Not too long ago I went on a week long adventure (8/15-8/22) in which I successfully trekked through the wire jungle known as Big Cat Rescue. During the trip I also managed to tour other facilities ranging from small scale to large scale zoological operations. My trip wasn't for leisure. There were two main purposes for my trip.
One purpose was to counter the criticism from Big Cat Rescue's supporters that questioned my ability to make a fair assessment of a facility I’ve never personally been to. Although, one does not need to visit Big Cat Rescue to catch them in lies, I wanted to put to rest one of the many arguments used to discredit my work.
The second purpose of my trip was to visit some of the facilities constantly attacked by Big Cat Rescue and their minions so I could observe and compare their animals, caging, enrichment, education, and so on. I have to admit, it turned out to be quite an eye opening week.
The four facilities I visited besides the notorious Big Cat Rescue were Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, Dade City’s Wild Things, Forced Exotic Animal Relocation, and The Myrtle Beach Safari.
Big Cat Rescue will likely attempt to discredit me by deceiving the public into thinking I’m conspiring with the owners of the facilities listed, however, I'm committed to reporting only the truth from what I have witnessed firsthand.
The first facility I visited was Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary located in Sarasota, Florida. Before I begin, I'd like to point out that no one new I was coming. Unfortunately, the photos are of poor quality as I was forced to use my phone due to forgetting my camera.
The price of admission was $15 for adults and $7 for kids which is quite cheap especially when compared to Big Cat Rescue which is $36 for adults and $19 for kids. Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary's admission also includes an educational training exhibition which includes birds, a funny little chimpanzee, and of course big cats.
As I walked in through the entrance of Big Cat Habitat (BCH) I was greeted to a friendly volunteer educating a small group of visitors about one of their resident bears. She got the bear to wave hello to his audience with one huge paw. The bear was rewarded with pieces of raw meat that a visitor was able to provide with the use of a long pole and the guidance of the volunteer.
The enclosures for the bears were pretty decent. They had pools to splash and cool off in and toys to play with. I noticed that some of the enclosures seemed to have been recently renovated and some were still being worked on. I learned that BCH works to update and improve their animal enclosures as money becomes available.
Continuing on I came across a petting zoo full of goats of all sizes as well as other animals that visitors of all ages could pet and feed. A man was walking around with a cute little ring-tailed lemur who would jump on visitor's shoulders if invited.
It didn't take long to notice that Big Cat Habitat is very family friendly. In contrast, Big Cat Rescue is geared towards adults and children are only permitted on the kids tours which are limited to Saturday and Sunday only at noon.
A bit further down from the petting zoo was a booth for purchasing hot food and cold drinks. A little past that was a stone pond with a trickling waterfall full of colorful koi fish. To the side of the koi fish pond were a row of primate enclosures and which led to a recently constructed aviary.
Most of the big cat enclosures were located off to the right of the koi pond where the new "Walk on the Wild Side" had just opened. With the exception of an old (and empty) steel-barred cage that was slated to be torn down, the newer enclosures were solidly constructed and seemed to be well maintained. The cat's pools had clean moving water preventing it from turning stagnate. In spite of the recent heavy rains there was little standing water.
Although, I'm not much of a people person, I had the opportunity to speak with Kay Rosaire and her son Clayton. They were both extremely nice and were very grateful I had a website that exposed Big Cat Rescue's lies. As was to be expected, we chatted about Big Cat Rescue and how they constantly attack other facilities.
I was told about one instance where Big Cat Rescue got their supporters to attack a fair because of an event involving big cats. The organizer for the fair said all of the emails they received containing criticism and threats of boycott originated from people outside of the United States. That's quite odd because those people would have never visited the fair anyway and have never seen for themselves what they're speaking out against.
I was also told that many years ago Big Cat Rescue had turned down Clayton's offer to help secure their cats during a hurricane. Would a facility that truly cares about their animal's safety (not to mention the safety of their human neighbors) turn down an offer of help in an emergency?
Our discussion was cut short because Kay and Clayton had to get back to work. Unlike Big Cat Rescue, which pays salaries to the CEO and her extended family and uses all volunteers to care for their animals, the family that runs BCH works to care for their own animals, has few volunteers, and pays staff to pick up the slack.
After this enlightening conversation, I entered a large metal air conditioned building that houses the arena and gift shop. I was told that a bird show was about to commence. I was very surprised that the animal shows were free to attend with no additional charges apart from the $5 VIP seats that I got to sit in for free since I was now considered a guest of honor. The arena was a large circular cage surrounded by bleachers. I found my seat and the show began shortly after.
There were four parrots inside the cage standing on perches. Inside with them was their trainer, Linda Rosaire, who was speaking to the crowd about each of the parrots. After awhile, Linda got each parrot to do few surprising tricks that I never knew parrots were capable of doing.
One parrot put an object inside the hoop of a tiny basketball goal. Another parrot propelled itself across the table on a miniature scooter. Another parrot put on tiny roller skates and rolled across the the table after a couple failed attempts. The last parrot, to my utter amazement, did gymnastics using two rings hanging from thin chains. All of the parrots were rewarded with peanuts after they completed their trick.
The next show that took place right after the parrots performance featured Chance, a clever energetic little chimpanzee. Chance was clowning around and just having a fun time playing with Clayton and his trainer, Pam Rosaire. He was rolling around everywhere, posing for the crowd, wrestling with Clayton, and even dunked a ball into a basketball net. I most definitely would not win a game of basketball against that chimpanzee.
At one point, Clayton began ticking Chance on a table, causing the little chimpanzee to actually start laughing. That was the first time I ever heard a chimpanzee laugh. The performance concluded and we were told that the show with the big cats would begin a little later.
I had time to spare before the big cat show began so I started exploring some more. After all, I needed to take in all the sights and take pictures so I could have something to compare to once I toured Big Cat Rescue. Before I did that, I walked to the snack bar where drinks and food were being sold to buy a cold drink.
While waiting in line I suddenly found myself in the clutches of a complete stranger. Like I previously said, I'm not much of a people person so I was completely shocked. It turned out the be one of BCH's staff who had just been told who I was and just wanted to thank me for exposing Big Cat Rescue. It just amazes me how kind BCH's staff and volunteers are and how my website actually seems to be making a difference.
After that funny encounter I decided to pet some of the animals in the petting zoo until one of the goats started nibbling on my pants. I then entered the aviary and took a couple photos and walked around some more to see what other animals were being cared for. I saw a beautiful pink crested cockatoo, a red kangaroo, peacocks, and an emu that could be hugged and petted, but I decided against that course of action out of fear of being pecked by its intimidating beak.
Moving along I saw a group of large tortoises doing whatever it is tortoises do; some of it considerably x-rated. Continuing down the row of exhibits, there was a large expansive area for the herbivores such as llamas, zebras, camels, ponies, and so on. I did notice a few puddles here and there, but for the most part, everything was pretty much dry. That was surprising because it had been raining heavily in the days preceding my visit and arrival.
As soon as I was satisfied with the pictures I took, I made my way back to the arena to see the big cat show. Clayton Rosaire was the presenter and trainer for the show this time.
One by one, three big cats were released into the circular cage. The first cat released was Mia, a female liger. She seemed to be very happy and was bustling with energy. She was rolling on the ground playing with Clayton's legs. She was even play biting him which I assume must hurt. Clayton was being a comedian making funny jokes about the liger that was currently attached to his legs. After awhile he got her to do a lap around the cage and hop over a hurdle which she did effortlessly. He then got her to take a seat on her stand.
The second cat released was a male white tiger named Barry White who proceeded to his stand. The third big cat released was a cool looking male lion named Handsome. He came out strutting his stuff in something Clayton referred to as his "sexy walk" and lazily hopped up onto his stand. Clayton then began to lovingly tease and joke around with Handsome.
It was very obvious that he loved all of the cats and had an amazing bond with them. He must have loads of trust in his cats since he constantly turns his back on them which I've heard is a big no no. Big Cat Rescue would likely have you believe he was abusing his cats to get them to perform. Commons sense dictates that a huge male lion will not lick your face if you abuse or mistreat it. The picture below speaks for itself.
Clayton then got Mia and Barry to do a performance together. Barry sat on a stand in front of a "flaming" hoop. The "flaming" hoop was simply a hoop with red lights wrapped around it. Mia then jumped through the hoop over Barry. I think it's amazing that such a large and heavy animal can jump so far and high.
I should mention that after each interaction or trick any of the cats did they were rewarded with thick pieces of meat. The small whip Clayton had with him was apparently just for show and comedy since he would whip himself.
Towards the end of Clayton's performance with the cats he got Mia to roar. She started off with a low barely audible roar and then worked her way up to a loud roar after Clayton asked her to with his words and hand gestures. All of the cats were then led out one by one. Mia was the last one to exit but before she went on her way she decided to start playing with Clayton's legs again.
With all the cats back in their enclosures Clayton began educating people about the plight of wild cats. What he told the audience was very educational although I had already learned most of what he said through research, books, and numerous documentaries. I was very surprised when he began explaining the difference between animal welfare and animal rights. He warned the audience that there are corrupt greedy organizations that claim they are about the animals when they really aren't. I thought it was fantastic that he did that because people need to know more about the corrupt animal organizations and scamtuaries such as Big Cat Rescue.
After his educational lecture the show concluded. It was almost closing time so I quickly went to where the enclosures for the big cats were located, Right off the bat I knew the enclosures were great. The cats had open top enclosures with clean pools to soak in and toys to play with. All of the cats seemed to be very healthy and happy as indicated by tigers playing with each other and one of the tigers splashing with a large red ball in his pool.
There was also a large enclosure that I learned the cats each take turns going out in, similar to what Big Cat Rescue does, except that even with millions in donations, it took Big Cat Rescue many years and constant begging for donations before they finally built their "Vacation Rotation" for the cats.
I was very pleased with my visit to Big Cat Habitat. The staff members were friendly and I loved the enclosures they had for their animals although the ones for their big cats and birds could be a bit bigger. I was told that they're always improving the enclosures for their animals which is great.
In 2013 Big Cat Habitat made about $670,000 while Big Cat Rescue made close to $2.7-million. Big Cat Habitat makes way less money yet in my opinion, their facility is looks better and cleaner. Their animals appeared to be well cared for. This place just looks like donor's money is actually being spent on their animals and improving their facility.