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Posted on May 3, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 6 comments

Black Jaguar White Tiger

Black Jaguar White Tiger

The best article so far to debunk BJWT as a sanctuary is at the link below and says, in part, “BJWT may appear to many to be a sanctuary, but its apparent methods of utilizing its animals for donation mongering and notoriety all but nullify its status as anything other than a playground for the rich, famous and ignorant.”

http://www.jacalynbeales.com/outofwilderness/2015/12/22/fooling-millions-with-false-conservation-the-black-jaguar-white-tiger-foundation

Where do celebrities go to pet cubs?  There are a few backyard breeders in the U.S. but the place that attracts the most, and ignorant celebrities is Black Jaguar White Tiger in Mexico.

You know the public opposes cub breeding and handling when Gizmodo goes after the perpetrators of such cub petting schemes with a vengeance like this article.

Yahoo Celebrity News understands why it’s wrong: https://www.yahoo.com/celebrity/celebs-favorite-animal-sanctuary-raises-serious-004456713.html

And bloggers speak out against using cub petting as a way to end cub petting. #BJWT (we had to remove the link to this article because she said she was being threatened and harassed by the BJWT gang.

Artemis Grey calls out Eddie Serio when he tries to act like he’s answering the questions people have, but really isn’t  https://projecticarus2015.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/with-a-sleight-of-social-media-hand-how-black-jaguar-white-tiger-continues-to-choose-slander-over-answers/

Black Jaguar White Tiger

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.

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.

Abuse-MinneapolisZoo_TigerCubsBy 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?

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Posted on Apr 28, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Gretchen Mogensen

Gretchen Mogensen

Gretchen Mogensen Supporting Joe Exotic in Wynnewood Cub Petting Compound

PETA Calls On Feds to Hold Former Natural Bridge Zoo Employees Responsible for Alleged Unlawful Animal Transport

February 5, 2015

Contact: David Perle 202-483-7382

Myrtle Beach, S.C. – PETA sent an urgent letter today calling on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to investigate Gretchen Mogensen and Paul Malagerio for reportedly fleeing Virginia with two cougars and a tiger from the notorious Natural Bridge Zoo, transporting the animals across state lines to a Myrtle Beach roadside zoo known as T.I.G.E.R.S. The pair was recently exposed on video striking tiger cubs in the face while peddling photo opportunities with the cats at Natural Bridge Zoo. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—is asking the FWS to hold the exhibitors accountable for apparently violating the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which prohibits the interstate transport of big cats by unlicensed individuals.

This apparently illegal transport proves, once again, that the priority of these animal exploiters is profit, not the well-being of the animals or respect for the laws designed to protect these animals,“This apparently illegal transport proves, once again, that the priority of these animal exploiters is profit, not the well-being of the animals or respect for the laws designed to protect these animals,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the authorities to show that these individuals can’t get away with abusing animals, apparently breaking the law, or fleeing the scrutiny they’re under.”

Since 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited Natural Bridge Zoo owner Karl Mogensen—Gretchen Mogensen’s father—for 78 violations of federal animal-protection laws, including, among others, failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, clean drinking water, adequately heated housing, and safe and secure enclosures.

T.I.G.E.R.S. is no less notorious: Its owner, Bhagavan Antle, has a decades-long history of violating federal animal-protection laws, including recent citations for failing to house dozens of adult tigers in secure enclosures and allowing one 700-pound tiger to escape into a group of visitors.

http://www.pressreleasepoint.com/animal-exploiters-under-fire-apparently-illegally-transporting-big-cats

 

During the spring, summer and early fall of 2014, an HSUS investigator went undercover at the Natural Bridge Zoo (NBZ), a tawdry and troubled roadside zoo located in rural Natural Bridge, Virginia, and owned and operated by Karl and Debbie Mogensen. NBZ breeds and sells numerous exotic animals to the pet trade, individuals, other roadside zoos, at
auctions and to canned hunt facilities. The Mogensens are affiliated with the Zoological Association of America, a small, deceptively named fringe group that accredits poorly run roadside zoos and supports indiscriminate and unhealthy breeding practices along with the exotic pet trade.

Karl Mogensen’s daughter, Gretchen, breeds tiger cubs for use in moneymaking photo shoots and private play sessions at NBZ. During our investigation, five tiger cubs were born and immediately taken from their mother, Bhuva. Two of the cubs, named Daxx and Deja, were kept by NBZ for a few months while their three siblings were sent to T.I.G.E.R.S., an exotic animal compound in South Carolina that engages in the same cub breeding that has caused an over-population problem and warehousing of these magnificent animals.

Read the rest here:  http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/exotics/roadside-zoo-natural-bridge.pdf

 

16-0042 Gretchen K. Mogensen
Respondent’s Response to Petitioner’s January
28, 2016, Letter Filed by: Attorney for Respondent More here:  http://www.oaljdecisions.dm.usda.gov/sites/default/files/Hearing%20Clerk’s%20Log%20February%2025,%202016.pdf

 

Animal Exploiters under Fire for Apparently Illegally Transporting Big Cats

States News Service February 5, 2015

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The following information was released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):

PETA sent an urgent letter today calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to investigate Gretchen Mogensen and Paul Malagerio for reportedly fleeing Virginia with two cougars and a tiger from the notorious Natural Bridge Zoo, transporting the animals across state lines to a Myrtle Beach roadside zoo known as T.I.G.E.R.S. The pair was recently exposed on video striking tiger cubs in the face while peddling photo opportunities with the cats at Natural Bridge Zoo. PETA-whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”-is asking the FWS to hold the exhibitors accountable for apparently violating the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which prohibits the interstate transport of big cats by unlicensed individuals. More: https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-400473497.html

 

HSUS: reveals results of undercover investigation of Natural Bridge Zoo

BY SURI CROWE THURSDAY, JANUARY 22ND 2015

Update: In a statement to ABC 13, USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa confirmed, “We do have an open investigation at this time, and as such, it is inappropriate for me to comment further,” in reference to the complaint filed with the federal agency by the Humane Society of the United States against the Natural Bridge Zoo.

The roadside zoo, was inspected multiple times in 2014 by the USDA, which is responsible for issuing permits that allow the zoo to exhibit exotic and endangered species, such as tigers and giraffes, but inspectors only found the zoo “non-compliant” in two of them.{}Currently the zoo is licensed as being in compliance under the federal Animal Welfare Act with an expiration of August 2015, ABC 13 learned.

HSUS President and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, wants the USDA to revoke the zoo’s permit permanently. {}The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also confirmed to ABC 13 that is also conducting and investigation based on the HSUS’ complaint. It can only issue permits for exhibiting native animal species, of which the zoo, claims to have “four cougars,” on premises.

Robert “Bucky” Joyce, Rockbridge Commonwealths’ Attorney, told ABC 13 he wasn’t aware of any criminal complaints that had been filed against the zoo, but that didn’t mean that there aren’t any filed through other state agencies.{}Calls by ABC 13 to zoo owner Karl Mogenson were not returned today.

Natural Bridge., VA- The Humane Society of the United States announced a months long results from two undercover investigations at roadside zoos today. The HSUS says inhumane treatment of tiger cubs exploited for photographic opportunities, indiscriminate breeding of tigers, rampant trade in cubs for public handling and dumping of the cubs once they were no longer profitable. The HSUS conducted the investigations at Tiger Safari in Oklahoma and Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge, Virginia. The non-profit ground says these roadside zoos allow members of the public to pet, feed, pose and play with baby tigers for a fee.

The investigation of the Natural Bridge Zoo, was conducted from May 6th through October 7th of last year and the HSUS has filed criminal complaints and violation of animal welfare act with both the state attorney and USDA. In a press conference Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS revealed that the investigations documented the very lucrative business of using infant tigers for public photo shoots and other moneymaking events – fees ranged from $50 to $1,000 per session. Video footage graphically revealed the distress and abuse endured by the endangered animals used for this practice.

Pacelle says tiger cubs were forcibly separated from their mothers during birth and the first few months of their lives were dictated exclusively by public handling schedules. Cubs who were tired, overheated, thirsty, hungry or sick were required to sit still for a parade of paying customers.Pacelle told the media that the investigations also provided a snapshot of the unfettered breeding of big cats for the exploitation of their cubs, the resulting surplus of adult big cats, and the animal welfare and public safety implications when large cubs are discarded after ceasing to be profitable. He went on to say, that the zoos, discard of the baby tiger cubs to organizations that use them for canned hunts, other inhumane roadside zoo operations or use of the animals for body parts.

“Our investigations revealed never-before seen abuse, neglect, and the over breeding that goes on behind the scenes at these tiger cub handling operations. We must put an end to this dangerous and cruel business,” Pacelle said. {}In a written response, to the Associated Press, Natural Bridge Zoo owner Karl Mogensen called the allegations “slanderous” and “vicious propaganda” aimed at soliciting donations. He also denied the accusations.

 

CRIME

Father, daughter charged with not properly caring for animals at Florida, Virginia zoos

GULF BREEZE, Fla. –  Federal officials filed a complaint accusing the owners of a Florida zoo of failing to properly care for the animals.

The charges by the U.S. Department of Agriculture say the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo wasn’t properly supervised when a child was bitten by a camel. The tiger enclosure didn’t have proper ventilation and other animal enclosures had rusted fences and exposed nails, according to the complaint.

Owner Eric Mogensen and his daughter, Meghan, were charged with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the Gulf Breeze facility, as well as two other facilities they own in Virginia, according to the Florida Daily News (http://tinyurl.com/pyldtqb) .

Emails and a phone message left at the zoo were not immediately returned Sunday.

___

Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), http://www.nwfdailynews.com

 

Virginia zoo director guilty of drowning wallaby in bucket of water before tossing in dumpster

Reston Zoo Director Meghan Mogensen, 26, found guilty of animal cruelty and illegal possession of animal anaesthetics

Police say Mogensen claimed to have humanely killed the wallaby after it suffered an eye injury

A necropsy and toxicology test found no sign of drugs or needle punctures as claimed by the director

Former zoo curator who discovered the wallaby’s body claims the death is just the tip of others inhumanely killed including rabbits bashed against walls

By NINA GOLGOWSKI

PUBLISHED: 10:38 EST, 29 September 2012 | UPDATED: 11:30 EST, 29 September 2012

Guilty: Reston Zoo Director Meghan Mogensen, 26, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for animal cruelty and illegal possession of animal anaesthesia

A Virginia zoo director has been found guilty of animal cruelty after drowning an injured wallaby in a bucket of water.

Reston Zoo Director Meghan Mogensen, 26, was sentenced to 30 days in jail on Friday after the body of the adult wallaby named Parmesan was recovered soaking in a plastic bag last January by a now former employee.

That former zoo curator turned whistleblower, Ashley Rood, testified that the wallaby’s death was just the tip of inhumane killings undertaken by the director that included rabbits slammed into walls, chickens fed to pythons and others plainly shot.

It was an eye injury sustained by Parmesan while hopping around its pen on January 26th that led to its barbaric death and disposal at the hands of the director, according to Rood.
‘I ripped open the bag and I saw the animal and it solidified it for me,’ Rood described to ABC7 of finding the wallaby’s body soaking in one of the park’s dumpsters.

From what started as a bandage on Parmesan’s left eye and his placement by zookeepers in a plastic crate for his recovery, Rood said the animal managed to bang his head, further puncturing his eye which started bleeding.

According to Rood, Ashley Mogensen asked the zoo’s owner, Eric Mogensen, what to do. He told her to euthanize the animal, a decision that ‘dumbfounded’ Rood who believed its injuries could be treated.

‘I didn’t think the eye could be salvaged but it could be removed by a vet,’ Rood said, according to the Vienna Patch. ‘I told [Ashley Mogensen] other than that, he appears perfectly fine.’

Killed: The wallaby named Parmesan, pictured, was recovered wrapped inside a garbage bag with tests finding neither sign of a needle’s injection or a drug in the animal’s body
Rood claimed Mogensen retorted with: ‘These animals are Eric’s property, and we need to do what he wants with them.’

Mogensen, according to Rood, said she’d ‘take care of it’ and sent her on an errand after she expressed not wanting anything to do with its euthanasia.

Returning to find the wallaby missing from its enclosure and a bucket of water one-quarter of the way full sitting nearby, Rood said she put two and two together and raced to a dumpster to find the animal soaking wet while wrapped inside a trash bag.

Rood immediately announced her resignation and called local authorities.

‘I told Meghan “I think you and your father are sick, sadistic people and I am not going to be a part of it anymore,” said Rood. ‘It is one thing to euthanize them. It is another thing to drown them.’

Appealing: Morgensen, seen holding a baby kangaroo in 2011, plans to appeal the guilty verdict

Injury: Parmesan had suffered an eye injury while hopping around its pen, one that the zoo’s curator believed could be treated instead of being killed

Responding authorities who saw the animal’s body were told that Mogensen had just washed the wallaby -reasoning its wet condition – after humanely euthanizing it with an IV injection of Beuthanasia-D. They turned critical when seeing the zoo didn’t have permits or training to legally administer the drug.

Ordering a necropsy and toxicology test on the body, expert witnesses also reported finding neither sign of a needle’s injection or a drug in the animal’s body.

Instead there were ruptured blood vessels in its lungs along with plant matter and bacteria consistent with a drowning, according to Jaime Weisman, veterinary  diagnostician with the Virginia Department of Agriculture who was one of 15 witnesses who testified on behalf of prosecutors.

Mogensen has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,000 for the animal cruelty charge along with a $250 fine and six month suspensions of her driver’s license for illegal possession of animal anaesthetics.

Whistleblower: That curator Ashley Rood, pictured, said she called authorities who recovered the body which the director said was humanely killed and only wet because of a bath

String of abuse: The curator claims that the wallaby’s death was the breaking point for her after previous animal killings at the zoo allegedly involved banging rabbits against walls and shooting them

Asked by the judge if she had anything to say before her verdict’s reading, Mogensen did not speak, in addition to not testifying during the trial.

‘I don’t wish anything bad for the zoo, there are so many animals there that I love and there are people who work there that do really love what they do and I know it’s hard for them right now,’ Rood told WUSA after the trial whose verdict she described being a major relief to her.

Meghan Mogensen is said by her attorneys to be appealing the charges against her.

‘She was concerned about this animal,’ Defence Attorney Caleb Kershner said in his closing statement according to the Washington Post. ‘It was suffering.’

Other zoos owned by Eric Mogensen have been scrutinized in recent years while this was the first against the Reston Zoo, according to the Post which also lists the current allegations of additional inhumane animal killings within the zoo according to Rood.

A request for comment by the Reston Zoo was not immediately returned on Saturday.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210426/Reston-Virginia-zoo-director-Meghan-Mogensen-jailed-drowning-wallaby-named-Parmesan-bucket-water.html

 

Legal Name (DBA):
KARL MOGENSEN (NATURAL BRIDGE ZOOLOGICAL PARK)
Customer No: 2468
Certificate No: 52-C-0035
Certificate Status: ACTIVE
Status Date: Jan 2, 1960
PO BOX 88
NATURAL BRIDGE ,VA 24578
COUNTY: ROCKBRIDGE

VERY BAD USDA INSPECTION OF NATURAL BRIDGE ZOO

Owned and operated by the Mogensen family.

NaturalBridgeZoo2015-01-06

NaturalBridgeZoo2015-03-10

NaturalBridgeZoo2015-05-19

NaturalBridgeZoo2015-12-15

NaturalBridgeZoo2013-02-28HeatForGuineaPigsDamagedFence

NaturalBridgeZoo2013-08-13VetCareWatering

NaturalBridgeZoo2013-09-26VetCare

NaturalBridgeZoo2014-02-19FlooringFacilities

NaturalBridgeZoo2014-06-24Facilities

VA130013_AC_Complaint_Mogensen_Redacted

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Posted on Apr 27, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Jungle Habitat Zoo

Jungle Habitat Zoo Sets Up Shop in Florida

This week it was reported that Jungle Habitat Zoo, a traveling exhibitor that exploits a variety of exotic animals including big cats, would be joining forces with the owner of Nosey the elephant to operate a permanent roadside zoo in Kissimmee, Florida.

Jungle Habitat Zoo is an on demand traveling zoo that displays wild animals in parking lots across the country. Charging only 1 dollar for entry, their profits come from highly stressful and unsafe animal encounters. They also engage in the pay to play cub-petting scheme, offering visitors photo ops with young tiger cubs.

​Cub petting is the #1 cause of big cat abuse in the US. ​(Learn more about cub petting at bigcatrescue.org/cubs). Roadside zoos such as Jungle Habitat Zoo do nothing to benefit conservation of these animals in the wild and only proliferate the exploitation, abuse, and neglect of wild cats.

Nosey the elephant has sadly become a symbol of captive wildlife abuse. The USDA has repeatedly cited Nosey’s owner, Hugo Tommy Liebel and the Liebel Family Circus, for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. And for years animal welfare advocates have extensively documented Nosey’s lonely and painful life. Learn more about Nosey at this site http://savenoseynow.org/.

Please join us in taking a stand against the ​use of big cats and other wild animals in roadside zoos. Take the pledge to be a Big Cat Friendly Tourist, thereby assuring the owners of such facilities and the communities in which they operate that the public does not support the exploitation of tigers, elephants, ​or any​ other exotic animals for entertainment.

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Posted on Apr 26, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Most Wanted | 0 comments

Doc Antle – T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species)

Doc Antle – T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species)

AKA Kevin Antle, Bhagavan Antle, Rare Species Fund, Preservation Station

USDA cites for recurring problems with ringworm on the tiger cubs.

RingwormAntle_2780343476975951961_o:

Ringworm is easily spread from infected cubs to those who touch them.

 

Overview

Exploiting tiger cubs. In our opinion, Kevin Antle (who calls himself “Doc” because he supposedly earned a doctor of natural sciences degree from the Chinese Science Foundation according to one report. Note that there does not appear to be a Chinese Science Foundation on the Internet) is one of the most notorious exploiters of tiger cubs in the country.  Antle operates two facilities in Myrtle Beach, SC that offer cub handling and photo ops for a fee.  One is a retail location called Preservation Station in a tourist area of town near the beach.  The other is his zoo or park.

He incessantly breeds tiger cubs to use to make money at these locations.  From what we are told by visitors, the cubs are taken to the retail location where they are subjected to being placed with and handled by person after person paying to have their photos taken with the cubs for a number of hours each day.  Then the cubs are taken back to the zoo, where they are subjected to more handling and photos.  Antle also takes cubs on the road to exhibit far from home at fairs or other venues, forcing the tiny cubs to ride long distances in a truck only to be  handled by person after person for hours to make money.

Cubs used by exhibitors to make money from handling are typically torn from their mothers shortly after birth, a torment to both cub and mother.  They are deprived of the comfort and nutrition of nursing and grooming by the mothers, subjected to unnatural levels of stress that lower their immune systems, and typically not allowed the natural amount and timing of sleep in order to satisfy customers.  For more about cub handling in general see Cub Handling Factsheet

Where do Antle’s cubs end up? USDA guidance states that cubs should not be handled at under 8 weeks of age because their immune systems are not sufficiently developed, and not handled at over 12 weeks because they are classified as “juvenile” and dangerous.  This creates a four week “window” during which cubs can be handled if exhibitors comply with the guidance.  (NOTE: We and other much larger animal welfare organizations have been urging to USDA to close this 8-12 week “window” by banning cub petting altogether to stop the widespread abuse of cubs used for petting.)

One visitor reported they were told by handlers that Antle starts using the cubs at 3 weeks of age, ignoring USDA guidance designed to protect the health of the cubs.  Even so, there is only a brief period during which the cubs can be handled.  So, Antle must steadily breed cubs to use in this money generating business.  But, according to his USDA census, he only houses 51 tigers at his park.

Where do all these cubs go when they are too old for him to use to make money? There is no way to know how many of these tigers end up living miserable lives in conditions compassionate people who care about animals would consider inhumane.  Per the report by TRAFFIC, the worldwide organization that tracks trade in exotic animals, the lack of tracking of tigers in the U.S. means there is also no way to know how many tigers end up being slaughtered for their parts to make “derivatives” like alleged medicines and tiger bone wine.

Visitors who have tried asking where the tigers end up tell us that they get evasive answers.  According to one Animal Welfare Act violation case and “Animal Underworld,” Alan Green’s excellent book exposing the illegal trade in exotic animals, that two of Antle’s tigers ended up in the hands of Mario Tabruae.  Tabruae was arrested in the late 80’s for heading a 10 year drug smuggling ring.  His Zoological Imports business was featured in Green’s book.  Some of Antle’s animals have ended up at GW Park in Oklahoma, another notorious exhibitor of tiger cubs.

Unsafe exhibition of adult tigers – USDA lawsuit.  Antle used to make money photographing visitors in close proximity to big cats with no barrier to protect the public.  In 2005 the USDA told him he was violating the safety rule that prohibits exhibiting without sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animals and the public.  Antle sued USDA claiming his procedures complied with the rules.  His case was so lacking in merit that he lost on summary judgment.  He then appealed, and lost again.  In our opinion, the idea that someone could safely stand within touching distance of an adult big cat is absurd because there is no way any “handler” can restrain a big cat that decides to attack.  Antle made his argument despite the fact that, according to reports, in 1991 one if his lions who was posing with a female model bit her  head resulting in 50 stitches and a $75,000 civil suit judgment against him.

Investigations, violations and injuries.  Antle has a 20+ year history of USDA and/or state agency investigations and/or violations including hitting tigers, injuries, transporting animals without proper health tests and papers and containing them in areas that were too small,  unclean, unsound and/or inadequate.  A chronology of those violations appears below.

Breeding ligers and tigons and color variations.  Antle is known for breeding hybrids between lions and tigers and color variations that do not occur in nature and have no conservation value according to experts.  Their only apparent purpose is to draw visitors to see what in our opinion are freaks.

Helping conservation?  Antle is a clever marketer who positions himself as making a significant contribution to conservation in the wild.  Visitors are given literature that may cause them to think that Antle makes a significant contribution to conservation.  Antle claims to have a “nonprofit grassroots organization” called the Rare Species Fund that donates to conservation in the wild.  In our search, we were unable to find an entity of this name listed as a nonprofit by the IRS.   We were not even able to find an entity with this name in South Carolina Secretary of State records.  It appears to be simply a fictional name Antle uses.  Antle’s brochure claims RSF is “among the world’s most effective conservation agencies.”  The literature says that since the founding of RSF in 1982 it has provided “more than $200,000 to wildlife conservation effort.”  This comes to less than $10,000 each year on average.  This is likely to be a tiny fraction of the amount Antle makes from his for profit tours and animal handling fees.  We are unable to find any financial reporting or disclosure related to this alleged entity.  One of the groups Antle’s literature says he works with as part of his alleged conservation work is the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF).  This is a group that advocates the private pet ownership of exotic animals that we believe leads to many animals living in what we consider to be miserable conditions and creates danger to the owners and public.

Tiger escape.  Antle used to also keep a few tigers and other animals at Jungle Island in Miami.  In August 2010 one his tigers escaped, sending visitors scattering.  Fortunately the tiger was recaptured without anyone being attacked, although a news report indicated four people were treated for minor injuries.  Antle was cited by USDA twice in the months following the escape for continuing to keep tigers in an inadequate enclosure.  It appears from our research that by January 2012 he had transferred ownership of the animals to another licensee and did not renew his permits to keep animals in Florida.

Lies regarding critics.  Because exploiters of tiger cubs have no true basis for justifying their mistreatment of the animals, they typically try to discredit critics with false statements about the critics. Antle is no exception.  Big Cat Rescue in Tampa has made exposing what we view as abuse of tiger cubs a priority.  In response, Antle makes false statements and points to websites set up by other exploiters containing false statements about Big Cat Rescue and Founder Carole Baskin.  Among his lies have been claims that he is the copyright holder of photos Big Cat Rescue posted to expose his operation.  When challenged under the provisions of the Digital Media Copyright Act, Antle was unable to back up his lies and the images were reinstated.

Chronology of Citations/Investigations/Escape/Injuries from news reports and government documents

Nov 16, 2010 cited again for tiger enclosures that were no different from the one that enabled an escape in Aug 2010.

Sept 10, 2010 cited for failing to house the tiger who had previously escaped in a cage that was any different from the one he had escaped from on Aug 28.

Aug 28, 2010 Visitors to Miami’s Jungle Island were treated to a scarily authentic experience when a tiger sprang from its pen at the tropical tourist attraction.  Hundreds of terrified guests ran for safety when the big cat, known as Mahesh, broke out of its enclosure. According to MSNBC, the 3-year-old tiger spent an hour enjoying its newfound freedom before being recaptured.

June 8, 2010 failed to have a person of legal age available at Miami’s Jungle Island site to let the USDA inspect the facility.

May 10, 2009 As an example of where Antle’s tigers end up, in AWA Docket No. 09-0085 the judge found that Bhagavan Antle released two tigers to Ray Thunderhawk, who had already lost his USDA license  and who had abandoned 75 tigers in Palm Bay, Florida.  Thunderhawk ran a “pay to play” operation whereby patrons pay to pet and pose with big cats and he took the two tigers from Antle in S.C. to Boston before taking them to the buyer in Miami.  The buyer was Mario S. Tabruae of Zoological Imports 2000 located at 16225 SW 172 Av Miami, FL 33187.  Tabruae admitted to falsifying records to make it look as if he had purchased directly from Antle and that Antle had delivered the tigers.  Dec 12, 1987 New York Times reports that Mario S.Tabruae was arrested for:

A drug-smuggling ring that killed an informer and cut up his body while trafficking in a half-million pounds of marijuana has been broken, the Federal authorities said today.  The ring also bribed police officers to protect their operation, said Richard Gregorie, the chief assistant United States Attorney here. At one time, the indictment charged, members of the ring used Miami police officers to collect, count and disburse drug profits.

The ring operated for at least 10 years, smuggling the marijuana, along with some cocaine, into Louisiana and Florida, Mr. Gregorie said.  Six of the seven people indicted in the case were arrested here by a special Federal law-enforcement group combatting drug smuggling. The seventh was in custody in another state. $50,000 Caught by Agent Among those arrested were the men who the authorities said headed the ring, Mario Tabraue and his father, Guillermo. When the men were arrested at their homes in Dade County, Mario Tabraue’s wife tossed a bundle of $50,000 in cash out the back window, said Lloyd E. Dean, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation here. The money was caught by a Federal agent, Mr. Dean said.

December 1994 Antle was fined $1000 for transporting a bull and cow without proper health tests and papers. He was also cited for night boxes that were too small for zebras, wolf hybrids and tigers.

July 6, 1994 US Department of Agriculture investigation for failing to supply proper travel papers in Kodak, TN in Sevier County.  Antle was also associated with a second investigation into the legality of whether interstate transportation and exchange of baby tiger cubs. Antle was also under investigation because one of his tigers bit a trainer who was visiting Antle’s Buckingham Zoological Park in Virginia.

Dec 1993 transporting a bull and cow without proper health tests/papers in Kodak, TN in Sevier County

May 1992 Sharp wire was at the top of the zebra fence.

Nov 1991 An electric cord from a space heater dangled within reach of an elephant.

Oct 11, 1991 charged with hitting his tigers in Carver, MA in Plymouth County.  Antle and his handlers were seen hitting wild cats at a fair according to the Animal Rescue League of Boston.  Antle stated he hit the tigers when they became too aggressive.

Another investigation found that Antle allowed people to have their pictures taken with the animals, failed to list a cougar among the animals he brought to the state and had overstayed his permit according to Tom French, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Wildlife.  Antle at that point was asked to leave Carver, MA within 24 hours.

According to one report, Antle returned to Massachusetts without the knowledge of wildlife officials under the guise of other company names, and at the time that led the Massachusetts wildlife department to declare that it would not issue any more permits to Antle.   However, they apparently have, since he reportedly has been performing at a fair there for decades.

Oct 9, 1991 lion named Arthur bit a model during a photo shoot requiring 50 stitches in Manchester, NH in Hillsborough County.  Antle allowed a Konica lion named Arthur to pose for pictures with a Bedford, NH model.  Shannon Audley, 23, of Bedford, NH was injured when the 6-year-old lion opened its mouth and clamped down on one side of her head. Audley’s head was cut, and she was admitted to Catholic Medical Center where she needed more than 50 stitches to close the wounds to her head and was hospitalized for about 5 days.  Audley also had to undergo a series of rabies shots because Antle left the state with the lion and it couldn’t be determined if the lion had received a rabies vaccination.

Audley was awarded $75,000 in her lawsuit against Antle, under a default judgment.  A default judgment is entered when a defendant takes no action to contest a claim against him.  Audley was seeking $250,000.  Audley also filed a suit against Bill Melton, the Manchester, NH photographer, but the court dismissed that action.  Antle claimed the model was cut falling off a platform.

Sept 1991 The pit of a young zebra was called inadequate and exposed nails were found in animal enclosures in at least 2 inspections.

Aug 21, 1991 Antle was assessed a $3500 penalty to avoid litigation over 7 alleged violations, including animal enclosures that were unclean and structurally unsound and supplying incomplete travel and identification records.  He did not have to admit innocence or guilt as a result of the order.  Kodak, TN in Sevier County  As of July 14, 1994 the penalty has not been paid.

July 1991 Antle was cited for unclean and unsound animal enclosures, incomplete travel and ID records. Monkeys were kept too close to coyotes and a baboon across from a jaguar.  An exhibit site for an elephant had no way of preventing the animal from entering a highway if it got away from the trainer. Kodak, TN in Sevier County

1991 Antle came home from his tiger roadshow to an outstanding misdemeanor warrant issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.  It charges him of letting a tiger come in contact with the general public at a 1990 bodybuilding contest in Sevierville. It was served on him and carries a $50 fine if he’s convicted.

December 1989 Federal inspectors find zoo vacated with deer and peacocks left behind in Buckingham, VA

###

Antle Tiger Escape at Jungle Island August 2010

August 29, 2010 Miami, FL: Visitors to Miami’s Jungle Island stampeded over each other to avoid an escaped, 3 yr old, 500 lb. tiger named Mahesh. A monkey escaped while being transported through the zoo and 500 lb. Mahesh bounded over the 14-foot fence into the public area according to the Miami Herald. The attraction’s three big cats — which include a liger and a white tiger — have been confined to a “night kennel,” while the park investigates. “We were really scared. There were people crying,” Miami mom Dorothy Evans told the Herald, adding that people knocked each other down as they sprinted toward the shelter. “People were running for their lives,” Larry Rhodes, 46, of Pompano Beach, told the Sun Sentinel. Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Ignatius Carroll told the Herald that several people were injured while running, including a mother who fell on top of her 15-month old baby. Another guest was taken to a Miami hospital after suffering a panic attack.  Bhagavan (Kevin) Antle, who also owns T.I.G.E.R.S. in Myrtle Beach, SC and who is the owner of Mahesh, was charged with one count of maintaining captive wildlife in an unsafe condition, resulting in threats to public safety. Park owner Bern M. Levine was charged with two second-degree misdemeanors for conditions resulting in the animals’ escape. The charges for both men have a maximum penalty of $500, FWC officer Pino said. Source Time and others.

About Antle in the book Animal Underworld

Page 35 of Alan Green’s book Animal Underworld: “An animal handler who has claimed to also own an Exxon tiger is Bhagavan Kevin Antle, who was an assistant to Jack Hanna during his appearances on Good Morning America and Late Night With David Letterman. Known alternatively as Kevin Bhagavan, Kevin Antle, Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle, Ghagavan Antle, and Dr. Kevin Antle (he supposedly earned a doctor of natural sciences degree from the Chinese Science Foundation), Antle also claimed to own the MGM lion, even though Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. sent him a cease-and-desist letter, and he implied in his literature an affiliation with Greenpeace, until he was told to cease and desist. Antle is a self-described big-cat conservationist who presides over The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS), which operates a mobile petting zoo, leases tigers for TV commercials, and charges people at shopping malls and festivals to have their pictures taken with an animal. Antle hauls around a crossbred lion and tiger to such places as casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is also known for owning a lion that, in 1991, had to be pulled off a terrified model during a photo shoot in Manchester, New Hampshire. That same year, the federal government charged Antle with repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including substandard housing for big cats, and to settle the charges he agreed to pay a $3,5000 fine. He was also cited in Massachusetts that year for illegally displaying his cats, and he was threatened with arrest and confiscation of the animals if he didn’t immediately leave the state. What’s more, Antle was the target of an unsuccessful 1991 Tennessee lawsuit regarding his alleged beating of a Bengal tiger with a wooden shaft.”

Antle Claiming to be an M.D.

In an article he wrote for the Phoenix Exotic Wildlife Association in 2005 Antle claimed to be a medical doctor saying, “I still think this is your right to have your own tiger and to be killed by your own tiger. Just keep it in a cage forever and don’t let anyone else near you or watch you have it happen. I know this rambled on a bit but I was trying to make several points that are hard to explain. I often say that as an MD., I can talk you trough [sic] taking out someone’s kidney, but I can not talk you through tiger training. You have to live it to understand it. Dr. Bhagavan Antle”

1991 News Article

Antle, 34 and his high-profile business are in the middle of an ongoing animal-rights debate.

Antle, whose full name is Mahamayavia Bhagavan Antle though he has gone by the name Kevin, is an animal trainer who supplies trained animals for advertising, commercials, film work and shows.

He opened the park on Bryan Road within site of Interstate 40 in late May. It is open to the public.  It houses dozens of animals ranging from tigers to lions, to wolf hybrids, an elephant, primates and some deer. Antle said he also has some animals in Korea, where he has been working on a show involving trained animals for a resort.

Animal-rights advocates say he routinely doesn’t follow federal animal welfare regulations.

Among the charges leveled by regulators and animal-right groups are that Antle doesn’t provide proper shelter for the animals, doesn’t give them enough access to water, gives incomplete records to federal and state officials and allows the public to come in contact with the dangerous animals.

Animal-rights activists said Antle cares little about the animals or the public.  They believe Antle beats, mistreats and drugs the animals to make them act domesticated for commercials, television, movies and his shows.

“He’s out there to make money and that’s all he’s out there for” said Sue Pressman, a West Virginia zoo consultant who helped write the Animal Welfare Act and who gave a critical inspection report of T.I.G.E.R.S in August 1991.  “He needs to go to jail” stated Pressman.

“It’s a lie the United States Department of Agriculture comes here all the time to inspect us,” Antle said. “The USDA’s sole purpose in life is sanitation.”

But Sue Pressman, a consultant for P.A.W.S., the Performing Animal Welfare Society who toured T.I.G.E.R.S. on Aug. 3, said it was rife with violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.

“We went through and there were lots of problems,” said Don Elroy, co-director of the Tennessee Network for Animals, which invited Pressman to the area. She is a former longtime director of Captive Wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States.

Among the problems Pressman said she found were a host of sanitary (violations, a dangerously low perimeter fence that might allow animals to escape, a fence enclosing tigers that is configured in a way that could allow the cats to climb out and an elephant chained without shade and water.

Elroy said there are also questions the group has about the registration of some of Antle’s animals. He said a lot of the problems are already laid out in previous USDA inspection reports of the facility.

“We want to see some demonstration of compliance,” Elroy said. “He’s not trying to improve the facility.”  Elroy also questioned how the USDA could give Antle a license until he was in full compliance with all regulations.

Antle, however, countered that T.I.G.E.R.S. was licensed by the USDA in May and that USDA veterinarians were back inspecting the facility only a few days before Pressman was there.

He said that groups like P.A.W.S. are against him no matter what.  “No matter what our facility looked like, the lady would have complained,” Antle said.  He also displayed the USDA exhibitor license for T.I.G.E.R.S. and copies of USDA inspection reports on May 21, 1991, and July 16, 1991.

“A few days before that lady was here, they (USDA) made an inspection, and nothing was said about sanitation,” Antle said. “And these men were experts.”

The USDA issues the permits for parks like T.I.G.E.R.S.  “The USDA says we pass unequivocally,” Antle said. “They said they want us to fix water bowls. They said our weeds were higher than they wanted.”

The USDA inspection report on July 16, which Antle provided to a reporter, lists two pages of handwritten recommendations of corrections.  Inspection reports dating back to 1988 for Antle-owned facilities – he also owned Buckingham Zoological Park in Buckingham, Va. – have similar lists.

Despite all of this Antle has never lost his license to exhibit animals.

Reference:
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
The Union Leader
Knight Ridder
Tribune News Service

 

Video Exposing Treatment of Circus Animals

 

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Posted on Apr 21, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Cedar Cove Feline Park

Cedar Cove Feline Park

CEDAR COVE FELINE PARK INC.
Customer No: 8148
Certificate No: 48-C-0118
Certificate Status: ACTIVE
Status Date: Mar 12, 1999

Video Shows Reckless Behavior at Cedar Cove Feline Park

 

For all their talk about how they enrich the animals lives, this USDA inspection report says that Cedar Cove Feline Park have a leopard named Pandora who has a psychological issue that causes her to suck her tail incessantly.  This is typically caused from taking cubs away from their mothers, to use as ego props, because they don’t get to suckle for the many months that Mother Nature intended.

The USDA report states that the leopard had chewed away the end of her tail and the bone was protruding for two and a half weeks before proper veterinary care was given.

Read more Cedar Cove Feline Park inspection reports below.

CedarCoveFelinePark2013-04-10NoVetCare

CedarCoveFelinePark2016-exposedbone

 

CedarCoveFelinePark2010-03-22NoProgramVetCare CedarCoveFelinePark2010-10-18DangerousTigerCaging CedarCoveFelinePark2011-08-09UnsafeTigerCages CedarCoveFelinePark2012-08-15DangerousDilapidatedCatCages CedarCoveFelinePark2012-11-08InadequateShelter

 

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Posted on Apr 11, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Nergers Splendid Tigers

Nergers Splendid Tigers

“Nerger’s Splendid Tigers” is an old-school circus act that’s billed as the largest traveling tiger show in the United States. The Nerger Show features one dozen tigers which are forced to jump through flaming hoops, form pyramids, play leapfrog, and “dance.” The act is run by Judit and Juergen Nerger, a pair of German tiger trainers who have worked in circuses throughout eastern Europe for nearly 30 years before coming to the United States. Over the years, the Nergers and their tiger show have worked at the infamous Cole Bros. Circus, the Tarzan Zerbini/Royal Canadian Circus, and many small “shrine circuses” across the country. They also perform at fairs and festivals.

The Nergers are currently employed by John Cuneo’s notorious Hawthorn Corporation, a shadowy group with a history of severe animal abuse that leases exotic animal acts to traveling circuses. Hawthorn has racked up over $272,000 in federal fines and had their USDA license suspended twice for over 100 Animal Welfare Act violations. These including failure to provide veterinary care to sick animals, housing pairs of tigers in 6 foot long travel cages for weeks at a time, attacks by tigers on staff (one of which allegedly involved a tiger being beaten with baseball bats), providing the head and skin of a white tiger to an individual who wanted to make a rug out of the parts, and using nothing but a single thin rope as a Nergers Splendid Tigers“barrier” between the public and adult tigers. Although the Nergers themselves have their own USDA exhibitor’s license (#33-C-0452), their tigers are owned by the Hawthorn Corporation, and are housed at Hawthorn’s Illinois facility when not on the road, raising serious concerns about the conditions the animals live in when not performing.

 

The Nerger tigers were trained in 2002-3 at the Hawthorn facility by Luis and Marcia Palacio, a team of Mexican trainers who traveled the world in the 1980s with a “mixed act” featuring tigers, lions, leopards, and hyenas. Once the cats were suitably trained, Wade Burck (a circus trainer who once admitted to whacking animals with 2x4s because “they aren’t capable of thinking like I do”) mentored the Nergers in their “presentation methods” and accompanied them to their first few shows.

In this video of the performance, the body language of the cats (ears pinned back, leaning away from the whips) clearly indicates that they are fearful and stressed. Despite the persistent myth that a large animal “can’t be forced to do something it doesn’t want to do”, the motto of the circus is “the show must go on.” In a 2011 interview for a local newspaper, the Nergers admitted that their tigers are naturally solitary creatures and only appear to “get along” while in the ring “because they know we are there”. They also stated that every tiger is made to participate in every performance, even if it is in a “bad mood” that day.

Nergers Tiger Show

More about the Nerger’s

Cubs too small to perform being housed in the back lot of a 2009 Maine circus.

2009 article on a supermarket chain dropping their sponsorship of Nerger’s act after learning about what they were supporting.

Interview with the Nergers from the Sherando Times

22 years with really big cats

A trainer opens up about tigers, PETA and constant danger

by Dan McDermott

April 27, 2011

Juergen Nerger and his wife Judit have been working with big cats for more than twenty years. They headline this year’s Cole Bros. Circus.

For more than 30 years, Juergen and  Judit  Nerger  have  thrilled audiences with their big cat (and occasionally bear) shows. This year, the Nergers and their tiger act will be headlining the Cole Brothers Circus in Winchester during  the 2011 Apple Blossom Festival.

The Sherando Times spoke with Judit Nerger about how she got into such  an  unusual  and  dangerous line of work. Nerger told us about her  life  with  her  feline  colleagues, dealing  with  PETA  and  what  goes through  her  mind  when  she  hears about  a  trainer  getting  mauled, sometimes fatally, while doing what she and her husband do every day.

The  Sherando  Times:  How  did  you  get  interested  and  involved  in  performing with big cats?

Judit  Nerger:  Oh,  that’s  a  long  story from a long time ago. For me it just happened. My husband was working on it and we are originally from East Germany. It was different there and he was the lucky one who got picked out and got in to perform with big cats and train them.

Times: How long have you been performing in front of crowds?

Nerger: Oh gosh, I have to think about it. It’s 22 years for me and for my husband it’s already 25 years.

Times:  Do you own these tigers and do you always perform with the same group?

Nerger: No, we don’t own them. The owner is somebody else. We are just always around them, taking care of them, training, performing, etc.

Times: Typically, would you have to start when they are babies?

Nerger: Not really. It is just always nice if they are at a very young age but like with these cats, they were already 3 or 4 years old when we got them.  So somebody else got them and started, training them. Most of the time, they are 1-1/2 or 2 years old.

Times: So definitely  you  start them young.

Nerger: Yes, we start them young but sometimes you start with older ones if you don’t have any other choice. You can start with them at a very young age, even if they don’t understand what you want, but it’s all just playing around and making them understand this is where you are able to perform, finding out what they like to do which makes the training much easier because each cat has its own personality – they  just have talent on specific things, you know?

Times: So really the cat dictates the show, to a degree because you discover what they like to do? Because obviously you can’t force a tiger to do something it doesn’t want to do?

Nerger: No, it’s kind of pointless to do something which he really cannot.

Times: Do you work exclusively with tigers or also lions?

Nerger: Well, we used to have a lion but we lost him a couple months ago and we are still looking around for a new one to replace him. In the past, before we came over to the United States, we worked with bears too, brown bears.

Times: I noticed that when the circus travels and you see them, the elephants will typically be put in one pen but the tigers and lions they will segregate. Is that because they don’t get along as well as some other animal species?

Nerger: Well, see a tiger in Mother Nature is always single. But lions are a different story. If you have an act with lions you can have all of them together. But with tigers, if you’re lucky you can have 4 or 5 together. But in most cases it’s like 2 by 2. That works out pretty good.

Times: Now they get along during the show. Is that because they are accustomed to each other?

Nerger: Yeah because we are always in there watching them, really not because they like each other, even if they sit right next to each other you never know. It’s just they know we are inside and they don’t have a chance to go at each other. So we have to be on top of it. We are the police in there.

Times: That’s an interesting analogy. Like you said, they have different personalities and just like people they have good days and bad days. Are there some days when one is in a bad mood and you don’t bring that tiger out that day?

Nerger: No, we take them all the time. We just go with the tiger then because before we line them up we can tell, okay this guy is in a bad mood. This female is in a bad mood or she just kind of doesn’t want to do it today. You really put your feelings in there and just keep an eye on that tiger or do this or this today because there is something going on but we aren’t leaving out any cats at any time unless they are sick.

Times: It was interesting when I saw an act 2 or 3 times. I was taking pictures of the circus and I noticed it was a very different show each day. One day they might be really active and energetic and then another day one of them might be having a lazy day but it was a very different show each time.

Nerger: Yeah, a show is never the same. Each show is different because you never know. They have moods like humans. Of course they have moods. Humans have moods and say, ‘I don’t want to do this.” It’s the same with big cats. I think with any animal it is the same because they have moods.

Times: One thing you have to ask when you talk to someone in your line of work because your line of work is potentially very dangerous and we hear stories every few years. The last one is what happened with the Siegfried and Roy show, a horrible accident. What goes through your mind when you hear something like that and what mistakes may have been made? I guess when something like that happens you learn from it?

Nerger: Yes, we do and each time something like that happens we always get a wake up call. We feel bad about what happened to the person but, I tell you what, most of the time it’s really because the trainer did a mistake. So each mistake you do [the cats] want to take advantage of it. So many, many, many times we get a wake up call and say, hey, never let it be us and then for the next couple days we’re going to be more … It’s just a weird feeling. You think you know it but sometimes it is feels like you are getting into a routine and you really shouldn’t because that’s going to cost you your life. So more, more, more attention!

Times: I remember even when [Roy] was injured, he was down and he said, ‘Don’t hurt the cat!’

Nerger: Yeah, yeah, because it’s not the cat’s fault. They are just taking advantage of it because that’s their nature. So we are saying always, the tiger is just sleeping, even if they are trained. Many people are getting it wrong. Many people think they are tame. They think they are pets and they are really not. They are just trained and the trainer has to always be on top of it. You cannot do any mistakes because the worst is going to happen.

Times: I know that the elephant folks are in a constant battle with PETA and other groups but I don’t hear too much about the other animals. Is that something you have to deal with all the time or do they leave you alone?

Nerger: Well we have to deal with it, not all the time. And you know we even have a website for that reason because I don’t want to get bothered by those people and once in a while you have people in front of the circus – they have demonstrations. Over the years you just get so used to it and it just doesn’t bother you anymore. So we aren’t even going into any arguments or discussions about it because it’s pointless. They don’t know what they are talking about. They have no idea. They don’t understand so therefore we are pretty cool about it. It’s not nice to get bothered by it but I can’t change it. They have their mind. I have my mind and that’s it. And actually with the large cats it’s not so bad as with the elephants.

Times: Yeah I was just reading that at one point there were some elephants in the Cole Bros. Circus I guess last season, and they were calling ahead to each town the circus was in to talk to the local authorities and it was just this ongoing hassle that resulted in eventually losing the elephants.

Nerger: Yeah, I know. Sometimes it’s really bad and some areas are really bad and sometimes you don’t have anything like this so it just depends. It’s very bad.

Times: Now you said you’re from East Germany. I know that the circus, it’s pretty much a novelty in The United States. A lot of kids grow up and they don’t ever get a chance to see a circus except on television. It’s a lot more popular and a bigger deal in Europe isn’t it?

Nerger: Yeah, it’s a big deal; but over the years it’s just business is not too good. To be honest, we have way too many circuses in Germany right now and people will go to circuses they know – they always have good business. But [with] small circuses or family circuses they may have had a bad experience so they aren’t going too often. It used to be a big thing, especially in East Germany because we had no entertainment really. We didn’t have all those cool movie theaters and stuff at the time so it was a big thing.

Times: It was definitely a big difference before the wall fell. A big, big difference between East Germany and what they had.

Nerger: I have a feeling that the circus business here in the U.S. is going way better than in Europe.

Times: Have you performed before in The United States?

Nerger: We have been traveling here for over 8 years now.

Times: How do you like it?

Nerger: Uh, yeah! We like it!

 

 

 

 

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