It’s 2016 and Zootastic is still pimping out cubs.
A concerned citizen went to visit Zootastic in North Carolina and took photos and video of the cub petting taking place there. In September 2016 they took photos and videos of a white tiger cub with horrible ringworm being used for cub petting and a liliger suffering from what appeared to be severe mange. Just two months after filing her compliant with USDA, Zootastic was fined over $7,000 and slapped with 9 animal welfare violations! According to records obtained by PETA, Zootastic Park—a disreputable roadside zoo that PETA has lodged complaints against for years—was penalized $7,450 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in November 2016 for nine violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. More at https://www.peta.org/blog/zootastic-park-fines/
Your voice matters! When you see something SAY something.
What Visitors Say about Zootastic
My son and I visited Zootastic Park at 448 Pilch Rd, Troutman, NC, 28166 this past Saturday, September 17th, and we saw some things with their big cats that concern us terribly. We did the Tiger Cub Encounter and the white tiger cub named Thor appears to have something wrong on his skin. I wasn’t sure what it was, but had some suspicions. Thor was also very hoarse when he talked. I thought he sounded very strained and he cried out often and appeared very distressed and stressed out.
Also of concern, out in the park where they have their new enclosure for the tigers, they have a sickly looking Li-Liger Cub (I asked the keeper/handler on my encounter about this animal) and he said the animal belonged to someone else, but they are doing the best they could for him. He has close to no hair and his skin looks awful. He is also being tormented by an adult white tiger female in that same enclosure. I saw her grab him by the neck and get on top of him to show him she was boss. She did it many times and swatted at him. Before I left, he decided to fight back and show her he was tired of it. Very, very disturbing to witness. They have NO WHERE to go to get away from the torment! And this poor little guy also has an open wound on top of one his paws.
I sent this info and photos to Carole Baskin at Big Cat Rescue to take a look at because I know she’s an expert on the big cats. She believes it may either be Ringworm or Mange on Thor the cub. This is a huge problem because they allowed us to touch the cub! I have cats at home and this would be devastating to bring home. For the Li-Liger cub, she said it looks like Mange. I am requesting that you have an Inspector sent out to Zootastic Park right away to investigate these issues. Please. If the cub has Ringworm or Mange, as you know both are highly contagious, then this is a huge public health risk! The public can touch the animal. I told Carole I was told that Thor is 12 weeks old and they got him at 3 weeks of age she said that means the cub was sold AFTER it became illegal to take the cubs from their moms for handling before they are 4 weeks of age (see the USDA below). If the cub was transferred across state lines at 3 weeks and money changed hands, then it was a violation of the USFWS rule below.
4/5/2016 USFWS announced that they are rescinding the generic tiger loophole. Big Cat Rescue has been pressuring the USFWS since at least 2007 to rescind this loophole and on 8/22/11 after a meeting with the USFWS the Generic Tiger issue was published to the Federal Register for public comment and got over 15,000 comments in support of our request to ban the breeding of non purebred tigers. Read more: http://bigcatrescue.org/usfws-rescinds-generic-tiger-loophole/
4/3/2016 USDA cracks down on abuse of cubs under the age of four weeks. In response to a 2012 legal petition filed by The Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Detroit Zoological Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, Big Cat Rescue, Fund for Animals and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued guidance making clear that exhibitors violate the Animal Welfare Act by allowing members of the public to handle or feed infant exotic cats like tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars or leopards. Read more: http://bigcatrescue.org/usda-announces-partial-cub-petting-ban/
Please take a look at these photos and video I took of Thor the White Tiger cub and photos of the Li-Liger cub. Thank you so much for your time and concern!
This mangey looking cub was being tormented by bigger tigers in the cage
This might be the worst case of mange or ringworm we’ve ever seen
The spots on his legs, chest, belly, face, toes and read end look like ringworm
Despite an obvious skin condition this cub is being pimped out as a pay to play object
It has been reported that Zootastic, in Troutman, NC is charging people to play and pose with big cat cubs. As usual, these kinds of operators insist that they are “legit” and that they are breeding for conservation and that paying them to play with cubs will result in conservation and a lovely life for the cubs when they grow up and are sent to undisclosed, other facilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
These USDA inspection reports show continuing violations of animal welfare standards and when the cubs are sent to other places you can be sure they will be equally as bad or worse. No legitimate facility would allow Zootastic to continue to exploit cubs and then dump last year’s babies on them. That just perpetuates abuse.
As soon as they opened, in 2012, they were exploiting cubs
Last holiday hoorah at Zootastic Park
Although the holiday is over, and 2012 is undeniably under way, Zootastic Park, one of the region’s more unique attractions, wants to stretch that holiday feeling for a little bit longer.
The park’s operators say, given the difficult economy, they want to give back to the community for its support of the zoo throughout the year. As a final present under the tree, Zootastic is holding over its “Wonderland of Lights” spectacular for one last time.
One of the largest holiday lights displays in the area, Zootastic will flip the switch back on Saturday, Jan. 7, from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission to the display is free.
With more than 1.5 million lights along the two-mile drive, the display concludes with a computerized light show in Zootastic’s “Western Town.” After viewing the lights, visitors are invited to enter the zoo to visit the animals. There will also be opportunities to have pictures taken with Zootastic’s baby tiger cub, ride a pony and more.
The Christmas Wonderland of Lights is located off I-77 at Exit 42 between Mooresville and Troutman. From I-77 North, turn left off the exit ramp and then right on Ostwalt-Amity Road. Zootastic Park is one mile further on the left.
The park will open for its pre-season on March 3. For more information, call 704-245-6446 or 888-966-0069 or visit www.zootasticpark.com.
Tiger cubs should NOT be exploited by Animal Planet’s Dave Salmoni!
It’s happened yet again: a young tiger cub is being exploited and used as a television prop by Animal Planet’s co-called “big cat expert” Dave Salmoni. Just last week he brought a 2-month-old tiger cub named Olive on NBC’s Today Show as well as People Now, and perhaps other shows.
Dave Salmoni claims he is a conservationist. In reality he is a self-promoting big cat trainer from Ontario’s notoriously abusive Bowmanville Zoo, a private menagerie and breeding/training facility for performing exotic animals used in film, TV and circuses. The cubs Salmoni brings to television studios likely come from roadside zoos, unaccredited breeders or from Michael Hackenberger, Salmoni’s mentor and the disgraced owner of the Bowmanville Zoo, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty after investigators filmed him brutally whipping a young tiger 19 times during a single “training session.” “I like hitting him in the face,” Hackenberger says in the clip.
This is the type of person that represents Discovery Inc. and Animal Planet and is touting Project CAT, a project created by Discovery Inc. to promote Global Tiger Day? It’s sickeningly ironic that Salmoni is promoting awareness of endangered wild tigers by forcing a captive tiger cub to perform unnatural behaviors such as appearing on television shows and enduring bright lights and noise and petting by the hosts! And there is no tracking of what happens to these poor cubs after they are too big for him to exploit this way.
Salmoni claimed on the Today Show, as most breeders and exploiters of cubs do, that the mother tiger rejected Olive the cub. However, cubs used for petting and exhibition on television are usually snatched away from their mothers shortly after birth so they do not bond with their mothers and are more easily used as entertainment props.
By bringing self-proclaimed “experts” like Salmoni to cuddle endangered wildlife on-air, media outlets such as Discovery, Animal Planet, the Today Show and People Now are actually doing a great disservice to wildlife. Instead of fostering education, respect for animals, or concern for wild populations, viewers are left with the exact opposite message – that it’s okay to drag cubs around as television props.
So now we NEED YOUR HELP. Please speak up for little tiger cub Olive…we are her voice!
In my opinion, Dave Salmoni is not a conservationist, behaviorist, or “animal expert,” but a big cat trainer from Ontario’s notoriously abusive Bowmanville Zoo, a private menagerie and breeding/training facility for performing exotic animals used in film, TV, and circuses. The cubs Salmoni brings to TV studios appear to come from Michael Hackenberger, Salmoni’s mentor and the disgraced owner of the Bowmanville Zoo, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty after investigators filmed him brutally whipping a young tiger 19 times during a single “training session.” “I like hitting him in the face,” Hackenberger says in the clip. Just a few months after that video was released, another clip emerged showing Hackenberger speaking almost gleefully about beating his animals. “I can carve my initials in their side,” he brags of his skills at whipping tigers. Later, speaking about a group of wolves, he shows off the wooden stick he uses to beat them. “You smack ’em, and they generally fold like a house of cards. And that’s the beauty.” A Bowmanville Zoo administrator later acknowledges Hackenberger’s violent training methods, stating, “You throw them down on the ground so they know who’s boss. That’s basically Michael’s way of working all animals.”
In a 2009 interview, Dave Salmoni reverently refers to Hackenberger as “one of the best cat trainers in the world—he put me in situations to teach me how to fend off an attack; how to gag a lion with a wooden crook and stop them coming forward, or if they are on top of you, the little skin fold in their lip where you can put your finger, and stop them from biting you. Over the years now, I’ve probably had a few hundred fights with captive lions, or good play wrestling, where you practice that gag, or block their teeth and learn the techniques.”
Leading big cat conservationists affiliated with legitimate organizations like Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society warn that Salmoni’s sensationalized, entertainment-focused “education” is impeding genuine conservation efforts and sending the wrong message to viewers.By bringing self-proclaimed “experts” like Salmoni to cuddle endangered wildlife on-air, media outlets are actually doing a great disservice to wildlife. Instead of fostering education, respect for animals, or concern for wild populations, this is the message viewers are leaving with:
In 2009, Salmoni filmed a show called “Into The Pride,” which featured him deliberately harassing wild lions in a Namibian national park in an attempt to “tame” them. Salmoni somehow believed that habituating the lions to people would make them less likely to come into conflict with humans, and told an interviewer that “those lions are unfazed by human contact, and that’s the way it needs to be.” Legitimate lion conservationists, who know that habituating wildlife to people is not a good thing, were furious. Dr. Luke Hunter, Executive Director of Panthera (the most respected big cat conservation group in the world) wrote an article titled “Tormenting Lions for TV” where he chastised Salmoni for being a “self-absorbed ignoramus” and the program for being “self-indulgent baloney” and “made-for-TV nonsense [which] obscures the authentic and far more meaningful conservation efforts undertaken by thousands of passionate, anonymous professionals.”
Wildlife documentary producer Chris Palmer, the director of Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, concurred; calling Into The Pride“an example of a bad wildlife film” and explaining that Salmoni’s harassment of the lions “makes great television, but lousy conservation. The lions are being gratuitously provoked for the sake of ratings and in the process becoming frightened and needlessly stressed.”
Salmoni started working as a big cat trainer at the Bowmanville Zoo in 1998, where he apparently “really bought into” Hackenberg’s animal training. In 2000, with two mixed-subspecies tiger cubs from the Bowmanville Zoo in tow, he moved to South Africa to join a tiger farmer named John Varty for an unscientific and fraudulent “tiger rewilding project.” The project was filmed and aired on the Discovery Channel as a documentary called “Living With Tigers.” The project involved training captive-bred tiger cubs to “regain their predatory instincts.” Once the tigers proved that they could sustain themselves in the wild, they would be released into the wilderness of South Africa — where tigers are not native — to fend for themselves. Nobody with even a shred of conservation knowledge would consider this appropriate, and real conservationists have noted that since the tigers are not genetically pure, the project had zero conservation value. Animals 24-7 says of the documentary:
“The former Bowmanville Zoo trainer Salmoni and Dave Varty were repeatedly shown cuddling and playing with the tigers in a manner opposite to standard wildlife rehabilitation technique, in which contact with humans is minimized and discouraged. They towed dead antelopes behind a truck for the tigers to pounce, conditioning the tigers to appear at the sound of vehicles and perhaps, to stalk tourist jeeps. They kept a brother and sister tiger together until the female entered her first heat. They taught the tigers to hunt as a pack, which no tigers do in the wild. They repeatedly took meat from the tigers to “show them who is boss,” feeding them later in camp. This taught the tigers to associate human habitation with food. Eventually the Varty brothers proclaimed success in teaching the tigers to hunt, after the tigers killed seven springbok who had been released almost into their mouths.”
John Seidensticker, chairman of the Save The Tiger Fund Council, and senior scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, stated that
“The conservation community is pretty much opposed to this. It’s diverting funds that could be used otherwise. “Our definition of conservation is securing a place for wild tigers where they live, not a place in Texas or South Africa. There are a lot of people who spent their lives, sometimes at great risk of themselves, to work on (tiger conservation). It is going to be a story, this whole thing, about how to not do conservation.”
If these media outlets are serious about saving tigers, they’ll stop promoting irresponsible, self-proclaimed “animal experts” like Salmoni and instead listen to the real conservationists who say that cuddling wildlife on TV is a con, not conservation.
Dave Salmoni Self Described Lion Man Harassing and Endangers Lions
Watching lions as nature intended – from the safety of a vehicle
(Photo Courtesy of Panthera)
By Dr. Luke Hunter, Executive Director of Panthera
This week, Animal Planet kicked off the latest offering from likable Steve Irwin-wannabe Dave Salmoni. “Into The Pride” follows Salmoni as he attempts to prove that humans can live in harmony with wild lions. To do so, Dave scoots around the Namibian bush on a quad-bike looking for a close encounter with the big cats. You might think a 4-wheeler doesn’t offer much protection but, provided they’re not hunted or persecuted, lions quickly get used to vehicles. A vehicle acts just like a mobile hide which is why millions of people a year are able to enjoy extraordinary experiences watching wild lions from the safety of their safari jeeps and mini-vans in Africa’s great game parks. It even works with ATVs which disrupt the human silhouette sufficiently that Salmoni is on fairly safe ground — so long as he keeps his distance and stays on the bike. The problem is, that’s not daring enough for Dangerous Dave. When he finds the lions, he dismounts and, armed only with his shepherd’s cane, he walks up to them.
Understandably and predictably, the lions get pissed off. In one sequence from the series, Salmoni pulls this stunt with a lioness called Cleo, resting with the pride’s cubs and a gemsbok kill. Now, if someone asked me, how would I go out of my way to really aggravate a lioness, I’d tell them “threaten her when she is protecting her cubs. Or a carcass. Or, if you were an utterly self-absorbed ignoramus, both.” Cleo does what a million years of evolution have engineered her to do when faced with potential danger to her cubs — she charges. Dave shrieks a bit, high-tails it back to the ATV and scolds Cleo for her “inappropriate behavior.” Of course, it’s actually wholly appropriate — any wild lioness so gratuitously provoked is apt to do the same. Once he’s back on the bike, Cleo relaxes a little and backs off. Predictably, that only encourages this bushveld buffoon to try his luck again, and, again, Cleo comes like a tawny missile. She is upset, frightened and angry — all thanks to Salmoni who is determined to show us that, as he recently toldPeople magazine, he was ‘tougher than they were’.
What self-indulgent baloney. Salmoni repeatedly tells us his antics are necessary because these are aggressive problem lions that must be habituated for eco-tourism or they will be destroyed. That would be reasonable if he stayed with his vehicle, just as tourists, researchers, scientists, guides and park rangers do every day across Africa. None of these folks wander up to lions hoping to get cozy (well, occasionally they do but the ending usually isn’t pretty). If Salmoni was honest and respectful about habituating lions for tourists, he’d get them used to vehicles — it’s safer for both human and lion, and it wouldn’t provoke the same distressed fury from Cleo. Ironically, most of the first episode is taken up with encounter after encounter between Dave and his film crew watching lions from their Land Rovers. The tactic yields beautiful vision of lions being lions — Salmoni’s team cops a few baleful looks and one frustrated rev from Cleo when Dave drives too close, but nothing serious. But of course that doesn’t make good enough television so Salmoni makes sure he says ‘these lions hate vehicles’ a lot even after we’ve just watched shots of the cats doing little more than keeping a reasonable distance. And let’s not forget, Dave reassures us this is all in the name of “conservation” so it’s fine to crank Cleo’s stress off the charts.
And to what end? Even if Cleo eventually tires of charging this clown, all he’s achieved is to put her life more at risk. Lions co-evolved with our kind in Africa and generally do their best to avoid us. When wild lions see a person coming, they know enough to either disappear or give fair warning. Walking in the African bush, I’ve been the recipient of their low warning rumble a few times, like the sound of a tractor-trailer changing down gears. Lions tell people when it’s a good time to change direction because they want to avoid conflict. Episode 1 shows a textbook case from one of the males, Brutus, on Dave’s inaugural walk-in (niftily re-interpreted by our hero as the first step in Brutus’ ‘training’. Sheesh). Salmoni repeatedly forces these conflicts onto Cleo and her family in his puerile quest to show us who’s boss. If he succeeds, Cleo is actually a great deal more dangerous. Conditioned out of her natural, sensible instinct to keep people at a safe distance, her normal flight circle becomes perilously small. Someone — perhaps a lion-loving tourist who has seen the show — only need blunder into her and, faced with a perceived hazard at too-close-for-comfort range, she attacks. If it happens, the predictable outcome is that Cleo gets a bullet. Good work Dave.
The greatest shame of this made-for-TV nonsense is that it obscures the authentic and far more meaningful conservation efforts undertaken by thousands of passionate, anonymous professionals working in Africa today. They will never get the recognition that Salmoni craves and they certainly will never see anything like his pay check. But they are the reason that lions and the wild places they need will persist. Salmoni isn’t.
About the Author…
Dr. Luke Hunter is the Executive Director at Panthera, the leading global nonprofit organization devoted to saving the world’s wild cat species from the diminutive black-footed cat of southern Africa to the massive tiger of Asia. Hunter has conducted fieldwork on large cats in Africa since 1992. His current projects include assessing the effects of sport hunting and illegal persecution on leopards outside protected areas, developing a conservation strategy for lions across their African range, and the first intensive study of Persian leopards and the last surviving Asiatic cheetahs in Iran.
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?