Claws and Paws
Updated: Tuesday, 08 Nov 2011, 2:43 PM MST
Published : Monday, 07 Nov 2011, 11:02 PM MST
- By STEVE KRAFFT
FOX 10 News
PHOENIX – He was at one time the star at the Wildlife World Zoo in the west valley.
Orion the tiger cub, like other cubs born there, received his fair share of the spotlight.
But now FOX 10 investigates and sheds light on what happens to tiger cubs like Orion once the cameras go away. Surprisingly, many don’t remain at the zoo and where they end up has many worried about the future of the species.
This is a story about Orion.
“It takes about two and a half years to reach maturity,” said Wildlife World Zoo’s Dr. Grey Stafford.
Orion was cute enough to make three appearances on FOX 10 Arizona Morning.
“He’s already 20 pounds and he’s fully clawed and toothed and strong,” said Stafford.
“The first time I ever saw Orion was on FOX 10 Arizona,” said Carol Urban.
This is also a story about someone who stood up for Orion.
Urban is an engineer by trade, but her passion is photography.
“I ended up going to World Wildlife Zoo and I am an amateur photographer and I decided I wanted to take his photos,” she said. “Shots of him playing and shots of him sleeping.”
The tiger cub was born in April at the Wildlife World Zoo — not an unusual event. In fact, 13 tiger cubs have been born there snce 2007.
“Well, let’s be clear, we don’t breed tigers for the sake of breeding tigers,” said Stafford.
While trying to hold on to a five foot alligator, we met with Wildlife World Zoo’s Director of Conservation, Dr. Grey Stafford and owner Mickey OIson.
“Our mission here is to create a family environment that’s friendly and a place where children, parents and grandparents can learn about animals and learn to appreciate them,” said Stafford.
Not all of the tigers born at the Wildlife World Zoo stay there. After his last appearance on FOX 10 in June, Orion hit the road.
He was a featured guest on a talk show in Los Angeles. Then he was given a small zoo in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania called Claws and Paws.
Urban watched a video of him playing in his enclosure last August.
“It has one little ball to play with..he has no water. Tigers love to climb and play in water and I don’t see any water for him” she said.
Kerrie Kerns with One World Conservation says, “The exhibits are inappropriate and do not meet his needs as a species.”
The video was shot by an investigator for one world conservation after Urban called, looking for help. She didn’t think Orion was in a good home.
“One World Conservation has built a campaign around Orion,” she said.
“We would like to have Orion confiscated..this is to us sort of an upscale petting zoo,” said Kerns.
Neither Olson or Stafford viewed the video from Claws and Paws. Olso said he’d been there.
“I’ve personally visited Claws and Paws facility three years ago and I thought their facility was adequate,” said Olson.
Adequate doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement.
We also asked, is Wildlife World Zoo responsible for animals they give away? Not exactly, according to Stafford.
“We have to put our faith into our regulating body which is the USDA and actually the process works because trust me, if someone has a complaint, the USDA responds in a timely fashion.
The United State Department of Agriculture does regulate zoos, including small, road side zoos like Claws and Paws.
When they find something wrong, the USDA writes a citation.
“The ones that they did have had to do primarily with being a zoo in the forest..they had a well forested site and there were a few fences damaged by a tree limb that had come down in a wind storm,” said Olson.
There is a USDA complaint about a downed tree trunk at Claws and Paws, but we also found this about expired medication: “The use of expired medical material on regulated animals is not considered to be acceptable.”
Another report for the petting zoo — it found “Numerous holes in the wood on the back outer wall exposing nail heads and pieces of jagged wood.”
This one for a sick beaver and capybara. The notice says the animals “need
to be brought to the attention of the attending veterinarian to provide adequate veterinary care.”
“They do a good job educating the public in the Scranton area,” said Olson.
Maybe so — most zoos are educational, but what about this?
A warning notice from the USDA to Vincent Hall, the owner of Claws of Paws, for quote, “Failure to construct facility of such material and such strength as appropriate for the animals involved.”
“What really concerns me is I look at this cage and think that’s the size of my garage,” said Urban.
Besides appealing for Orion’s removal, One World Conservation just filed complaints about a camel with a nasty looking knee and a leopard with what appears to be some sort of skin disease.
“There was a black female leopard..six to eight weeks in age and her condition was pretty horrendous, she needs immediate vet care,” said Kerns.
“If we were to find that a facility was chronically not meeting up to its obligations, not just to us, but to the animals themselves, we will take corrective action,” said Stafford.
Hall had no response to our questions about the USDA reports and he declined any comment on camera.
“With Orion being so young and at this time of year, he’s going to be exposed to extreme temperatures..we are concerned about the shelter and him bin exposed to those temperatures,” said Kerns.
It does tend to get a bit cold and snowy in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania this time of year. Because of that, Claws and Paws is now closed, but the animals are still there.
The owner’s son sent us a photo of two white tigers blending in well with recent snows. He said off camera that his tigers enjoy the snowfall and these tigers, now adults, were also donated by the Wildlife World Zoo as cubs. The zoo says they’re doing just fine and that their staff is fully trained to make sure night house heaters work.
“Orion has no one to speak for him and for some reason Orion chose me,” said Urban.
Apparently, someone was listening. Just days ago, Claws and Paws and Wildlife World Zoo had a change of heart, deciding to return Orion to Wildlife World Zoo. He’s there now, under quarantine while his new habitat is readied. Hopefully, he’ll have more than a garbage can to play with.
“I’m glad to see that he is still playing and still being Orion,” said Urban.
The Wildlife World Zoo and Claws and Paws maintain they’ve done nothing wrong, that their critics are overzealous animal rights activists, misguided people who don’t know the facts about animal care.
It’s not for us to decide, it’s up to you. Maybe you should do your own fact finding. Check on Orion later this year. We will. Welcome back Orion.