Wild Animal Sanctuary to Feature Pearl and Other Rescue Tigers in Special Virtual Feed

A murder-for-hire plot and long-term abuse are in the rear view mirror for Pearl a recently rescued tiger who has gone from substandard housing at a now-closed Oklahoma “rescue” to life at the Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) headquartered in Keenesburg, Colorado, which is likely the world’s largest sanctuary for carnivores rescued from abuse, substandard housing and malnutrition. In fact, Pearl will be one of the stars of a virtual event November 4 which will highlight her rescue and turn an angry eye toward the abusive animal trade.

A map of the Wild Animal Sanctuary with a clear view of the walkway for viewing the carnivores below.

The WAS website argues that the illegal animal trade ranks closely in size with the drug trade and the weapons trade in a deadly triangle that impacts both animals and humans. Animals the world over are trapped, bought and sold illegally and kept in deadly conditions for amusement and profit. For example, TWAS estimates that as many as 4,000 tigers are outside the zoo system in Texas alone, a number a bit larger than the estimated number of surviving wild tigers in the world.

A preview of the live feed and details of the event are available here at


Pearl’s story is unique but she is by no means alone. She was one of an estimated 1,400 animals who passed through the hands of Joseph Allan Maldonado Passage, who called himself “Joe Exotic” and “The Tiger King.” Passage ran the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood Oklahoma from 1998 to 2018. Promotional materials for the park claimed “You can get closer to these animals here than any other place in the world.” That was both the draw and the problem as getting close included swimming with tiger cubs that had been separated from their mothers and coerced into swimming with humans.

At some point Passage chose to pick a fight with Carole Baskin, operator of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. She was known as an animal rescuer whose ethics were opposite of those of Passage, She claimed he infringed her trademark by using a very similar name in promotional materials.

Further Reading:

Big Cat Rescue: https://bigcatrescue.org/

The Tiger King:https://inews.co.uk/news/world/tiger-king-star-joe-exotic-prison-sentenced-reduced-1

The legal fight spilled out from the courtroom and Passage hired men to kill Baskin. His plot failed and he came to the attention of federal authorities. He was tried for the murder-for-hire plot, killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying animal transaction records. He was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison. His sentence may be shortened a bit because an appeals court has ruled that the length of sentence violates federal sentencing guidelines. He is suffering from cancer and is incarcerated in a hospital prison. . Baskin was able to purchase his park and sell it with the proviso that it cannot be used as a zoo for 100 years. The story was also the inspiration for a Netflix series “The Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness.”

With that behind her, Pearl and 19 other tigers were brought to TWAS. Eventually about 140 animals were brought to the Keenesburg facility. Keenesburg is merely the hub of TWAS activity. It is spacious at 789 acres but fudraising allowed founder Pat Craig to buy an additional 41acres in Boyd, Texas and a whopping 9,000 acre parcel near Springfield, Colorado. Most of the rescues go to the parcel near Springfield, others remain at Keenesburg, especially those with medical and other needs. Visitors can tour the Keenesburg facility via an elevated walkway. Unlike many rescue habitats TWAS believes that carnivores seeing humans at eye level regard them as intrusions, threats and possible prey whereas they ignore people on an elevated walkway.

Birth of Snow Leopard Cub in English Sanctuary Puts Spotlight on Conservation, Breeding

He doesn’t even have a name yet, but a very young snow leopard has some weight on his shoulders as experts work to save the vulnerable species threatened in its Asian mountain habitat. So far known as “Little Cub,” the cub, described as “feisty” and “fearless” by the sanctuary staff was born September 15th at the Big Cat Sanctuary in the county of Kent in Southwest England. https://thebigcatsanctuary.org/ Little Cub was born to Yarko and Laila and is spending time with Laila, his mother, out of sight of the public. The sanctuary recently announced his birth and intends to hold a contest to name the 5 pound male to help raise funds for the organization.

The sanctuary is part of a European Endangered Species Programme, which seeks to breed healthy and genetically sound examples of endangered species to preserve bloodlines to ensure species survival and the possibility of reintroduction. Animals in recognized sanctuaries are listed and matings are arranged to maintain genetic diversity and preserve species lineages. In the past, for example, tigers would be bred among subspecies, thus creating hybrid tigers. These programs try to prevent that and keep lineages pure. https://zoo.bca.ac.uk/european-endangered-species-programmes-eeps

The sanctuary is home to about 50 cats, including jaguars, leopards, manuls (Pallas Cats) lynx and cheetahs. The sanctuary is not open to the public except on certain “Open Days” and depends on donations and “adoptions” as well as events such as “Ranger for a Day” and “Feed the Big Cats.”

Snow leopards inhabit the mountains of Asia and are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN is a membership union of government and non-government organizations. There are about 1,400 member organizations and 18,000 wildlife experts according to the website. Snow leopard numbers dipped but have recovered a bit and there are now estimated to be as many as 6,000 in the wild. Conservation groups have employed a number of tactics to save the species including building cat-proof pens to protect livestock from predation and bounty systems paying for domestic animals preyed upon by the cats. https://www.iucn.org/

News Roundup: Stories of Interest You May Have Missed

Doom of Dinosaurs Was a Boon to Snakes, Researchers Say

Researchers now believe that the cataclysmic event that doomed the dinosaurs led to a burst of evolution for snakes. It has long been believed that birds and mammals were among the creatures to have benefitted from the end of the dinosaurs. But according to new research snakes quickly moved from eating mostly insects to consuming larger prey and grew as the prey did.


Research Says Fear of Spiders and Snakes is Inborn and Not Learned

Researchers also now believe that fear of spiders and snakes is inborn and not learned. Infants as young as six months show stress reactions when shown pictures of spiders and snakes but not of flowers and birds, the research shows.


Wild Chimpanzees Now Suffering From Leprosy, Researchers Discover

Leprosy has suddenly appeared in wild chimpanzees in Guinea-Bissau and the Ivory Coast and researchers are worried. Leprosy is an infectious disease that has been common in people causing lesions, nodules, respiratory problems and other health issues. It can now be treated with antibiotics.

The appearance in chimpanzees is both puzzling and disturbing. Although leprosy has been seen in other mammals before, this is the first time in wild chimps. Researchers are at a loss to explain the appearance, but human contact is one strong possibility. Treating the chimpanzees raises ethical and other issues researchers are wrestling with. It is also raising questions about the prevalence of the disease and its ability to spread.


Scientists See Unprovoked Attacks by Chimpanzees on Gorillas

Scientists have recently observed unprovoked attacks by chimpanzees on gorillas, the first time this has been observed. Scientists observing chimpanzees witnessed two attacks on small groups of gorillas by chimpanzees. The attacks left two juvenile gorillas dead;


Newest Cougar in Santa Monica Study Healthy Despite Inbreeding Concerns and Appears to Have Enough to Eat

P-99 the newest mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains research study appears to have been born healthy and doesn’t seem likely to want for food, according to Ana Beatriz-Cholo, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service (NPS).

P-99 is a bit of a mystery, she said, because she wasn’t tagged as a kitten in a den. Many of the kittens are tagged close to birth when their collared mother leaves the den site to hunt or sleep. Researchers take that time to tag and weigh the kittens, take biological samples and be sure they are back in the den before the mother comes home.

.”She wasn’t tagged as a kitten in a den,” she said, “but she could have come from a mother who wasn’t collared.” Which is where the mystery comes in as researchers don’t have an exact number for the cougars living in the Santa Monica Mountains. Some apparently are native to the region and remain unknown.

At least one cat has made the very risky crossing of the freeway. Others have been killed trying which is one reason efforts are underway to build an animal crossing that will save the lives of existing cougars and help solve the problem of inbreeding. The crossing is scheduled to break ground early next year.

Cougars with kinked tails and other signs of inbreeding have been noted, and the issue is a concern to biologists.

One issue doesn’t seem to be a problem: What to eat.

“There appears to be sufficient prey,” Beatriz-Cholo said. The big cats consume mule deer which exist in sufficient numbers to feed them and support 13 kitten who were born in five litters last year. P-19’s kittens are pictured above. Of course the cougars will eat other smaller prey but a large deer, weighing

more than 100 pounds is the best prey option.

99th Cougar Captured and Tagged for Santa Monica Mountains Study; But Monrovia the Cougar Found Dead

A three-year old 75 pound female is the latest study animal in the ongoing National Park Service (NPS) study of urban cougars (also known and mountain lions and pumas).. NPS and news reports say she was captured September 8 in the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains. The range includes major freeways such as the 101 and 405 and is also heavily populated. The sedated cat was examined by vets, given an ear tag, weighed and had biological samples taken. Her parents are undetermined as of now and she may be offspring of one or even two of the other cats in the study, of which 13 are currently collared.

P-99 under human scrutiny after her September 8th capture. The cat is now part of a 20-year-old National Park Service study examining the wild predators in a mixed urban and wild environment. Just over one dozen cats are collared in the survey,

Confined space, human proximity and inter-cat conflict have led to the deaths of many cats in the study, which has been ongoing for about 20 years. The study began when a pair of the big cats delivered a litter. The male P-1 eventually killed the female and her kittens.

The cats are numbered sequentially and the P stands for Puma which is the most standard name in the science community. Pumas are known to have the most names of any other cat. Puma, mountain lion, cougar and catamount are among the more common but there are many others. The cats also have the greatest north-south range of any cat and are found from Canada and Alaska down to most of South America.

A mountain lion rescued in Monrovia during the Bobcat Fire was found dead, authorities announced Friday.
Monrovia the cougar burned in the Bobcat Fire survived about 10 months after her release but was recently found dead.

It was not all good news however. Monrovia, a female rescued from the Bobcat Fire was rehabilitated and released. She survived for about 10 months and seemed to be doing well, including gaining weight. However she was recently found dead. A necropsy (animal autopsy) was inconclusive. She was estimated to be about 6 years old and cougars rarely live past 10.

News Roundup: Stories of Interest You May Have Missed

Feds Charge Woman Who Stood Too Close to a Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone

An Illinois woman is in hot water after standing too close to a grizzly bear sow and her cubs. The woman was part of a tourist group in Yellowstone Park last spring. Everyone else in the group maintained the mandatory distance from the bears but the woman faces federal charges alleging she stayed too close to the bears and the sow became anxious. The woman was identified after she posted photos on social media.


Attempt to Breed Rare Sumatran Tiger Proves Fatal At Zoo

A breeding introduction at a zoo in Washington State turned deadly for the female tiger, the zoo says. Kirana, a Sumatran Tiger, was being introduced to Raja in an attempt to help increase numbers of the badly endangered tiger subspecies but the pair fought and Kirana received fatal injuries. Sumatran tigers are the smallest tiger subspecies and only an estimated 350 remain in the wild.


Orphaned Elephant Returns to Introduce Her Newborn to Human Rescuers

An orphaned elephant who was hand raised by human rescuers gave birth some years after her return to the wild and chose that very day to return to the keepers who raised her, bringing her newborn along. The story is courtesy of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya which is a successful rescuer of orpaned elephants.


Terrified Woman Nevertheless Helps Capture Rare Blond Rattlesnale

A terrified Mississippi woman overcame her fear of snakes to help in the capture of an extremely rare blond timber rattlesnake. Experts have no idea how rare such snakes are but guessed that only one would hatch out of thousands of eggs and the survival rate would be extraordinarily low because they lack the coloration to avoid predators,


More stories to follow soon

SARS-Covid 2 Among Topics as Wildlife Veterinarians Hold Conference

With the Covid related death of a snow leopard at the Great Plains Zoo as a grim reminder, wildlife veterinarians are having a virtual international conference at which Covid will be a major topic of discussion as the veterinarians work to assist zoo animals and wildlife in general.

The American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) and the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians (EAZWV) are hosting a joint virtual conference on select days during a five week period ending Nov. 5.

Among the topics listed for presentation and discussion on the AAZV website are experimental veterinary vaccines for Covid-Sars 2, diagnostic and management protocols for the virus and a close examination of cases of the virus among wild felids.

The above photo of a healthy snow leopard shows some of the adaptations for cold and high altitude. Dense fur, compact body, rounded ears and a thick bushy tail all contribute to the cat’s ability to function in its challenging realm

The conference is being held in the wake of the death of Baya, a 2.5 year old snow leopard who died October 7 despite intensive care, according to the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Natural History Museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she lived. The zoo said her symptoms, consistent with Covid-Sars 2, began October 3 and despite the efforts of zoo staff and consultants, died October 7. She had been sent to the Great Plains zoo as part of a captive breeding program to help assure the survival of the species. An estimated 7,000 snow leopards survive in mountainous terrain in Asia. Conservation efforts appear to have raised the number, but the species is still at risk.

Other cats in the zoo have shown similar but milder symptoms, the zoo said.

The AAZV describes itself as “veterinarians advancing the health and welfare of zoo animals and wild animals” and describes its goals as improving the health of zoo animals and wildlife as well as promoting veterinary medicine, and “Fostering positive interrelationshios among humans, animals and the environment,”

The 1,000 member AAZV is based in Yulee Florida

Wildlife Learning Center Continues Successful Private Tours

Private tours of the Wildlife Learning Center, a local zoo and rescue center, are continuing and are quite successful, according to co-founder David Riherd. General admission is also available, but hours are restricted, he said.

“We started offering tours so people could be comfortable visiting us during the pandemic, and the tours have been a great success,” Riherd said.

Riherd and fellow co-founder Paul Hahn began modestly in 1993 rescuing pets and starting animal enrichment programs in schools. To date their website https://wildlifelearningcenter.org says they have conducted more than 22,000 teaching missions. Many of those efforts have been with traditionally underserved communities, he noted.

The pair opened the current site, 16027 Yarnell Street in Sylmar, which is now home to about 100 animals, in 2007. The site houses rescues, displaced and zoo-born animals who otherwise would have no life -long home. Mammals at the WLC include servals, bobcats, squirrel monkeys and hedgehogs. There are animals here from all over the world including birds, amphibians, arthropods and reptiles.

The pandemic has limited general admission to Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am to 5 pm with advance reservations required. Tours, however, are offered seven days a week with advanced reservations. Tours are guided by staff biologists and masks and social distancing are still required. General admittees walk the grounds without assigned guides.

Among the rescued animals is Denali, a bald eagle. Denali was rescued with a broken wing and rehabilitated. But because of arthritis the bird was unable to be released in the wild and now has a permanent home at WLC.

To see Denali, the sloths, bobcats, servals and alligators on a more intimate level it is necessary to book a tour. WLC offers 45 and 90 minute guided tours for a limited number of people “creating automatic social distancing.” Riherd said.

In addition to tours and admissions the WLC also offers various events depending on the season and Covid restrictions. There are also ways to “adopt” animals at the center and other forms of donation to help support the animals welfare and provide funds for the “wish list” of structural improvement under consideration.

For further information or to book a tour or general admission call 818 362 8711 or visit for more information,