Michael Holston appears to be a misguided 24-year-old, self-proclaimed “exotic animal specialist” in Miami. He calls himself “King of the Jungle” and “The Real Tarzan” and has said that his goal in life is to “be the next Steve Irwin” by posing with exotic animals. He seems to legitimately loves animals and thinks that he’s teaching the public to love and respect wildlife, but all that he’s really doing is teaching people that exotic animals are nothing more than pets, accessories, or selfie props. Just read the quotes from this article to see what people are “learning:”
“If Holston has proven anything, it’s that animals, especially a baby cougar like this one, can be very docile and fun to be around. They also don’t mind taking selfies with humans.”
“As you can see just from looking at this little one, you can tell that finger monkeys are super cute.”
Holston works at an exotic animal breeder/broker/pet store in Deerfield Beach called Underground Reptiles. This business sells primates, reptiles, and even baby Sand Cats as “pets” in store and online. Underground Reptiles has a pretty bad animal care record and has been criticized by pig rescue groups because they used to keep newborn piglets in aquarium tanks and passed them off as “mini pigs,” telling customers that they would never grow bigger than 30 pounds (which is a lie).
Thanks to Holston’s self-promotion, there are now multiple news/blog articles about Holston fawning over his “lifestyle” and “love for animals,” many of them mentioning that his exotic selfies are going viral because of the fantasy aspect — everybody dreams about being an “animal whisperer” and cuddling wild animals, but not many people bother to think about what that means for the animal — Holston included.
In this article, he explains: “I want to show everybody the smallest wildlife and the most dangerous wildlife. Get close as possible. Hold it, hug it, touch it, kiss it.” Like many animal lovers, Holston seems to believe that as long as you have “true love” for the animal, everything’s OK: “You make yourself a part of the animal’s life. You raise that animal. You trust that animal. You let the animal trust you. No matter how dangerous it is, you have that. Whether you rescued it or whether you took it out of the wild. Look, as long as you’re taking care of these animals at the highest standard, you’re taking great care of them,” he says. “You’re interacting with them. You’re showing them true love.”
I’d definitely keep an eye on Holston, but you might also consider contacting him to see if you can help him see the light. Maybe he can change his ways to make a real positive difference. He’s still young and relatively open minded — the above article also mentions that he “understands the reservations animal rights activists have concerning menageries,” explaining that “It’s a weird stance for me because as I get older, I learn more, and I read more. I get more understanding” and that the longer he works around big cats, the more he understands that they’re dangerous, wild animals.
Exploiting tiger cubs at this roadside bear pit isn’t a new thing. The Cherokee Bear Zoo, owned by Barry Coggins, has bred and kept tigers onsite in pretty poor conditions since at least the late 1990s. Right now, they have at least one adult white tiger and one orange tiger. It looks like they’re trying to breed more white cubs while exploiting the rest for petting.
It looks like right now, they do have at least one cub, named “Stormy”, above, who was three months old at the end of April 2018. Tourists can still pay $20 to pet/take a photo with a cub, so if it’s the same cub, she’d be nearly 5 months old now and too big to use for public contact. Judging by Facebook pictures, it looks like tourists frequently pet cubs much larger than USDA regulations allow. The above photo was posted on April 18th.
These pictures were from previous years (2012-2015), but also show pretty large cubs being used for interaction:
As well as very tiny cubs:
Here’s where their adult white tiger lives — a tiny concrete slab. It looks like there may be sores on its elbows from lying on the concrete.
Where the cubs live:
In August 2017 Cherokee Bear Zoo and Exotic Animals court case showed an appeal, that overturned a prior ruling, that there was no Animal Welfare Act violations regarding the way the animals were kept. Does anyone have further info on this case? Please let us know in the comments below.
May 2, 2018 When clueless celebrities post photos of themselves posing with cubs, their fans let them know it’s a cruel, selfish and ignorant thing to do. Katy Perry Angers Fans With Tiger Cub Selfies At least Katy Perry got the message and immediately removed the offending photo shoot she did at Eddie Serio’s Black Jaguar White Tiger cub mill.
Dec 6, 2017 Instagram begins to flag animal abuse hashtags. Now, if you search for cruel acts to do, such as #TigerSelfie Instagram pops up a notice saying “Protect Wildlife on Instagram Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram. You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.” If you type in #blackjaguarwhitetiger you get that warning now.
Hopefully this will put an end to the abusive practice of speed breeding big cats to pull their cubs for pay to play schemes and as ego props in photos and videos posted online.
Nov 14, 2017 Watchdog BJWT posted the following opinion piece and we agree that people need to just stop and think a minute, before they share those cub images, because even a few moments of thought should make people wonder why so many tiny cubs and where are they now?
A Facebook Page going by the name of “Action” posted a video of Serio with the title “This man has rescued over 300 big cats. ” This video was shared over 100,000 times. I’ve had a long think about how I’m going to address these grievous actions and I’ve come to the conclusion that I will stick to the facts and omit my more profanity filled opinions about this arsehole. Those are for another day. Let me educate you all:
This cub could aspirate on the milk in this position which could end in pneumonia or death.
1. There is no legal definition of a “sanctuary” in Mexico. There are only “private collectors” of big cats and Zoological Parks.
2. Black Jaguar White Tiger is registered as a “Zoological Entertainment Facility.” Therefore, and make no mistake about this, his facility is NOT a “sanctuary,” it is a ZOO.
3. Eduardo Serio is an ex LA Socialite who spent his years growing up in Hollywood rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. He had shares in a company by the name of Social Reality Inc, a company worth over US$300million. Social Reality Inc is an Internet advertising and technology company. It specializes in developing tools that automate online advertising and digital marketing activities. Serio, according to Serio, sold his share portfolio to fund his Zoo. He is first and foremost, a savvy business man. He has NO knowledge or education or science background in animal husbandry, or big cat behavior and ecology. Nada.
4. He started as a “private collector” of big cats. First with a Jaguar, Cielo, then a lion, Karma and a tiger, Tieris. He shared his house in Monterrey with his three pets together with his co founder of the foundation and now ex girlfriend Rachel Brandt.
5. At that time, his social media accounts were private. His Instagram account consisted of cute videos of his three pets frolicking in swimming pools, playing in his house, with his friends, suckling pacifiers like babies, and chewing on inappropriate items which resulted in the death of Karma.
6. He hit upon the idea of making his Instagram public. Once he pushed that button, Black Jaguar White Tiger was thrust into cyberspace resulting in hundreds of thousands of followers in just a few days. The draw card being the “cutesy” videos of big cat cubs kept as pets in a mansion.
6. When he realized he was sitting on a “fame” goldmine, he upped the videos and started using the word “rescue.” You see, up until that point, he was using the word “adopt.” It just didn’t have the same impact, nor did it pull on the heartstrings of the public in the same way the word “rescue” did. Of course, as the sun rises and sets, his Instagram exploded to what it is today. Over 7 million followers, nearly all of them clueless and ignorant about the ethical management of captive wildlife. Black Jaguar White Tiger has turned into a cub petting empire.
7. PROFEPA and SEMARNAT have given him rescued circus cats. That is true, as there are NO other facilities available to house them other than zoos which are already filled to capacity. The officials were quite impressed with his fame and social media standing. Both government agencies have no idea about the ethical keeping of apex predators and have positioned Serio as Mexico’s foremost expert of big cats. Think about that. A man with no background, education or science.
8. Once BJWT was established, Serio began bringing in more and more cubs. ALWAYS small, nursing cubs. Even with the ban on circus animals, the number one cat “rescued” at BJWT is nursing cubs. If you all go far enough back in his Instagram feed, you’ll find numerous cubs, newborns still with their umbilical cords attached, accompanied with Serio’s bizarre reasons why he has “rescued” them. “The mothers abandoned them, the mothers can’t nurse them, they are runts, they are inbred and have problems.” This list of make believe reasons is regurgitated numerous times when new cubs appear. Same old story, different days. In essence, Serio is a private pet owner, who “claims” to have “rescued” dozens and dozens of big cat cubs, whom he has then used to induce people to follow his social media sites. Without these nursing cubs, Serio’s powerful presence on social media would not be what it is today. How is it that new born cubs magically appear, like clock work, when the previous batch has reached a certain age and can no longer be housed in the mansion? Please use your cognitive thinking when trying to search for an answer. Think about that.
9. Everyone must use an objective gaze when looking at conservation, and apply it here. What functional impact on the protection of wild jaguars does a video of a man pushing a jaguar cub around in a child’s push-car toy have? Nothing. That video is a video of a man playing with his pet. It has, literally, no effect on, or connection to, the protection of existing wild species. But Serio uses the hashtag #protectjaguars and claims that his video of himself playing with his pet somehow promotes “conservation”. This is his gimmick, his schtick. He claims to “raise awareness” via his social media, and yet the only awareness he raises is for his own interactions with his animals.
10. In the public eye BJWT and Serio are the “new face” of conservation, which consists of giving cats a home once they’ve been rescued, but to those of us actively working in conservation–and trying desperately to get the public to care about WILD big cats currently living in wild habitats–Serio is nothing more than false advertising. Nothing he does, or says, helps WILD populations, and all the attention he gets comes from captive bred animals, which were captivity bred just so he could use them to get attention. He is literally actively ADDING to the problem of native big cats, while claiming to solve problems in the wild.
11. There is a long laundry list of questionable methods and practices at BJWT. The mixing of big cat species takes top spot. Here is a fantastic article describing this flawed practice Serio forces on his cats. Please educate yourselves: https://www.facebook.com/notes/bjwt-watchdog/why-idealistic-communes-are-both-legendary-and-almost-non-existent/2007238446165632/
12. Cub-petting is, by definition, something done for, and benefiting only to, the humans who are doing the petting. A big cat literally has no need to ever be held by human hands. This is the sort of objective gaze with which conservation must be viewed, with the questions of “How does this animal, and future wild populations benefit from what’s going on?” and “Is this being done for the animal alone?” always in the back of your mind. When you apply those questions to situations like very small cubs being used for photo props, or in situations where customers can pay to hold and play with them, the the fact that those cubs are being bred and produced solely to be used to make money through charging customers a price to play with them is obvious. In the case of BJWT, his celebrity friends are pushing the idea that handling big cats is a “normal” practice and does have conservation value. IT DOES NOT. BJWT HAS NO CONSERVATION VALUE WHATSOEVER.
13. Serio has inspired other foundations which are being actively established, such as Malkia Park in Slovakia, which interact with their cats just like Serio does, and whom Serio supports. But again, these places are breeding cats, and allowing the public to interact with them in order to make money, and they have, literally no impact on actual conservation, aside from the fact that they’re changing the public’s perception of it. People are now coming to think that to go to these parks, and play with the animals is supporting conservation of wild species. And just like the Tiger Temple in Thailand, which commodified their animals, together with other facilities which engage in these same practices, are damaging conservation efforts world wide. The greatest damage being done to wild animals today is the commodification of conservation.
THANK YOU. by Watchdog BJWT
How can anyone be a follower of Eddie Serio when they see him kick a small cat and mock the cat’s worried owner in this video? https://www.facebook.com/astiffany
We get a lot of questions about Black Jaguar White Tiger, asking if it is a legitimate sanctuary. We don’t think so for the reasons listed below.
Sadly, it’s starting to become popular among animal lovers, despite their extremely unprofessional practices. Like not knowing how to bottle feed a cub and having her blow milk out her nose, which leads to pneumonia:
Black Jaguar White Tiger is a newly-founded private “rescue” for big cats, which started about a year or so ago in a wealthy area of Mexico City. It’s owned and operated by a Mr. Eduardo Serio. While he seems to have good intentions, they are paired with some very questionable practices.
Serio appears to “rescue” his animals by buying them from circuses and private zoos, usually as young cubs. Very young cubs. Cubs that still have a lot of lucrative weeks left in them for the abusers. This, of course, is a counterproductive strategy in the long run, because it only encourages the bad breeders to keep breeding. He claims to have “saved” over 30 cats in his first year of operation, which is scary. I know he probably wants to “save them all”, but at that rate, things are going to get out of hand very quickly. Unless he has a lot of resources or learns to say “no”, I’m worried it’s going to turn into a hoarding situation. Serio supposedly has 100 acres of land, but the enclosures are already starting to look pretty crowded, if this video is anything to go by.
Serio states that he does not spay or neuter his animals. My best guess for the reason, given his other opinions, is that he probably believes that it is “cruel” to do so because it would deny them the “natural life” he’s trying to provide (some domestic pet owners still believe this). Unsurprisingly, his cats appear to be breeding like rabbits. On July 16, he posted a video on Facebook of a new litter of lion cubs. In response Serio has said that someday he will use contraceptives, but there are no safe contraceptives for use in big cats. Any zoo can tell you horror stories (if they are honest with you) about the cancers and other health issues that are caused by using pharmaceutical solutions to over breeding.
If you are running a sanctuary and want the cats to not breed and live long happy, healthy lives, then you spay and neuter. Doing it when they are younger increases the cat’s ability to survive the procedure and recover, so there is no excuse not to do it, especially if you have males and females living together.
And in this video, a poor lion can’t even eat without having 3 young tigers trying to steal his food (although I don’t know the origin of the tigers – they may have been “rescued” (i.e. bought). Unlike other breeders, however, Serio does not sell cubs because he firmly believes that nobody should “own” an animal. Nobody except him, of course, because he “loves” them. So all of the cubs are just piling up at his ranch and causing serious overcrowding issues. While he does occasionally invite people (especially famous people) to pet them, he hasn’t turned it into a business… yet. He really seems to hate the people who breed cubs for photo props, having “rescued” several malnourished cubs from photo displays. However, his site does mention that he is planning a “volunteer” program, which conjures up images of those places in South Africa where people essentially pay to play with big cats.
By far, the biggest problem I have with Serio’s new “Foundation” is that it’s constantly churning out photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook. I’m sure you’re well aware of this, but these photos show Serio patting adult lions on the head, “play-wrestling” with tigers, pushing jaguars around in wheelbarrows, hugging lionesses, and other inappropriate (and unsafe) behaviors. He even has videos of exotic cats living peacefully in his house like a pet, which only encourages the pet trade. Serio (and his followers) often refer to the cats as “kids”, and visitors to the ranch are invited to “play” with 500-lb. adult lions – not a good idea.
Serio claims on his website that the reason his cats don’t attack people (and I’m not making this up) is “the bond of pure and innocent love that keeps us living harmoniously among one another”. It’s the very same fantasy that has doomed so many big cats to life as “pets” – people so desperately want to believe that as long as they have “love”, everything will be OK.
Hundreds of the people who have been mauled and killed by captive big cats thought they were special too and thought that their love for their big cat “friends” was all they needed. http://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-attacks/
Of course, gaggles of well-meaning animal lovers (the same kind who would fall for cub-petting schemes) have nothing but praise for Serio and his “amazing bond.” They think that this is the way a real sanctuary is run, to say nothing of the hundreds who express their wishes for their very own pet big cat, or at least the chance to touch one. An ironic message for Serio to be sending, since he says he doesn’t believe that animals should be property.
We reached out to Serio a year or more before this post, because we thought he was doing himself a huge disservice by posing with cubs. We told him that no animal protection group would accept him or even think him a good person unless he stopped acting in such a hypocritical way. We tried to reason with him and didn’t expose him for a long time because we thought he was just foolish and not trying to be cruel. We could not continue to ignore him though when he began trotting celebrities through and having them pose with cubs because people will stupidly mimic celebrities without thinking about the consequences for the cats. We really tried to be nice and still want him to do the right thing.
Overall, I’d say that Black Jaguar White Tiger is nothing more than an ego project from a well-meaning, but seemingly delusional man. He often posts about the “horrible conditions” his cats came from and about how “happy” they are to live with him – and his followers eat it up, calling him an “angel” and praising him profusely for “saving” the animals. And of course, the celebrity snapshots and cute cub pictures have made him a rising star on Instagram. But I don’t think he’s only in it for the glory – he genuinely seems to think he’s “saving the world” by “rescuing” every circus cub in Mexico.
Sadly, like so many animal hoarders, he can’t see the harm he’s doing. This situation is only going to get worse, I’m afraid, especially with the lack of laws in Mexico regarding exotic animals as pets.
When Big Cat Rescue’s founder and CEO was in Mexico in 2015, Eduardo refused to speak to her or allow her to step foot on the property, because he knows that we do not condone posing with big cats. What else does he have to hide?
Report Says Wag-n-Bietjie Farm Boils Lions for Asian Markets
Conservationists up in arms over government’s lion skeleton export policy
01 May 2018 – 12:12 By Aron Hyman
The killing of more than 50 lions on a Free State farm last week has conservationists in an uproar over the government’s lion skeleton export policy.
Bloemfontein SPCA senior inspector Reinet Meyer said that last week they had received a complaint that two lions were being kept in temporary containers for three days on the Wag-‘n-Bietjie farm outside Bloemfontein. What they and nature conservation authorities had discovered was a “deplorable” scene‚ which she described as a “lion slaughterhouse”.
“It was terrible. For me a lion is a stately animal‚ a kingly animal. Here he is butchered for people just to make money‚ it’s absolutely disgusting‚” said Meyer.
The SPCA was busy finalising charges of animal abuse against the farm’s owner‚ Andre Steyn‚ and his foreman‚ Johan van Dyk‚ on Monday. The Beeld newspaper reported on Saturday that lions from other provinces were also being transported to the “slaughterhouse” without permits as required by law.
A roaring trade: 6‚000 SA lion skeletons shipped to Asia
More than 6‚000 lion skeletons have been exported from South Africa to south-east Asia in the last decade.
It reported that a taxidermist in Bloemfontein prepares the skeletons for export to China and the Far East after the animals’ flesh is boiled from the bone.
Animal rights activists at the Blood Lions Campaign said that the department of environmental affairs’ new policy permitting the export of 800 lion skeletons every year was partly to blame.
“The sale of lions’ bones‚ for medicine to Asia‚ should be a major concern for South Africans. Currently‚ there are approximately 8‚000 captive-bred lions on farms across the country‚ all of which could be shot and processed in a similar manner‚ for export to Asia‚” read a Blood Lions Campaign statement.
“The reality is that this is part of a cycle of commercial exploitation on South African farms which involves breeding‚ cub petting‚ walking with lions‚ canned/captive hunting and the trade in bones from lions and other predators‚” it said.
Meyer said 26 lions were killed on Monday last week and another 28 the following day.
“To see 28 dead lions is not nice. These are the animals we should be preserving‚ so why are we preserving the animal but on the other hand we give licences and quotas to kill the animals and export them? It doesn’t make sense to me‚” she said.
She said the two lions which were kept in transport cages could not move around and were depressed.
“You could see they were depressed. When the lions were released from the cages the first thing they did was urinate and released their bowels. It was totally disgusting that they were kept like this. A lion is a wild animal‚ it wants its freedom but now it’s kept in a small cage
for three days. It’s absolutely deplorable‚” said Meyer.
Despite numerous attempts to contact Steyn and Van Dyk‚ TimesLIVE was unable to reach them for comment.