Even in 2021, exotic animals are still being kept as pets in many places around the world. Additionally, animals such as tigers, bears, and wolves are cruelly exploited for financial and personal gain by self-proclaimed “wildlife exhibits”, roadside zoos, circuses, and more.
In fact, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, there are more tigers kept in cages across the US than those that freely roam in their natural habitats. Texas on its own is thought to have the world’s second largest tiger population due to the ability of private citizens to keep them. Many other states have few or vague laws surrounding the care of captive wildlife, which allows the crisis to continue often behind the scenes. Additionally, the illegal import and transport of animals such as tigers, lions, bears, and reptiles is often extremely dangerous and can lead to severe stress, dehydration, disease, or death for the animals.
In addition to animal cruelty, the captive wildlife trade often funds the black market and exacerbates global criminal activity. Thankfully, the US government has begun to recognize the importance of creating stricter laws regarding the keeping of exotic wildlife as exemplified by the proposed Big Cat Public Safety Act. If congress passes the BCPSA, the private possession of big cats will be prohibited across the nation. And while some states are already working to ban the private possession of big cats – other states have virtually no regulations. However, the Big Cat Public Safety Act would close this gap and also make it illegal for exhibitors, such as circuses and zoos, to allow direct contact with cubs.
Until this law passes, educating both ourselves and future generations about the immediate and long term negative impact of owning exotic species will be crucial for change and for wider global conservation efforts. And so long as the captive wildlife crisis continues, so will the need for open areas of land and GFAS accredited sanctuaries to rescue and care for otherwise wild animals. Which is where places like the Wild Animal Sanctuary and extraordinary people like Pat Craig come in.
At the young age of 17, Pat Craig began his life’s mission of rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife from horrible captive situations. Currently, as the Executive Director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, Pat now manages over 10,500 acres of wildlife sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. Pat, his staff, and many other volunteers care for wolves rescued from malls, bears rescued from concrete pits, and jaguars from barred cages among others captive settings. Most recently, Pat has saved over 100 animals previously kept by Joe Exotic; the self-proclaimed Tiger King.
So, what can you do to help? Get educated. Know who/what work you are supporting when viewing exotic species. Call your senators. Share what you learn with others. And teach your kids to know the difference between proper animal care and selfish confinement. Because personally, I believe that a grassroots cultural shift is what will generate the kind of pressure on governments required to put an end to the captive wildlife crisis.
In the meantime, have a listen to my chat with Pat Craig and please share your new knowledge with others; whether they are immediately interested in wildlife welfare or not.
Thank you to Pat Craig and the Wild Animal Sanctuary for your time and for your life-saving work.
This podcast is a game changer.