A few days ago Big Cat Rescue posted a page from their website onto Facebook. The page contains an article they wrote that touches upon the subject of what happens to their cats when they pass away. As seems to always be the case with Big Cat Rescue’s content, the article is full of misinformation and omissions of certain facts.
Big Cat Rescue has rescued more than 250 cats since 1992 and most of them came when they were too old to be profitable to their former owners. Many were bred incessantly to create fur coats, to be sold as pets, or to be used in pay to play sessions where people will pay to see a cute baby tiger or lion. When they could no longer produce, or if they became sick or injured, they were discarded, and that is when they came to us.
Big Cat Rescue claims most of the cats that came to their facility in their early days were too old to be of any use for their former owners, however, the evidence we’ve obtained over the years conflicts with that claim.
According to USDA documents and the accounts of past volunteers, many of Big Cat Rescue's earlier cats were purchased from auctions, fur farms, and private breeders when they were just kittens so they could then be sold (they were known for selling sick kittens), made pets of, used as stock for their breeding operation, or used for their exotic cat exploitation business where tourists could rent a cabin to sleep with cubs which were sometimes declawed for easier handling.
When sanctuaries help each other with large rescues, the oldest and sickest cats come to Big Cat Rescue because we have the financial ability to provide care that most places cannot and we have two amazing vets, and a team of specialists, who donate their services. Despite the fact that most cats come here with everything going against them, they often live longer here than anywhere else. Most exotic cats only live 10-12 years in the wild. In most zoos and sanctuaries that is the same life expectancy. Here our cats live to an average of 17-19 and many into their mid 20’s.
We wonder what method Big Cat Rescue used to determine the life expectancy of exotic cats in zoos and sanctuaries. Are they including zoos and sanctuaries from other countries with less stringent animal welfare standards?
When they say their own cats on average live to be over 17 years old are they taking into account the fact that their "rescued" cats weren't in their care for their entire life? It wouldn't make much sense for any zoological facility to take credit for a big cat living to be 21 years old if the cat came to them at the age of 20.
With that in mind, we decided to see if we were on to something by taking a close look at Big Cat Rescue's tribute website, a website they created to store the background stories of their deceased cats. We had to use the Wayback Machine due to Carole Baskin, CEO and Founder of Big Cat Rescue, abruptly wiping all of the stories from the tribute website.
Through our analysis, we discovered that out of the 165 cats we were able to check (cats with missing dates of arrival/death or that were wild caught were excluded), a whopping 128 cats never lasted more than 16 years in Big Cat Rescue’s care. Only 37 cats survived over 17 years while 63 cats didn't even last 10 years.
One bobcat in particular that was born at Big Cat Rescue only lived to be 2 years old. The bobcat's name was Lakota and the only thing his biography says is, "Lakota was a human in cat's pajamas and is forever in my heart."
Death is certain and final but we don’t want the suffering these cats have endured to have been in vain, so we memorialize every one of them in stone. . . . To ensure than none of our cats’ parts end up in the trade, we have the cats cremated and then their ashes are stored inside these walls around the cemetery and grounds.
This is a perfect example of Big Cat Rescue omitting facts. Through hours of extensive research, we have confirmed that Big Cat Rescue had many of their deceased cats taken to a taxidermist in order to obtain their pelts and skulls. Those specific parts are displayed in cases at their Lion’s Lair Party Pavilion where, you guessed it, parties are thrown. Since they only kept the pelts and skulls we can only speculate as to what happened to the rest of the body parts.
Animal abusers who exploit wild animals often use our transparency about the death of our beloved friends against us by making untrue comments. As of 2014 we don’t know any other sanctuary or zoo who is as open and honest with the public about the lives and deaths of their wards.
Has Big Cat Rescue ever addressed any complaint against their facility without calling their critics animal abusers? For those of you not in the loop, anybody that speaks out against Big Cat Rescue is labeled an animal abuser or exploiter of exotic cats.
Isn’t it funny how they claim to be open and honest even though we just got done showing how they failed to disclose the fact that they have taken some of their deceased cats to a taxidermist to have their pelts and skulls removed?
When have you ever seen a cemetery like this or a website of tributes dedicated to every animal? In stark contrast it is reported that there have been 28 orcas who go by the name Shamu, Namu & Baby Shamu. These killer whales live into their 50’s in the wild, but have an average life span of only 9 in captivity. Often zoos will recycle the same name for the animals so that no one questions it when an animal disappears or dies.
For numerous years their website has omitted or straight up lied about the origins of many of their cats. One example that comes to mind is their story of Shaquille, a black leopard.
Big Cat Rescue would have you believe that Shaquille was severely abused, beaten with a baseball bat, and forced to jump through flaming hoops in a show in Las Vegas, however, the truth is a lot less horrendous according to Shaquille's former owner.
We reached out to Jeanie, Shaquille's former owner, who had this to say, "I am familiar with the black leopard named Shaquille which was given to Carole Baskins for breeding purposes. I knew his former owner in Nevada and I had owned him myself before my divorce in 1991. He was never used in any kind of show or performance, and was a cat who only liked women so my friend gave him to Carole. He liked me so I was there to help load him the day he flew to Florida, and to say goodbye. He was in good spirits and looked to be in good health with no injuries."
As for Big Cat Rescue’s claim of zoos recycling the names of their animals, we have no doubt that they would know all about that since that is exactly what Carole Baskin did as evidenced by USDA documents and her former staff.
When a cat died or was sold Carole would simply replace it with a new cat that was given the same name. Big Cat Rescue's serval named Nairobi is one of many examples.
According to our comprehensive investigation, Nairobi was originally sold to Big Cat Rescue as a male serval, but as time passed, Big Cat Rescue started referring to Nairobi as being female which leads us to believe that the first Nairobi was likely replaced with no trace as to what happened to him.
Wild animals don’t belong in cages. The voices of these past cats still linger in our hearts and are what inspires us to end the trade in wild cats as pets, props and for their parts.
Isn't Big Cat Rescue technically using their deceased cats body parts as props by displaying the pelts and skulls in their party room? Are they also not using their cats as props by exhibiting them in cages for tourists to gawk at all year round?