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At The End, Some Respect for Trucha
When young Trucha wasn't locked up, strangers posed her for photos. She jumped when they laughed too loud, and they flashed lights that left spots in her vision. This Sunday is International Tiger Day and not a minute too soon for the tigers.
By: Big Cat Rescue c/o Carole Baskin, CEO
When she wasn't with the strangers she was alone in the cage. She waited for food, but her mother had been taken away after the birth, and the milk Trucha's captors gave her was not her mother's, and she was hungry. As she neared maturity, they moved her into a breeding cage.
Tigers have their own ways of communicating, but they don't speak or write. That's one of the reasons people around the world celebrate International Tiger Day. If you've watched a tiger with any empathy, you don't want to see them abused or exploited. You want people to understand.
Tigers are far-ranging animals in the wild, covering territories as large as 100 square kilometers. Like many hunters they are territorial, yet they come together at times to share meals. Male tigers have been known to let a mother and cubs have the first share of a kill. They are wild and powerful, but they can form a family in their own way. Thousands of overlapping tiger territories once formed an extended family that ranged from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.
It is difficult to measure how many tigers remain in the wild most experts agree that it is fewer than 3,500 tigers, less than 7% of what they were in 1900. It is illegal to hunt them, but their skins command a high price on the black markets. Traditional medicines and rituals call for their body parts to be eaten or carried or otherwise used to bring good fortune, health, vitality. Poor environmental stewardship means that their traditional range shrinks and fragments each year.
For tigers in captivity, "range" might mean standing room only. They are shipped and smuggled across borders, crossing more territory than free tigers have ever crossed, and yet the scenery is the same. The inside of a crate, the metal hatching of another pen.
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Today, more tigers are living in captivity than in the wild. Poaching and poor environmental policies endanger wild tigers. Inbreeding endangers captive tigers by making it unlikely that their offspring can ever be successful in the wild, even if anyone tried to rehabilitate them. So they endure conditions that are unnatural for their species. People inbreed them and hope for the payoff of a rare white tiger. The orange cubs are less of an asset.
In the wild we respect tigers as a primal force and a cohabitant of our world. In a cage, the tiger can only hope for the respect of its keepers.
Trucha the tiger passed away at the end of August 2009. She was bred for 14 years by Savage Kingdom in FL. After being rescued she spent her last few years at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL. She did have the respect of her keepers at the end, but it was a hard 14 years leading up to that.
Sunday, September 27 is International Tiger Day. It's a day for those of us who can look at another species and imagine ourselves in their predicament, a day to reflect on what we can do now to help them.
by Robert Beverly
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Big Cat Rescue, a non profit educational sanctuary, is devoted to rescuing and providing a permanent home for exotic (i.e. wild, not domestic) cats who have been abused, abandoned, bred to be pets, retired from performing acts, or saved from being slaughtered for fur coats, and to educating the public about these animals and the issues facing them in captivity and in the wild.
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