Tag Archives: tigers

TripAdvisor says it’s taking a stand on animal exploitation

TripAdvisor says it’s taking a stand against animal exploitation by no longer selling bookings to attractions where travelers can make physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.

The policy, six months in the making, was formed with input from tourism, animal welfare and conservation groups including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but many of the millions of travelers who post reviews to the company’s website have been concerned about animal welfare for years, company spokesman Brian Hoyt said.

The company, based in Needham, Massachusetts, also will start providing links on its site to take users to educational research on animal welfare and conservation.

“TripAdvisor’s new booking policy and education effort is designed as a means to do our part in helping improve the health and safety standards of animals, especially in markets with limited regulatory protections,” said Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor’s president.

But the president of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums said she was “disappointed” TripAdvisor never consulted her Virginia-based organization, whose members include branches of the SeaWorld and Six Flags theme parks and dozens of other marine life parks, aquariums and zoos internationally.

“It’s an unjust demonization of the interactive programs that are at the heart of modern zoo and aquarium programs,” president Kathleen Dezio said. “They give guests the magic, memorable experiences that make them want to care about these animals and protect them in the wild.”

The TripAdvisor policy, announced Tuesday, is in line with increasing public sentiment against the exploitation of wild animals to entertain people. SeaWorld this year announced it would stop using killer whales for theatrical performances, while Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last year stopped using elephants.

TripAdvisor will cease booking some attractions immediately, but the policy, which may affect hundreds of businesses, takes full effect early next year.

In announcing the policy, which also applies to the affiliated Viator booking website, TripAdvisor specifically mentioned elephant rides, swim-with-the-dolphins programs and tiger petting.

Several U.S. businesses that offer such attractions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The policy does not apply to horseback rides and children’s petting areas with domesticated animals. It also exempts attractions such as aquarium touch pools where there are educational benefits and visitors are professionally supervised.

TripAdvisor won’t bar user reviews of tourist attractions, even those it stops booking. The company has long banned reviews of businesses that use animals for blood sport, including bullfights.

A San Francisco-based travel analyst, Henry Harteveldt, said because TripAdvisor is so widely used the wildlife attractions could see a noticeable hit to their business.

However, if TripAdvisor merely stops selling the tickets but continues listing the attractions, he said, the effect won’t be long-lasting. He said those attractions may just go through other booking websites to sell tickets.

TripAdvisor said if a wildlife attraction changes its business model it would consider selling tickets again.


Bodies of 40 tiger cubs found in Thai temple freezer

Forty dead tiger cubs were found on June 1 in a freezer at a Buddhist temple that operated as an admission-charging zoo, a national parks official said.

The discovery happened while authorities were removing mostly full-grown live tigers from the temple in western Kanchanaburi province following accusations that monks were involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals.

The cubs were found in a freezer where the temple staff kept food, said Anusorn Noochdumrong, an official from the Department of National Parks who has been overseeing the transfer of the temple’s 137 tigers to shelters. Since Monday, 60 have been tranquilized and removed.

“We don’t know why the temple decided to keep these cubs in the freezer,” Anusorn said. “We will collect these carcasses for DNA analysis.”

The cubs appeared to be up to a week old, he said. Authorities plan to file charges against the temple for illegally possessing endangered species, he said.

The temple’s Facebook page said in March that the temple’s former vet had decided in 2010 to stop cremating cubs that died soon after birth. Calls to the temple’s office were not answered.

The temple, a popular tourist attraction, has been criticized by animal rights activists because of allegations it is not properly set up to care for the animals and flouted regulations restricting the trade of tigers.

The monks resisted previous efforts to take away the tigers, but relented this week after police obtained a court order.

The temple recently made arrangements to operate as a zoo, but the plan fell through when the government determined that the operators failed to secure sufficient resources.

US strengthens rules for captive tigers

The Obama administration this week took steps to strengthen protections for captive tigers held in backyards and private breeding facilities.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is finalizing a rule declaring that privately-owned “generic” tigers are no longer exempt from permitting requirements under the Endangered Species Act that apply to purebred tigers at large zoos. Generic tigers are animals of unknown genetic background or crosses between different subspecies of tigers.

Wildlife experts estimate as many as 5,000 generic tigers are being held in backyards, private animal parks and breeding facilities across the country — 10 times as many as reside in accredited zoos and other large institutions.

The new rule requires that anyone selling tigers across state lines obtain a permit or register under a federal wildlife registration program.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the rule should help reduce illegal trafficking in tigers and promote tiger conservation.

“Removing the loophole that enabled some tigers to be sold for purposes that do not benefit tigers in the wild will strengthen protections for these magnificent creatures and help reduce the trade in tigers that is so detrimental to wild populations,” Ashe said, adding that the rule “will be a positive driver for tiger conservation.”

Wild tigers are under severe threat from habitat loss and the demand for tiger bones and other body parts used in traditional Asian medicines.

Once abundant throughout Asia, today there are only 3,000 to 5,000 wild tigers in small fragmented groups. Tigers are protected as endangered in the United States and internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Most zoo tigers are pure subspecies such as Siberian or Bengal tigers, but thousands more are considered generic. Some animals are featured in traveling zoos and animal parks or used for photo opportunities with tiger cubs. The number of captive tigers in the United States likely exceeds those found in the wild, although exact totals are unknown.

While the new rule does not prevent individuals from owning generic tigers, extending the permitting or registration requirement to all tigers strengthens efforts to address illegal wildlife trade, both domestically and internationally, Ashe said.

Leigh Henry, senior policy adviser for the World Wildlife Fund, called the new rule a critical first step toward ensuring that tigers bred in the U.S. don’t fuel the illegal trade that drives poaching of wild tigers overseas.

“By tightening regulations around captive tigers, the U.S. is making it harder for captive-bred tigers to filter into and stimulate the black market that threatens wild tigers in Asia,” Henry said. The new rule “is another sign that the Obama administration takes wildlife crime seriously,” she added.

The final rule was set to be published in the Federal Register this week and take effect May 6.

Feds issues rule on handling exotic cat cubs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week issued guidance making clear that exhibitors violate the Animal Welfare Act by allowing members of the public to handle or feed  tiger cubs, as well as lions, cheetahs, jaguars or leopards under 4 weeks old.

The guidance is 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.

“We applaud USDA for taking this first step to put roadside zoos and the public on notice that federal law prohibits using infant cubs for photographic opportunities and interactive experiences,” Anna Frostic, senior attorney for wildlife & animal research at The Humane Society of the United States, stated in a news release issued on April 5.

The petition said dozens of facilities across the country routinely breed and acquire exotic feline species — all of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act — to produce a supply of cubs for profit.

“Both animals and people are put in harm’s way when big cats are used for public contact exhibition – young cubs are particularly susceptible to disease, especially when deprived of necessary maternal care, and cubs quickly grow into dangerous predators that can cause serious injury to adults and children,” said Jeff Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

In contrast to zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, “there are thousands of big cats in private menageries in the U.S. and these facilities do not have the resources or expertise to safely and responsibly care for dangerous wild animals,” Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society, stated in the news release.  Conservation professionals agree that endangered and threatened species like tigers, lions, and apes should not be bred for commercial purposes.

“The insatiable demand for cubs and baby primates used at interactive exhibits fuels a vicious cycle of breeding and exploitation. It is standard in this horrific industry to separate babies from their mothers, and then discard them when they grow too big for handling,” Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, added in the news release.

The propagation of tigers in the United States has resulted in a captive population that is nearly twice the number of tigers that exist in the wild, according to The HSUS.

“Cubs used for petting, if they survive, typically spend many years living in substandard facilities and the few who are lucky enough to eventually end up at good sanctuaries typically arrive with medical issues caused by deficient care,” said Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

In addition to these animal welfare, public safety and conservation concerns, “the surplus of exotic animals in roadside zoos and other substandard facilities puts an enormous financial burden on the accredited sanctuaries that provide lifetime care for abandoned and seized animals,” according to Michael Markarian, president of The Fund for Animals.

Investigations have revealed that using tiger cubs for photo ops and play sessions can yield over $20,000 per month for a roadside zoo, fueling demand for more and more cubs – but once the cats mature, their future is uncertain. “There is just not enough space or resources at accredited sanctuaries to support the demand created by this irresponsible breeding,” said Kellie Heckman, executive director of Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Editor’s note: This report was updated on April 8.

U.S. hunters annually import 126,000 ‘wildlife trophies’

U.S. hunters import about 126,000 “wildlife trophies” annually and killed about 1.26 million animals between 2005 and 2014.

Humane Society International and The Human Society of the United States released earlier in February “Trophy Hunting by the Numbers: the United States’ Role in Global Trophy Hunting.”

Trophy hunting is the killing of animals for body parts, such as the head and hide, for display and not primarily for food and sustenance. A recent study examining the motivation for these hunts found that U.S. hunters glamorize the killing of an animal to demonstrate virility, prowess and dominance.

The report uses analysis of hunting trophy import data obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and contains these findings:

• Trophies are primarily imported from Canada and South Africa. They are followed by Namibia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Tanzania, Argentina, Zambia and Botswana.

• The species most favored by trophy hunters include American black bears, impalas, common wildebeests, greater kudus, gemsboks, springboks and bonteboks.

• Trophy hunters highly covet the African big five. The import numbers for 2005-14 are 5,600 African lions, 4,600 African elephants, 4,500 African leopards, 330 southern white rhinos and 17,200 African buffalo.

All of these species, except the African buffalo, are near threatened or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

• The U.S. ports of entry importing the most wildlife trophies during the decade were New York, New York; Pembina, North Dakota; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; and Portal, North Dakota.

“This report clearly shows the dire impact American trophy hunters are having on wildlife in other countries,” said Teresa M. Telecky, director of the wildlife department at HIS.

She continued, “It’s outrageous that every year hunters take the lives of thousands of animals, many threatened with extinction, just to win a prize and show off. These animals need protection, not to be mounted on a wall. The fact that rare, majestic species are entering the U.S. in large and small ports of entry should alarm lawmakers and the public concerned about trophy hunting.”

Hunting groups promote the hunts, offering accolades and awards to club members. The largest of these groups, Safari Club International, recently concluded its convention in Las Vegas, where more than 300 mammal hunts for more than 600 animals were auctioned off and other hunts arranged privately on the exhibit floor. An African lion trophy hunt can cost $13,500-$49,000. An African elephant hunt can cost $11,000-$70,000.

SCI often uses the revenue from hunt sales to lobby against wildlife protection measures.

For certain species, including lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos, the United States is the largest trophy importing country.

HSI and The HSUS, in a statement on the report, pledged to continue to seek new protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act for species that meet the criteria for listing.

The African lion is the latest species to receive ESA protection after a multi-year effort by animal protection organizations, including HSI and The HSUS.

The groups also are seeking increased ESA protections for species currently listed in a lower category of protection, as was recently done for the African elephant. HSI and The HSUS are also urging corporations — such as Swarovski Optik  — to end sponsorship of trophy hunting advocacy organizations, as well as reaching out to more airlines and other transport companies to ban the transport of trophies.

Washington voters approve comprehensive measure against wildlife trafficking

Washington voters on Nov. 3 approved a measure to severely restrict the trade in parts of 10 species of animals threatened with extinction.

Initiated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and backed by The Humane Society of the United States, the ballot measure bans the trade in the parts of elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, pangolins, leopards, cheetahs, sharks, rays and marine turtles and is the nation’s most comprehensive anti-wildlife-trafficking law enacted in any state.

The ballot measure passed in all 39 counties.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release, “This is an enormous momentum-builder for the movement in the United States to shut down the commerce in trinkets, powders and pelts that are driving some of the world’s most iconic creatures to the precipice of extinction. The animals need their tusks, horns, heads and hides more than we do, and Washington voters have given our movement a shot in the arm with this resounding vote.”

The political committee known as Save Endangered Animals Oregon, also led by The Humane Society of the United States, is seeking to qualify a similar initiative in Oregon and to pass it in 2016.

Volunteers have gathered a preliminary round of more than 1,500 signatures, which have been submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State.

A second, much larger, round of signature gathering could begin by the end of the year, with the goal of placing the Save Endangered Animals Oregon measure on the November 2016 ballot.

The Humane Society of the United States and its partners are working across the country to shut down the market for parts of these rare and threatened species. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibits the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn, and in 2014, New Jersey and New York passed similar laws at our urging.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is working to adopt a final federal rule to stem the illegal ivory trade in the United States.

The U.S. is the second largest market for ivory products in the world after China. Last month, the president of China announced his country would replicate a U.S. ban on the commercial trade in ivory.

“With the efforts at the state and federal level in the United States and the decision by China to join our movement, we have an incredible opportunity to put a stop to the mass slaughter of elephants and other creatures around the world,” said Pacelle.