,” published in 1962, explores and analyzes the sociological problems of the massive destruction of wildlife and land, and the conflicts between people and wildlife, from the late 1800's through the mid 1900's in Kenya and East Africa. The problems with poaching, gun control, lack of regulations, lack of enforcement of existing regulations are still very poignant today. All you need to do is change a few numbers: drastically decrease the number of remaining wild animals and their habitat and drastically increase the human population and available weapons and you have a modern account of the problems conservationists continue to face. We are still fighting the same battles but for how long? At least, “we” can still say that but what will it be like in another 50 years? Who will be looking back and saying if we had only listened and acted when we still had time. Will they even have anything left to fight for? Or will it all be history? Simon includes passages in the book that depict human attitudes toward wildlife. In one passage he provides an account written by a poacher: “The day after we arrived we all went out hunting together and, after a short while,

saw a rhino and a calf. I crept up close and fired one arrow at the calf which only went a few yards before going down. The mother ran off. The calf was so small that the horn was only four inches in length, so I did not bother to cut it off. We did not take any meat, but left the calf where it had fallen and went on our way.� What is disturbing about this particular passage is the lack of conscience, somewhat sociopathic, with respect to wildlife and blatant waste. It really doesn’t matter if we are committed to reversing past deeds and are dedicated to preserving what wildlife and land remains. Unless we can educate people and bring about a fundamental change, a paradigm shift, with respect to attitudes about wildlife, we will keep fighting the same battles Simon wrote about and could realistically lose the war. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at: Signing off,


July 2009

Dear Wildcat Friends: In June 2009, the “controversial sport of canned hunting, in which trophy hunter tourists pay to shoot specially-bred captive lions, has been banned.” The Court ruled against lion breeders who brought a suit against a 2007 government proposal that “lions bred in captivity could not be hunted until 24 months after they were released in the wild.” The breeders challenged the proposal in court arguing that “the regulations should allow captive animals to be shot within a few days of being released from their breeding cages. Bloemfontein High Court judge, Ian van der Merwe, rejected their claim. In his verdict he said biodiversity must be protected and that breeding of lions in captivity with the sole purpose of canned hunting did not aid their protection, and added that he believed the breeders only cared about making money.” Animal Rights Africa spokesman said, “Canned hunting is barbaric and South Africa has been shamed by it.” Analogous to the canned hunting of captive bred lions in South Africa are the tiger farms in China. In 1993, China imposed a domestic trade ban of tiger parts and products, stepped up enforcement, and implemented a public education campaign designed to deter the use of tiger products. Now, however, China is seriously considering lifting its domestic trade ban that would allow tiger parts and products to be manufactured from farmed tigers. Like the lion breeders in South Africa, in China, the government is being pressured to lift the ban by privately owned and government-licensed tiger farms. Collectively, the tiger farms have approximately 5,000 tigers. The tiger farmers know that they can easily make a hefty profit by selling tiger products such as bone for use in traditional Chinese medicine, skins, meat, and wine that is produced by marinating a tiger carcass. Recent surveys show that the people of China support the tiger trade ban, would refuse to purchase tiger products, and want protections in place to protect wild tigers. If the people of China do not want these products who are the tiger farmers customers? If the domestic ban were to be lifted in China, the trade can only take place in China—this would not open international trade— but could have an impact on the international illegal trade.

Proponents of tiger farming say that by producing and manufacturing products from farmed tigers will save the remaining wild tiger population. They claim that trade bans don’t work and point to the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. and that captive breeding of crocodiles saved the wild crocs from being over-hunted. But you can’t compare a 500-pound carnivorous predator with alcohol or a reptile that lays eggs. Furthermore, China’s medical community has repeatedly stated that tiger bone does not possess any medicinal purpose and for the rest, well these are just very expensive “exotic goods” that would be manufactured solely for their commercial value for those who can afford to purchase them. Tiger farming is purely a business. Wild tigers will still be poached because for locals who need to make a few dollars it costs nothing to kill a wild tiger. Keeping a 500-pound carnivorous predator alive is not cheap! Interestingly, a proponent of tiger farming just recently dropped out of the push to lift the ban and allow tiger farming. Could it be that they had some sort of epiphany against tiger farming or could it be that they lost their own economic incentive? If it is the latter, how reliable are their arguments then? Since there is a huge question mark as to what will really happen to the remaining wild tigers if China were to lift its domestic ban on trading tiger parts, better to leave it in place. We just don’t know how the tiger farms, if opened for business, will affect not only the wild tiger populations left in China but the international black market as well. And since this endeavor is analogous to the lion breeders in South Africa, let’s recognize like the High Court judge did that it does nothing to aid protection and the breeders are only in it for the money. And, we should be shamed by it. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at: Signing off,

W ILD C AT C ONSERVATION L EGAL A ID S OCIETY W ILD C AT C HAT September 2009 Dear Wildcat Friends: The word sanctuary, for me, means a place of security, tranquility, and peace. I should think for most people, myself included, our homes are our private sanctuaries. For others, it could be anywhere that provides them with a sense of safety and comfort. A place designated as a sanctuary dates back to the 14th century, a Middle English term, derived from the Anglo-French and Late Latin that means a “consecrated place; the most sacred part of a religious building; a place of refuge and protection; and a refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal.” In the U.S. there are many “wildlife sanctuaries” that care for a number of species and some that care for a specific specie such as wildcats. But how do we define what a wildlife sanctuary is and ought to be? Should sanctuaries be able to exploit the very thing that they have set up to protect? For example, should sanctuaries be allowed to breed wildcats and engage in commercial trade of live cats or their parts and products? Should sanctuaries allow physical contact between pubic visitors and the cats? The question ultimately becomes whether certain commercial activities can be reconciled with the essence and the meaning of a sanctuary. There are no uniformly defined regulations at either the state or federal level that mandate the criteria under which a wildlife sanctuary can operate. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in part, regulates the commercial activities of native and non-native wildlife. Under the AWA, there is no “sanctuary” license per se. The AWA defines an “exhibitor” as an individual or business that allows the public to view animals for compensation; trains, handles, or owns animals used in film or television; uses photographs of live animals in promotional materials such as fliers and other advertisements; operates a traveling, roadside, or stationary zoo; performs with animals such as in a circus or other type of show; or uses animals in educational presentations. Class C exhibitor licensees include zoological parks; marine mammal parks; wildlife parks; petting zoos and farms; and “sanctuaries” that use animals for promotional purposes or allow public access/viewing of the animals. Most sanctuaries do have educational programs and tours of the grounds and facility as a way to generate income and teach the public about the cats which simply requires an AWA exhibitor’s license. Yet, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, (an amendment to The Lacey Act) prohibits the

transport of big cats across state lines unless you are exempt. Exemptions include holders of licenses under the AWA; certain state agencies; and “wildlife sanctuaries” that meet specific criteria. To qualify for this exemption, a wildlife sanctuary must be a non-profit entity that is tax exempt under the Internal Revenue Code; cannot engage in commercial trade in big cat species, including their offspring, parts, and products made from them; cannot breed big cats; cannot allow direct contact between big cats and the public at their facilities; must keep records of transactions involving covered cats; and must allow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to inspect their facilities, records, and animals at reasonable hours. USFWS did an excellent job in defining what a “wildlife sanctuary” should be within the literal meaning of “sanctuary.” A sanctuary should provide a place of refuge—it should not in anyway exploit the very thing it was set up to protect—including breeding of the cats that are brought to the sanctuary or engage in trade of any kind. A sanctuary should be able to educate the public about wildcats and the problems associated with having captive wildcats but done in such as way as to not cause any additional harm to the cats or the public. There is, however, a conflict with the federal regulations. If a sanctuary has an exhibitor license under the AWA, then technically they would be exempt under the CWSA. Wildlife sanctuaries under the CWSA are not prohibited from exhibiting. Should the AWA have a separate license for those individuals or entities that hold themselves out as sanctuaries? And should that license be defined and regulated as USFWS defined it under the CWSA? Wildcat sanctuaries are, unfortunately, needed. If it were not for the sanctuaries, where would all the unwanted, confiscated, neglected, and abused cats go? What is the alternative? Death? However, the cats should not be subject to the same conditions at a sanctuary that they were previously exposed to. When we think of a wildcat or wildlife sanctuary, we should be able to imagine a place of solace for these animals that more than likely have suffered from neglect, abuse, and malnutrition—a whole host of deplorable conditions. So, yes the USFWS got it right when they defined what a “wildlife sanctuary” ought to be—no commercial trade, no breeding, no direct public contact including feeding cubs and photo ops—just a safe, comfortable, tranquil place for them to live out their lives. I welcome your comments and questions. Please email me at: Signing off,


November 2009

Dear Wildcat Friends: On Sunday, November 8, 2009, visitors at the National Zoological Park (NZP) in Washington, DC got a glimpse at what nature is really all about and what actually takes place on the African plains. Two of the NZP’s lionesses, doing what lionesses do, went after a deer that wandered into their exhibit area. According to witnesses, “the deer over as much as twenty minutes, was in and out of a moat as the lions clutched, clawed, or swatted at it. A crowd grew. Some shrieked, cried out or took children away. As the episode neared its end, one lion dragged the deer to a stairwell area. The deer, a female, broke free and bounded toward the moat, the lion in pursuit.” Another witness stated that everyone was cheering for the deer. Zoo personnel believe the deer may have entered from Rock Creek Park. With the lionesses secured indoors, the deer was examined and later euthanized due to the injuries it sustained. This “incident” with the lionesses, as tragic as it was for the deer, is a prime example to illustrate that lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, or little wildcats, regardless of the fact that they are bred and raised in captivity—are what they are—powerful carnivorous predators! The cats cannot be somehow genetically altered to change their instinctive nature, nor are these instincts lost simply because we breed them. It is their very nature that prevents any wildcat from being domesticated. Recent studies on the evolutionary process of domestication provide the basis for which a wild animal species may be domesticated. The term domesticate means “to adapt an animal or plant to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans.” Tame, however, does not mean the same as domesticate. Tame means “lacking spirit, to make docile and submissive around humans” and is used in reference to one particular animal and not the entire species. For example, an individual cheetah may be described as tame because he or she is more tolerant of humans. It does not mean that all cheetahs are tame or tamable. If a wild animal species possesses any of the following ecological and behavioral characteristics, they are deemed “unfavorable” for domestication. Some of these characteristics include: territorial, family groups or solitary, males in separate groups; dietary specialist or carnivore; pair bonding prior to mating, females dominate or males appease females, females initiate; naturally aggressive, difficult to tame, difficult to control, avoids attention/independent; highly agile/difficult to contain, large home range, and avoids anthropic environments.

All of these characteristics are indicative of all wildcats. Try as we might, we will never domesticate them nor will they ever lose these characteristics by being born and/or raised in captivity. So, the NZP’s lionesses were doing exactly what they are supposed to do and yet, because they were born and raised in captivity and are well taken care of at the NZP, “we” expect them to behave in ways that are contrary to their nature and are appalled that they went after the deer; natural prey for lions. We, however, are the ones that are contemptible. We kill for no reason and for ideological reasons. We kill everything including each other. We claim to be the most highly intelligent species based on our ability to think, reason, communicate, and create. Despite our intellectual supremacy over all other species that exist in our global environment, we have this twisted expectation that wild animals in captivity should no longer possess any of their natural instincts, to be on their best behavior, and to behave in a sense better than us! They are supposed to be kind, gentle, love and respect us, after all “we” raised them. We raise each other too! I welcome your comments and questions. Email: Signing off,

For more information on the evolutionary process of domestication, please refer to these studies: Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication, JARED DIAMOND From wild animals to domestic pets, an evolutionary view of domestication, CARLOS A. DRISCOLL, DAVID W. MACDONALD, & STEPHEN J. O’BRIEN


January 2010

Dear Wildcat Friends: February 14, 2010, is of course Valentine’s Day: it is also the first day of the Chinese New Year and this year is The Year of the Tiger! The Chinese zodiac and certain cultural celebrations follow a lunar calendar which begins and ends in late January or early February. There are twelve animal signs that follow one another: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Like the monthly zodiac signs, each animal possesses certain personality characteristics. People born in a particular year are believed to share these characteristics. Those lucky individuals who are born during The Year of the Tiger, are said to have charismatic personalities and attributes such as being unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, and generous. They can be restless, reckless, impatient, quicktempered, obstinate, selfish, and aggressive. Sound like a cat we know? The New Year and The Year of the Tiger is a time to celebrate one of nature’s most awesome beings, yet this beloved creature is facing extinction in the wild and is being bred in captivity at controversial tiger farms for the sole purpose of supplying their bones, skins, and meat for commercial gain. It is illegal to trade tiger parts both domestically and internationally, yet this practice continues and wild tigers continue to be poached as well to supply the demand for tiger goods. We all have cultural and family traditions that we hold dear to us, however, there comes a time when some traditions prove to be no longer useful or accepted. Once upon a time, there was an old family recipe that called for an inch of a roast to be trimmed prior to cooking. For years this recipe was followed until one day, a woman, while preparing a meal for her family, asked her grandmother the reason why her great-grandmother trimmed the roast. Her grandmother explained that the only reason for trimming the roast was for it to fit in the roasting pan! No one in the woman’s family had ever questioned the recipe; they just continued to follow the tradition, no questions asked. We can all learn something from this silly little story. It demonstrates that even

something as simple as a family recipe is subject to scrutiny. We need to ask questions, tough questions, about the traditions we blindly follow. The use of tiger, lion or leopard bone as a medicinal ingredient has scientifically been proven to be futile. As much as we’d like to continue to believe, the fact is that wildcat bones are devoid of any composite or “magical” healing qualities. Like trimming an inch off the roast, using wildcat bones for medicinal purposes is useless but remains an accepted tradition nonetheless. Until we are willing to ask the questions and are smart enough to accept the answers, tigers and other wildcats will continue to be exploited. Tigers are awesome creatures and deserve our admiration and respect. All tigers possess unique qualities and characteristics that we, naturally, like and want to identify with—beauty, power, strength, and even passion! But if we don’t change our practices, like the family that wastefully continued to follow great-grandmother’s recipe, we too are wasting one of nature’s most revered creations. Through education and by working together, we can make sure that future generations around the world, we will be able to wish all tigers a very happy Year of the Tiger in 2022, 2034, 2046, 2058, 2070, 2082, 2094 ... ! I welcome your comments and questions. Email:

Signing off,

Wishing Tigers Everywhere A Very Happy New Year!

WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY WILDCAT CHAT _____________________________________________________ March 2010

Dear Wildcat Friends: On March 13, 2010, I received a news alert regarding an article appearing in “The Times of India,” 11 Siberian tigers starved to death after assault on keeper at China zoo: BEIJING: Keepers of a zoo in China have practiced a variation of the “badla” theme of Bollywood over several months. They have managed to starve 11 tigers to death and shot down two others after a big cat attacked one of the staff members last year. Wild life experts have been asking China to end excess in-house breeding of tigers because animal handlers either do not have enough training or financial capability to feed them. But the government in China, which is celebrating the year of the tiger, is refusing to accept the criticism. Yin Hong, deputy director of the state forestry administration, has said the slide in the population of wild tigers is not related to farm breeding. “The fast disappearing natural habitat and cross-border illegal trade are major causes (for shrinking wild tiger population), rather than the farms,” he said. Yin said the government is helpless about breeding farms because they were established before the ban of tiger products was enforced. At least 11 Siberian tigers have died for want of food at the Shenyang Forest Wild Life Zoo, a private enterprise in northeast China’s Liaoning province, the China News Agency quoted Liu Xiaoqiang, a local wildlife protection official, as saying. “For each day, the tigers get only one or two chickens. Even that stingy meat won’t come now; some have starved for two days already,” said Xiaoqiang. Food supply at the Shenyang Forest Wild Life Zoo was not enough for over 30 tigers kept in narrow confines. This resulted in heart and renal failures, hemorrhagic enteritis and myocarditis, reports said. Keepers also shot dead two other Siberian tigers after they assaulted a feeder last November. China has 6,500 tigers bred in 12 farms besides dozens kept in private and publicly run zoos. Environmentalists have repeatedly complained that the market for tiger products is expanding and it is difficult to distinguish which of them come from farm bred animals and those poached from the forests.

This story is in every way, shape and form, a tragedy and ought to serve as notice to everyone who breed, trade, or keep tigers or any wildcats in any captive environment. All cats, wild and domestic are strict or obligate carnivores period! In a research article by Duane Ullrey on the nutrient requirements of carnivores, Ullrey states that felids are strict carnivores and in the wild, obtain most of their food by predation on the tissues of mammals, birds, or fish. Their domestic representative, the cat (felis catus), differs in several respects in its metabolism and nutrient requirements from the domestic dog; a canid that is a facultative carnivore. It is presumed that these differences are an evolutionary consequence of their respective ancestral diets. The cat has a higher dietary requirement for protein because it has only a limited ability to regulate nitrogen losses in the urine—losses that are of little consequence when nitrogen (protein) intakes are high, as they would be when whole animal prey are consumed. Further, the cat is particularly sensitive to a deficiency of the essential amino acid arginine—a deficiency that results in toxic levels of ammonia in the blood but which is unlikely when whole animals are consumed. They also have a dietary requirement for taurine, a sulfur containing amino acid that can by synthesized from methionine by the tissues of most other mammals after weaning. An experimental taurine deficiency resulted in central retinal degeneration and cardiomyopathy in the cat. Fortunately, taurine requirements in felids can be met by consuming whole animals. Additionally, the intestinal tract of all cats is much shorter than ours. They do not have the ability to fully digest and utilize the nutrients in plant material. Although they might get enough protein from plant material to exist, they need taurine in order to thrive! Taurine is found primarily in the muscle meat of animals and is highly concentrated in the heart and liver. The process of starvation is a relatively slow and painful death. The tiger’s body will start to deal with malnutrition by breaking down its own fat, followed by tissue and muscle, and will eventually lose half of its normal body weight. The symptoms of starvation include: a reduction in the size of vital organs and loss of their functions; anemia; chronic diarrhea; reduction in muscle mass and weakness; lowered body temperature and extreme sensitivity to cold; decreased ability to digest any food due to lack of digestive acid; irritability; immune deficiency; and swelling from fluid build up under the skin. The final stages of starvation include a host of neurological and psychiatric symptoms including hallucinations and convulsions as well as severe muscle pain and weakness, and disturbances in heart rhythms. It takes up to three months for starvation to result in death. Think for just a moment how you feel if you are deprived of your 10 a.m. breakfast, 1 p.m. lunch or worse your 3 p.m. pick me up. Now in comparison, imagine how a potentially 600 pound natural predator who biologically is required to have a minimum of 7 to 10 pounds of meat a day, is not fed, does not even have access to at least some clean water, and is locked in a cage, perhaps no bigger than a Victorian sized clothes closet! I cannot even try to imagine the frustration and pain these tigers had to endure before death finally came and relived them of their tortured captive life.

It is also no wonder (go back to your 3 p.m. need for a granola or candy bar to adjust that sluggish low blood sugar feeling) that tigers will go after a “human” whether a keeper or visitor, if they are in any stage of starvation. We can and do become prey for a big cat. Think again about how you feel if you don’t get your usual meals and snacks. Do you start to feel irritable, frustrated, angry, and unable to concentrate and think abstractly? At this point, your sole mission is to satisfy your body’s need for nutrition and relieve your deprived state. These cats go through the same process. If tigers or any big cat in this state go after what ever may come along to relieve their need for food, they can hardly be blamed if the food they seek is of human form. This tragedy is not however, a unique or single event to this particular zoo in China— it happens all over the world including the U.S. Cats held by private owners, breeders, entertainers, zoos, sanctuaries, etc., that can no longer afford to feed large carnivores, often results in feeding them chicken parts (because it’s cheap), the remains of other dead animals they may have or even road kill. Natural prey for tigers is deer and wild boars not chicken parts! I know grown men who can consume at least a half of a whole chicken or more in one sitting. How could this ever be enough food or provide the proper nutritional requirements to keep an adult 600 pound tiger healthy? In the U.S., the licensing requirements under the Animal Welfare Act require a nutrition plan. What it does not require is proof of long-term financial resources set aside solely to properly care for and feed the cats. Unlike domestic cats, you cannot simply go to the pet store or market and buy a $10.00 bag of cat chow! No captive big cat should ever starve to death because the human who either brought them into this world or bought them do not know how and/or cannot afford to feed them. We bring them into the world for commercial gain and entertainment then we have to and need to take care of them! Please visit our Year of the Tiger page for the latest tiger news, reports, and events: I welcome your comments and questions. Email: Signing off,

WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY WILDCAT CHAT _____________________________________________________ May 2010 Dear Wildcat Friends: A must for your summer reading list is Carl Van Vechten’s “The Tiger in the House.” Originally published in 1920, Van Vechten explores the history of felis catus—their turbulent relationship with humans and the kinship to their wild lineage. Van Vechten surmised that every domestic cat is basically one paw step away from returning to the wild. Van Vechten (1880-1964) grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, attended the University of Chicago, and in 1906 moved to New York City. He was a noted reporter, essayist, and author. In his later years, Van Vechten became an accomplished portrait photographer. A second book edited by Van Vechten and dedicated to felis catus, “Lords of the Housetops,” published in 1921, showcases a selection of 13 short stories, including Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Black Cat; Honore de Balzac’s, The Afflictions of the English Cat; and Mark Twain’s, Dick Baker’s Cat. Van Vechten’s eloquent prose coupled with a reporter’s mater-of-factness, makes “The Tiger in the House,” a timeless classic and a must read for any feline aficionado! A few excerpts, from Carl Van Vechten’s “The Tiger in the House:” I have written, how skillfully I cannot tell, on the manners and customs of the cat, his graces and calineries, the history of his subjugation of human kind. Through all the ages, even during the dark epoch of witchcraft, and persecution, puss has maintained his supremacy, continued to breed and multiply, defying, when convenient the laws of God and man, now our friend, now our enemy, now wild, now tame, the pet of the hearth or the tiger of the hearth, but always free, always independent, always an anarchist who insists upon his rights, whatever the cost. The cat never forms soviets; he works alone. We have much to learn from the cat, we men who prefer to follow the slavish habits of the dog or the ox or the horse. If men and women would become more feline, indeed, I think it would prove the salvation of the human race. Certainly it would end war, for cats will not fight for an ideal in the mass, having no faith in mass ideals, although a single will fight to the death for his own ideals, his freedom of speech and expression. The dog and the horse on the other hand, perpetuate war by group thinking, group acting, and serve further to encourage

popular belief in that monstrous panacea, universal brotherhood. ****** There is, indeed, no single quality of the cat that man could not emulate to his advantage. He is clean, the cleanest, indeed, of all the animals, absolutely without odour or soil when it is within his power to be so. He is silent, walking on padded paws with claws withdrawn, making no sound unless he wishes to say something definite and then he can express himself freely. He believes in free speech, and not only believes in it, but indulges in it. Nothing will make a cat stop talking when he wants to, except the hand of death. He is entirely self-reliant. He lives in homes because he chooses to do so, and as long as the surrounds and the people suit him, but he lives there on his own terms, and never sacrifices his own comfort or his own well-being for the sake of the stupid folk with whom he comes in contact. Thus he is the most satisfactory of friends. ****** The cat is virile, and virility is a quality which man has almost lost. St. George Mivart insisted that the cat rather than man was at the summit of the animal kingdom and that he was the best-fitted of the mammalians to make his way in the world. I agree perfectly with St. George Mivart. I do not see how it is possible for any one to disagree with him. But the cat makes no boast of his preeminent position; he is satisfied to occupy it. He does not call man a “lower animal� although doubtless he regards him in this light. I have dwelt at some length on his occult sense. It can scarcely be overestimated. He has not lost the power of gesture language. With his tail, with his paws, his cocking ears, his eyes, his head, the turn of his body, or the waving of his fur, he expresses in symbols the most cabalistic secrets. He is beautiful and he his graceful. He makes his appearance and his life as exquisite as circumstances will permit. He is modest, he is urbane, he is dignified. Indeed, a well-bred cat never argues. He goes about doing what he likes in a well-bred superior manner. If he is interrupted he will look at you in mild surprise or silent reproach but he will return to his desire. If he is prevented, he will wait for a more favorable occasion. But like all well-bred individualists, and unlike human anarchists, the cat seldom interferes with other people’s rights. His intelligence keeps him from doing many fool things that complicate life. Cats never write operas and they never attend them. They never sign papers, or pay taxes, or vote for president. An injunction will have no power whatever over a cat. A cat, of course, would not only refuse to obey any amendment whatever to any constitution, he would refuse to obey the constitution itself. ****** The cat is admired for his independence, his courage, his prudence, his patience, his naturalness, and his wit. He is, as Madame Michelet reminds us, essentially a noble animal. There is no mixture in his blood. This is true that you can tell any member of the family at a glance. Tiger, lion, and house-cat differ more in size than in appearance. The originality of the cat is to offer in himself an exquisite

and harmless miniature of his wild brothers. He lives like a great lord and there is nothing vulgar about him. The delicacy of the animal is one of his fascinations. ******

“The Tiger in the House� is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. Used first and second editions can be found through various book dealers via I welcome your comments and questions. Email: Signing off,

WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY WILDCAT CHAT _____________________________________________________ July 2010

Dear Wildcat Friends: Did you ever wonder how filmmakers are able to capture— just at the precise moment— wildlife in their most intimate and violent moments? Chances are it is not because they just happened to be at the right place, at the right time (though some do get lucky). Most of the films are made by using captive animals, harassing animals in the wild in order for them to “perform” and “react,” and ultimately in the editing room. “Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom” written by Chris Palmer, takes us on a remarkable behind the scenes tour of the real business behind the making of wildlife and nature programs. Chris Palmer is the distinguished film producer in residence in American University's School of Communication. He is the founder of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and Classroom in the Wild! Palmer spent over 25 years producing more than 300 hours of original programming for prime-time television and the large-format film industry. His films were broadcasted on the Disney Channel, TBS Superstation, Animal Planet, Home and Garden Television, the Travel Channel, the Outdoor Life Network, the Public Broadcasting System, and in IMAX theatres. His IMAX films include “Whales,” “Wolves,” “Dolphins,” “Bears,” “India: Kingdom of the Tiger,” and “Coral Reef Adventure.” Like Toto pulling the curtain aside to show Dorothy the real “Great and Powerful Oz”—a mere human behind the facade—so too Palmer draws back the curtain on filmmakers, producers, film and television studios—and reveals to us, their “captive audience,” the blatant deceptions behind the making of “wildlife documentaries” and “nature films,” along with a conundrum of ethical issues. From the early wildlife films and television programs such as “Wild Kingdom” to wildlife celebrities like Steve Irwin, Palmer leaves no stone or leaf unturned. A few excerpts, from Chris Palmer’s “Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom:” The most infamous example of misleading information in a Disney film involves that scene from White Wilderness [Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures series 1948-1960] in which the lemmings jump off a cliff en masse—or so it appears. In fairness to the film, the narrator states that the lemmings are likely not attempting suicide, but the visuals

overwhelm the narration. So memorable were these images that even today many people believe that lemmings engage in blindly self-destructive behavior. But the whole scene was fabricated. A 1982 investigation by reporter Brian Vallée of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that Disney filmmakers had forced a few dozen lemmings to run on a snow-covered turntable and even threw some into the sea to create the dramatic scene. Yet they had the audacity to state at the beginning of the film that “the hand of man had no influence in what you are about to see.” ****** A 1966 San Francisco Chronicle review naïvely notes, “One of Wild Kingdom’s admirable features is its honesty about its subject. This is nature as it is. . . .Perkins and Fowler are active participants in each episode, not merely narrators of wildlife films. They are there.” Yet Wild Kingdom used extensive staging, with many of the animals filmed in enclosures and many of the “adventures” set up by the film crew. Cruel Camera, a 1983 documentary produced by the Canada-based Fifth Estate, accused the show not only of deceiving audiences with staging but also of animal cruelty. According to the documentary, Wild Kingdom producers placed a dead deer in an open area and then separately introduced captive wolves and cougars to the deer to make each animal think it owned the deer. Next the producers released the wolves and cougars simultaneously to create a manufactured and bloody conflict. ****** [M]ore often wildlife filmmakers deceive audiences through “staging” that is, making something “natural” happen artificially for the benefit of the camera. Staging is a shortcut used to film otherwise inaccessible events. One well-known example is David Attenborough’s footage of a mother polar bear giving birth in a stellar 1997 documentary for BBC1 (Wildlife Special: Polar Bear), which he later admitted was shot in a Belgian zoo. ****** Another kind of audience deception doesn’t require captive animals or situations staged for the camera; it involves manipulating film after it is shot. The use of computergenerated imagery (CGI) allows filmmakers not only to alter existing images drastically but also to create realistic scenes without using any actual footage. In today’s films, images that viewers see on screen may be constructed from multiple photographs taken in the real world, they may be a combination of real-world footage and computer-generated images, or they may be complete fabrications—lifelike, three-dimensional representations of our world that have been created by highly skilled digital artists. ****** Sometimes it’s not the animals, the weather, or the equipment that cause problems. It’s the human factor—crew members who don’t coordinate their actions, local bureaucrats who are unhelpful or inept, or vendors who make promises but don’t fulfill them. “I’m endlessly surprised by the range of things that go wrong,” says producer Molly Hermann. But working with people is usually the biggest hazard.” ******

On Steve Irwin: But Irwin also inadvertently encouraged people to get too close to the critters he loved, which he provoked into behaviors and actions that may not have otherwise occurred.

Filmmaker and environmental journalist David Helvarg says, “It’s hard to deny the atavistic pleasure of getting close to (or watching someone else get close to) big things that can kill you with teeth, claws, or venom, which was Steve Irwin’s specialty. It’s also a pleasure that millions could indulge in guilt-free with Irwin because he often included a conservation message in his shows that we should protect and conserve the king cobra, Komodo dragon, or whatever deadly critter he was handling.” In an essay in Britain’s Guardian newspaper a few days after Irwin’s death, writer Germaine Greer was less charitable: What Irwin never seemed to understand was that animals need space. The one lesson any conservationist must labor to drive home is that habitat loss is the principal cause of species loss. There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into, trumpeting his wonder and amazement to the skies. There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished his camera at was in distress. Every snake badgered by Irwin was at a huge disadvantage, with only a single possible reaction to its terrifying situation, which was to strike. Irwin was an entertainer, a twenty-first-century version of a liontamer, with crocodiles instead of lions. The animal world has finally taken its revenge.


“Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and through various book dealers via

For more information, please visit Chris Palmer at: and


I welcome your comments and questions. Email:

Signing off,


November 2012

Dear Wildcat Friends: The much anticipated film version of Yann Martel’s remarkable story, Life of Pi, premiere’s tomorrow November 21, 2012! It is on this special occasion that I chose to post this modest WildCat Chat since it has been far too long and long overdue. We have experienced many changes here at WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society (WCCLAS) over the last eighteen months; some for the better and some for the worse. We endured and remain a strong force, changing the course and culture one idea, one initiative, one obstacle, one solution at a time. Likewise the wildcats continue to face challenges in their wild habitats and captive environments due to increasing habitat loss, wildlife trafficking, politics, cultural differences, and lack of consorted action. In Martel’s story he challenges the reader to follow Pi’s internal struggle as a young boy to understand the different religious and scientific perspectives of life and nature; of the irrational and rational; of the unpredictableness of nature, of power, survival, redemption and faith. Martel methodically interweaves the concept of truth: the factual truth and the truth we choose to believe through the symbolic tiger character, Richard Parker. Richard Parker so named after the hunter that killed his mother, sent to live in the Pondicherry Zoo owned by Pi’s father, and ultimately teaches Pi about fear, trust and belief. It is not always easy to discover the truth, to keep the faith in your beliefs, to trust that reason, logic and knowledge will prevail. It is not always easy to remain objective when we witness intentional cruelty, corrupt political and business practices, inept enforcement, and lack of authentic leadership, without losing one’s own sense of compassion and spirit. Our work is not about possession; it’s not about personal notoriety; it’s not about monetary gain. It is about finding the best methods to preserve another living being in its natural environment; in its natural wild state. Like Pi, we are working tirelessly to find new solutions through innovation and challenging old methodologies to meet the objectives of our mission: to protect and defend all native and non-native wildcats and to ensure a wild future for all wildcats. Never stop believing…

WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY WILDCAT CHAT March 2013 Dear Wildcat Friends: This WildCat Chat is a gritty observation piece on the similarities between the private ownership of big cats in the U.S., gun regulations, and in my view, a shared common denominator. Step right up folks! Gotcha Tiger …Gotcha AK47… Gotcha politician here! Step right up!

Open any newspaper, open any tablet newsfeed, on any given day, in any given city, the reports are there—another fatal shooting, another big cat escape or attack. Some make the headlines; some appear below the fold; some are buried in a side bar. They are there nonetheless every day. Collectively we are once again on the downside of a reactive response to two unimaginable and violent events in our society—both of which preventable—both of which tore our hearts and made us demand change from our state and federal officials. These two seemingly isolated separate tragedies: Newtown and Zanesville, occurring a year apart from each other have so much in common and have so much to say about our American culture and society, our fevered reactions, our call to duty, our resolve, our forgetfulness, our lapse into business as usual, our denial that anything like this will ever happen again. And both raised the standard by which future tragedies will be measured and the level of our collective response. In Zanesville we learned that an unstable individual was “legally” acquiring an insane number of big cats on his private farm along with an arsenal of weapons that he later began to illegally trade. In Newtown, we learned that a suburban mother with questionable social stability was collecting an arsenal of military weapons she kept alongside her socially and emotionally challenged teenage son.

The public debate that ensued following each tragic event called for relatively the same changes in regulating the private ownership of big cats and purchasing of weapons: stricter licensing, special liability insurance, psychological tests, limiting the number and type, microchips, national databases, and criminal background checks, to name a few. Ironically left out of the debate are: a demonstration of education and training, financial stability, and a bona fide declaration of intended use. Why does an individual need to own 50 big cats? Why does a suburban mother need to collect military weapons? What good could possibly derive from either? Surely neither of these collections is within the spirit of the Endangered Species Act, the Animal Welfare Act or our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Against whom? Great Britain? Each other? Our pet tiger? Not surprisingly, private owners of big cats and exhibitors, in times of public demand for change, align themselves with the Safari Club International (SCI), National Rifle Association (NRA) and K Street lobbyists. Why? Because it is their best monetary platform to argue their individual rights are being violated much in the same way as gun owners. Despite the fact that less than 7% of the total American adult population applied for and received hunting licenses, hunters claim their tradition and God given right to hunt is as American as apple pie and baseball. Since when is a military assault weapon required to hunt deer? Perhaps it is needed to kill the lion that was born in captivity under the need for conservation, education and scientific research that has outgrown its usefulness, is too expensive to maintain and sold to a caged hunt. In response to Zanesville, the state of Ohio recently passed a new law on exotic animal ownership; a much watered-down version of the original bill, but a step in the right direction. Yet, they returned five of the big cats that escaped the carnage to the same hellish farm existence. In its newly proposed gun regulation, the state will no longer require a competency certification for permit renewal. Meanwhile the Big Cats & Public Safety Act, a federal bill that was introduced in March 2012 that would end indiscriminate breeding of big cats is now classified as dead wood; it never made it out of committee and to-date was not reintroduced. We are living in a society that we collectively created that evolves solely on economics. We seem to value life only when it comes to a tragic end; the high cost to implement and enforce changes in the federal and state laws compared to the social change is simply not worth it; the trade both legal and illegal in weapons and wildlife (living and parts & derivatives) is astronomical (illegal trade in wildlife is well over $10 billion annually); and finally the elephant in the room−campaign financing.

Our state and federal officials only need our votes at election time. They answer solely to the individuals, organizations and entities that paid their way into or back into office. Which are (and this is shocking) the same voices SCI, NRA, etcetera, calling for less regulations and less government interference. It is one big ferocious vicious circus circle. Until our elected officials are accountable solely to those they represent and are able to make the difficult decisions without fear of repercussion or injury from those with capital muscle, all of us (big cats included) no matter how loudly we roar will continue to dodge the preventable proverbial bullet.

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May 2013 Dear Wildcat Friends: Since I last wrote in March, a new federal bill was introduced in the House, “The Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act,” H.R. 1998 (BCPS), an amendment to The Lacey Act that will essentially deter private breeding, selling and possession of big cats; allow for federal control of intrastate private possession and breeding of prohibited species; and protect the public from dangerous wild animals. The BCPS which is desperately needed has, in my opinion, one potentially fatal flaw and that is federal control of over the states governing the possession and commercial activities of wild animals within the states. Although, perhaps it is time for Congress to flex their commerce powers over the states since the state legislation governing the private ownership, breeding, and selling of exotic animals, in particular, the big cats is a mixed bag of 51 1 regulations from anything goes to anything does not go unless you have a federal permit or license. Yet, the federal regulation does allow exceptions for state agencies, colleges and universities, research facilities, sanctuaries, traveling circuses, zoological parks accredited by the Association for Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and other entities that participate in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan—far too many exceptions to the rule. Timing is everything and since a similar amendment was introduced in 2012 that died in committee, the BCPS could be seen as a response to recent events involving attacks by captive big cats and Zanesville. However, are we really analyzing the issues and current federal and state regulations involving captive big cats and finding the best possible remedies and alternatives? Or just good public relations?


Includes the District of Columbia.

We are seeing all sorts of big cat campaigns from online petitions and prepared form letters to send to state and federal congressional members, to expensive advertising depicting the irony of the state laws. For example, a state may ban or highly regulate the ownership of certain dog breeds but are either silent or require nothing more than registration with the local wildlife agency to keep a lion or tiger on one’s personal property. Another hot topic in this regard is the actual number of big cats in captivity in the U.S. We see numbers that reflect all big cats, tigers, or lions, but no one, including U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal, Plant & Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) knows with any certainty the actual number of captive big cats in the U.S. And the numbers reported in campaigns are misleading. We need to be mindful and careful on how we present information to the public, students, educators, law enforcement, and members of Congress. For instance, stating there were 180 big cat attacks may not be false in and of itself, however, it is lacking detail and context in order to make an informed decision. What is missing, for example, is over what period of time did the attacks occur? Over the last six months, last year or over the course of ten or twenty years? In what environments were the big cats held? Were they privately owned? In zoos, circuses, and/or sanctuaries? Are these isolated incidents? Are they happening in certain states within the country? And what species? Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs? It would be advantageous to report something such as, since the implementation of the Captive Wildlife Safety Act; the number of attacks is declining overall and is lower in states that have recently implemented strict regulations. This would help with the analysis on whether additional regulations are in fact required, and its development at the federal and/or state levels. Likewise, we see experts in the field providing conflicting statements in relation to research reports on the wild population status, habitat preservation, human-wildlife conflicts and the support of hunting (captive or wild) as a valid means of conservation. Information is sometimes difficult to decipher when its premise, theory, and concluding advice hinges on funding. It’s akin to campaign financing. I pay you to say what I want you to say or you lose your grant, your livelihood. Some of the information may, in fact, be true; however, it depends on how it is presented and manipulated to justify a particular, message, means or ends. My promise to you, our wildcat friends and supporters is that the information we provide and publish is factual, truthful and documented. We will inform you upfront if the material

presented is a commentary, an opinion, or purely speculation. We will not color context in our fundraising campaigns, because we don’t have to. In this regard, we designed our own “better housekeeping” seal of approval, as a symbol of my promise to you. It will appear on all of our published work product. All of us at WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society are here solely to protect and defend all native and non-native wildcats and to ensure a wild future for them. Incidentally, the Big Cat & Public Safety Act was introduced in the House on May 15, 2013, and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. On May 21, it was sent to the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs, where it remains.

I welcome your comments via email at: . Start a conversation with us on Twitter and follow us on Facebook.


July 2013

Dear Wildcat Friends: In late June, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and other members of Congress, urged the U.S. Treasury Department to include the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the review of the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods to Shuanghui International, a Chinese food company. According to a press release issued by Stabenow, “The proposed acquisition by Shuanghui International, a Chinese food company, will undergo a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), and the Treasury Secretary has the authority to add the agencies to the review process.” 1 Senator Stabenow raises a number of important issues and potential risks with respect to the sale of an American food company to China such as our national security, food safety standards, intellectual property, and trends in foreign ownership of the American food supply. These issues concern us too. The WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society offered its support to Senator Stabenow. We acknowledged her concerns and raised our own concerns with her involving potential wildlife trade issues. “Our research in the illegal trade of endangered wildlife, specifically big cats in China, 2 gives rise for our concerns if the proposed sale were to proceed. If Shuanghui International were to own Smithfield Foods it could potentially: • Create an avenue for exotic meat i.e. tiger and lion cultivated abroad to enter the U.S.


See See RICHARD HARGREAVES, China’s Tiger Farms: Much Law but Little Justice, V JOURNAL OF THE WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY 1-40 (Summer/Fall 2011). 2

• Create pressure on U.S. farmers to raise captive tigers, lions and other big cats solely for meat production, export abroad, and distribute in the U.S. • Create a “legal” loophole that would circumvent the domestic and international laws with respect to the trade in parts and products of “captive” endangered species. • Create an increase in demand for “farmed” big cats used in trade for their parts and products as well as the canned hunting industry. These are just a few of the potential consequences if the sale of Smithfield Foods to Shuanghui International should proceed. Currently, neither the USDA nor the FDA regulates or inspects “exotic meat” sold and distributed in the U.S. Despite this fact, there appears to be an increasing market in the U.S. for exotic meat including tiger, lion and big cats native to the U.S.” 3

On July 10, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a hearing on the proposed Smithfield sale. In her address to the committee, Chairwoman Stabenow advised, “It’s our responsibility to ask the right questions to make sure that we are thinking in the long term about these issues. (…) Because as we all know on this committee, food security is part of our national security.”4 Senator Stabenow is right on point; however, it is everyone’s responsibility to ask the right questions; and think in the long term not just the short term or the short term capital gain. The risks are enormous and once the big cat is out of the bag—well, shepherding the big cat back in may be impossible. On July 24, Smithfield Foods announced in a press release that CFIUS will conduct a second-phase 45 day review of the proposed Smithfield-Shuanghui International transaction …The CFIUS process is confidential and Smithfield and Shuanghui International do not intend to comment further on that process while it is ongoing. Smithfield and Shuanghui International continue to expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2013. 5

I welcome your comments via email at: . Start a conversation with us on Twitter and follow us on Facebook. 3

Communication from WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society to Senator Debbie Stabenow, June 2013; LISA ANN TEKANCIC, Lion, It’s What’s for Dinner, III JOURNAL OF THE WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY 27-34 (Summer 2010). 4 See 5 See


Dear WildCat Friends: Last month I was given a brochure produced by City Wildlife, a DC based non-profit organization, titled: “Indoor Cats Make Great Neighbors,” with a photo of an innocent tabby cat with a bird in its mouth. City Wildlife is stressing the importance of keeping one’s companion cats indoors as a new study released by the Smithsonian Institution ESTIMATES that APPROXIMATELY 3.7 billion birds are killed every year in the U.S. by companion AND feral cats.

In the October 14, 2013 edition of the Washington Examiner, a short article appeared on this very same subject however, its title is not as feline friendly, “Death-penalty sought for bird-killing cats.” In contrast to the City Wildlife brochure, the Examiner’s article contends that the death penalty, inflicted by human intervention, by rounding up feral cat colonies for elimination is apparently the only solution to this natural predator-prey phenomenon. According to Grant Sizemore of the American Bird Conservancy, based in Washington, DC, a Canadian study backs up the Smithsonian’s but the ESTIMATE rose to 4 billion birds. The Conservancy is attempting to convince cities to join in the effort to “eliminate” feral cats, “since life of the street is so tough” for these felines. Neither City Wildlife or The Examiner indicate, based on their cited studies, that the bird population is in immediate or long-term danger of extinction and nor does either specify a particular bird species is in peril or doomed. However as shown in the copy below, City Wildlife breaks out other causes of bird deaths, but none quite as high as those attributed to felines. Neither group recognizes that birds themselves are also a predatory species. What strikes me the most is not that the other relevant facts are omitted which is indeed necessary to make an informed opinion or solution but it is the jump to the only possible solution to one of nature’s life-cycle occurrences is human intervention by more KILLING, without examining what the affects will be. For example an explosion of the bird population will create other issues for birds such as starvation, illness, and new predators. We cannot eliminate nature’s built in balance predator-prey ratios without consequence. Additionally how will feral cats be identified verses companion cats? And how to we regulate this? By city, by state, at the federal level, through a multinational treaty? Birds do migrate! Ensuring A Wild Future For All Wildcats 1

WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY WILDCAT CHAT We need to take responsibility for the feral cats! Those individuals who decide to share their life with a cat or cats must make sure that they are not adding to the over population of domestic cats turned feral. In cities where cat advocacy groups, round up the feral cats for spaying and neutering is an effective and kinder method with respect to managing their populations. Perhaps more cities could follow their lead. When we are faced with a question that needs attention and are seeking possible solutions, when death becomes the only solution—the only answer—then we’ve got the question wrong.

Ensuring A Wild Future For All Wildcats 2


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Ensuring A Wild Future For All Wildcats 3




Profile for WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society

WildCat Chat Compilation  

WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society Lisa A. Salamat, Esq., CEO Shares her thoughts on wildcat issues.

WildCat Chat Compilation  

WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society Lisa A. Salamat, Esq., CEO Shares her thoughts on wildcat issues.

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