Washington, DC (PRWEB) September 30, 2011
Contrary to speculative claims by animal rights organizations that Texans own 2,000 to 4,000 "backyard" tigers, a Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) study of tigers in Texas revealed the population is much closer to 300, and almost none of them are pets.
"I am disappointed at these organizations, but not surprised," says FCF executive director Lynn Culver. "The backyard tiger is a hoax, fabricated by animal rights groups to inflame public hysteria for fund raising purposes."
To locate and document the nationwide captive wild cat population, FCF researchers combined USDA species inventories, state wildlife agency reports, county registrations, state health department records, FCF feline census data, interviewed feline breeders and sanctuary operators, and investigated stories on the Internet.
According to FCF research the latest count of Texas tigers is 312 tigers, housed in 47 locations. Nine Texas sanctuaries hold 107 tigers, and 36 tigers reside in 13 Texas zoos. And the "urban legend" pet tiger is nearly non-existent.
A World Wildlife Fund (WWF) press release, Black Market Feeds on Bodies of America's Backyard Tigers, describes Leigh Henry, WWF spokesperson, as worried 5,000 American tigers are in danger of being killed by their owners, who would sell their bodies to the illegal medicinal tiger bone market.
In A Tigers Tale, Richard Farinato, spokesperson for the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), guesses the state of Texas has 3,000 tigers.
Carole Baskin's Internet opinion piece, Can't Own 3 Dogs But You Can Own a Tiger, says 2,000 tigers are in Texas. Baskin exhibits exotic cats retired from her breeding operation. Baskin allegedly does not know the USDA monitors tigers, even though she uses USDA records to maintain an excel database of tigers.
The Houston Examiner, a site where anyone can sign up to be a "reporter" ran Tigers and Other Big Cats in Texas, which credits National Geographic with estimating 15,000 big cats are in private homes, and attributes the SPCA with estimating Houston has 500 big cats.
To investigate the incredible Texas tiger claims, Culver contacted the Houston SPCA to learn more about Houston's problem with big cats.
SPCA public relations spokesperson Merra Nandlal, hired a year prior to Robyn Broyle's "investigation" for her Houston Examiner story, has no knowledge of this SPCA estimate. Nandlal told the FCF, "In the last three years the Houston SPCA has temporarily housed two tigers confiscated near Waco, and one other confiscated tiger, also from western Texas."
Colleen Hodges, public relations person for Harris County, which surrounds Houston, told the FCF, "Twenty years ago Harris County was farm and ranch land, but now, it is mostly subdivisions, with deed restrictions. Couples have two jobs, and kids in daycare, they don't have tigers."
But according to Harris County animal control field supervisor, Danny Sanchez, there are actually three tigers registered with the county, owned by two people. "In the past 10 years," Sanchez says, "another 5 or 6 people have had wild cats."
South of Houston, in Brazoria County, animal control deputy officer Amanda Kaylor has six people registered with felines, mostly servals, no tigers, and one cougar. "In the past, there was one tiger, but it passed away," says Kaylor, adding, "and one time there was a pair of unregistered tigers, but the owner removed them."
North of Houston, Joe Guidry, Montgomery County animal control field supervisor, has three tigers registered at a single facility. Says Guidry, "The facility used to have more animals, but they have gotten old and passed on." Guidry doesn't believe there are any tigers hiding in Montgomery County, explaining, "With 473,000 residents, someone would complain."
According to Chambers County animal control officer Leslie Richie there are no tigers living in her county, but she vaguely remembers a single tiger cub, "Somewhere in Jefferson County, near Beaumont, about a decade ago."
Jefferson County animal control has no tigers, but suggested FCF look in Galveston County.
In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston. Tiger and lion owner, Michael Ray Kujawa, made national news when he brought his lion with him to a local church to ride out the storm. After the devastation by Ike, the big cats were relocated out of state.
Galveston County assistant district prosecuting attorney Elizabeth Cuchens says, "No tigers are registered and there are no neighbor complaints of tigers either."
USDA Animal Care Inspector Charlie Currer reports that in the Houston area, only two Harris County facilities have tigers, and no USDA licensed facilities have tigers in neighboring West Bend, Brazoria, Montgomery or Galveston County.
In the early 1990’s Currer had about 50 facilities with wild felines, but says big cats are not in Texas anymore. “Counties have really, really cracked down on possession of big cats. People have to pay a lot of money, get insurance, and comply with a lot of regulations. Most of them just gave up their animals.”
Currer doesn’t believe people are hiding tigers, saying, “The large cats are difficult to conceal, they are not like a serval you can keep in the house.”
In Marion County one neighbor complaint is familiar to the FCF. A month after arriving with tigers, leopards, and a cougar, a neighbor reported the unregistered owner to authorities. With the help of the FCF Wild Cat Safety Net Fund the cats were relocated to Wisconsin.
Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO), one of the largest sanctuaries in Texas, has dissolved. The FCF Wild Cat Safety Net paid the fuel bills to transport 13 WAO tigers to Indiana, where they joined more than 100 other tigers at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center.
FCF is very concerned having documented that the true tiger count is much less than the unsubstantiated claims reported by unidentified "experts."
Culver says, "FCF is committed to protecting tigers and their habitat. Captive reared tigers are feline ambassadors that raise public awareness of conservation issues, and possess genetic diversity that could someday save this species from extinction."
The Feline Conservation Federation is an international non-profit organization of zoos, sanctuaries, breeders, educational exhibitors, private owners and researchers. With more than 50 years feline husbandry experience, the FCF is a leading force in captive breeding, public education, wild feline conservation, and, is the expert on the number of tigers in America.
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