Tanganyika is home to the largest private collection of snow leopards in the US.
Tanganyika has increased the worldwide captive population by over 10%.
Tanganyika has one of only 3 black Amur leopards in the world. The Amur leopard is considered rarest big cat in the world with only 30 to 40 estimated to exist in the wild.
CASE FOR SUPPORT
As many of you know, Tanganyika's mission is to have a significant impact in the stewardship of select species. One way we achieve our mission is by creating successful breeding programs for those species. I am proud to say Tanganyika Wildlife Park is one of the most prolific zoos in the world when it comes to breeding rare and endangered species.
Another way we have an impact is by enhancing the connection between people and the natural world though close and interactive encounters with many of the species. Unfortunately, we have not been able to perform the second task with baby cats (from our successful breeding programs) since 2006 when the state passed a law forbidding all contact with "big cats" regardless of size. We need your help this week to change that.
The Kansas House will be debating an important bill to allow our park, along with other accredited zoos, to enhance your experience and knowledge of our animals.
We need your help in supporting Senate Bill 97 this week!
Senate Bill 97 allows us to have rules consistent with other states. Zoos such as San Diego, Columbus, Nashville, and Dallas, among others, already have these same rules proposed in the bill. Included within these changes, the bill would enable accredited zoos to allow young cubs to be used in interactive presentations in a safe, supervised and controlled manner.
Unfortunately, animal rights activists are using a smear-campaign against Tanganyika. Our family is dedicated to strengthening the connection between people and the natural world by providing REAL experiences that are educational and believe that allowing you to have limited contact with cubs in the nursery can have a significant impact in the stewardship of their species.
We strongly ask you to show your support for SB 97 by completing any of the actions below.
Jim Fouts, Director
Tanganyika Wildlife Park
Below we have summarized the changes SB 97 would have on the current law.
at Tanganyika Wildlife Park
People love to see the baby cats through the glass in our nursery, but nothing compares to getting up close. We have people tell us all the time how amazing this experience was for them and this bill will allow us to strengthen the connection between the public and the natural world even more.
Allow Off-site Experiences
For Local TV and Educational Programs
People love every opportunity they can have to see and learn about these amazing animals. We will once again be able to share these amazing animals with the public by bringing them on TV and to other educational outreach programs.
Under 10 lbs
Full Contact means a situation in which a handler maintains control and supervision of a baby cat under 10 lbs while temporarily surrendering physical possession or custody of the animal to another person.
In other words, we will finally be able to let members of the public hold the baby cats in special circumstances.
Under 25 lbs
Incidental Contact means a situation in which a handler maintains control, possession, and supervision of a big cat under 40 lbs while permitting the public to come into contact with it.
In other words, more people will have the opportunity to touch and connect with these amazing animals for the first time since 2006. However, they would have to sign a waiver acknowledging the animal could scratch or bite them before touching the animal.
We detailed the changes the bill would make, but you may be asking what impact will it really have. How does the public have contact with the animals? Is it harmful for the animals or dangerous for the public? Below we have all the answers.
The first important impact that Zoo Bill will have is allowing accredited zoos to take the baby cats out of their primary exhibits for demonstrations. This is how the babies are primarily used. For instance, a trained professional would hold the cat and educate a group of people about the baby. These demonstrations generally last 15 - 30 minutes and the baby returns to its primary enclosure. This might happen a few times a day; generally when the baby needs to be fed.
In some instances, the trained professional will allow the public a short period of time to pet the cat. In that case, the public will be allowed to approach the big cat one at a time. They will be instructed to pet the cat on the back.
Finally, in even fewer instances, the baby cat (under 10 lbs) could be held by a member of the public. In those cases, a trained professional remains next to the the person holding the cat to ensure they are holding the baby in a manner that is safe for both parties.
In all these situations it would be possible for anyone to take a photo with their smart phone or camera for free to remember this amazing experience, but that is not our intent. The purpose of providing these experiences is to educate the public and build the bond between the animals and the public, and NOT to sell photos and make money.
Many people worry about the welfare of the babies when it comes to public contact. Accredited zoos share the same concern about animal welfare, which is why they dedicate their lives to saving these species. That is also why the Zoo Bill includes language requiring any accredited zoo to take into the consideration of the animal's health:
"Handling intervals or physical contact, full or incidental, by members of the public with dangerous regulated animals shall be limited in frequency, intensity, and duration to protect the health, welfare and safety of the animals and to prevent injury to members of the public"
This is the standard among professionals in the zoological industry which the accredited zoos in Kansas follow. As mentioned above, the animals used as ambassadors are in very controlled environments. They are only used for short periods for time and a limited number of programs in a day. This is taken very serious because nearly all of these animals will be used in international breeding programs and their welfare is of utmost importance to those programs.
Finally, interaction with the public is enriching for the young cats. Just like your cat at home (or many domestic cats), they enjoy the attention and like being touched. In addition, the contact and closeness to humans when they are young better acclimates them for a life in captivity because none of these cats will ever be reintroduced back into the wild.
Just like animal welfare, public safety is a top priority for accredited zoos. Many people believe these animals are "wild". This is partially true. Remember, they are born in captivity and raised by humans just like any domestic cat or dog. Therefore, their personality is just like a domestic dog or cat when they are little. It isn't until they reach sexual maturity that they start to take on their "wild" instincts at which time there should be no direct contact with them.
In addition, we recognize they still have claws and teeth just like domestic dogs and cats. So all interactions with the cats are performed with the intent to prevent the possibility of injury to a member of the public. Anytime a cat is used as an ambassador a professional is required to maintain control and supervision of the animals. To maintain control, the following are taken:
Animal must be evaluated to ensure it is compatible with the intended use of such animal (this is a requirement of the bill). For instance, if you have a cat that is friendly, but likes to play, you may not allow contact with that animal. You could still use the animal for demonstrations without contact.
Animals used as an ambassador must be harnessed and leashed. Just like a large dog, the leash and harness allows the handler to control where the animal goes and how close they can get to the public.
All cats used as ambassadors have their claws trimmed regularly. This is primarily done to minimize scratching by the cat when bottle fed by a handler.
When there is incidental contact (touching) with a cat, the handler will generally reside near the head of the cat or ensure the cat is facing away from the public to limit the risk of a bite. In addition, guests are always instructed to approach the cat from the back and touch only the back of the cat. They are not allowed to touch the face of the animal because most animals don't like it and it increases the chance a member of the public could be bit.
The animal rights groups and their supporters like to use half-truths and misrepresentations to turn people against SB97. Below we debunk some of the more common lies with the truth.
Lie: Anyone with a USDA license could allow contact with the cats.
Truth: SB97 only permits facilities accredited by AZA or ZAA to allow contact with young cats. Currently, there are only 9 zoos that meet this requirement in KS, and only 8 of those have cats.
Lie: SB97 would allow contact with full grown tigers and leopards.
Truth: SB97 will still forbid any contact with big cats over 25lbs. The original intent of the bill, which was to prevent private ownership of large cats, will still be intact. All of the federal USDA and state requirements to have big cats. Furthermore, many cities and counties have additional laws banning private ownership of big cats. For instance, only accredited facilities (Sedgwich County Zoo & Tanganyika Wildlife Park) are allowed to have big cats in Sedgwick County.
Lie: AZA and their zoos are against using cats as animal ambassadors.
Truth: AZA currently has an entire manual (click here to see it) dedicated to using animal as ambassadors. It specifically allows accredited zoos to pull baby cubs and use them as ambassadors for education. In fact, multiple major AZA zoos including San Diego, Columbus, Houston, Dallas, Nashville, etc. use cats for their ambassador programs. In addition, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, Jack Hanna, has been using cats under 25lbs from Tanganyika for more than 10 years for programs all over the country.
Lie: Using cats as ambassadors serves no purpose for conservation and education.
Truth: According to the AZA Management Handbook for Ambassdor Animals, "In addition to providing engaging exhibit experiences, many zoos utilize live, handled animals to augment the formation of personal connections between visitors and the natural world. Whether used for casual one- on-one encounters, structured classroom programs, or as part of a large amphitheater presentation, these animals – known as ambassador, program, or education animals – consistently provide numerous benefits for enhancing the educational and emotional experience for zoo audience" In other words, allowing safe & supervised contact with any animal makes a powerful impact on that person. That is why major zoos across the country use animal ambassadors in their educational programs. In fact, the same handbook suggested "
The zoo and aquarium industry continues to reach evermore in this direction by creating innovative exhibits that utilize interactive and immersive encounters to engage audiences. Sting-ray touch pools, giraffe feeding stations, and underwater shark viewing tunnels all provide unique opportunities for visitors to directly relate to living creatures in ways that more traditional static exhibits cannot."
Lie: The only reason to allow baby cats is for profit.
Truth: Allowing a person to have an up close and personal experience or even contact with a young cat is an extremely powerful experience. In our opinion, it is the best way to educate people and create awareness. Nearly every zoo uses animal ambassadors like lizards, snakes, hedgehogs, etc. in education programs. They don't do it for profit, they do it because it makes an impact. We know the same philosophy holds true when using baby cats in education programs.
Lie: Using baby cats affects their social well-being as adults.
Truth: Tanganyika Wildlife Park has raised more rare and endangered cats than any other facility in the United States. Every cat born at Tanganyika is pulled because we believe the reverse is true. We have found with over 30 years of experience that cats are better acclimated to a captive environment when hand-raised. Furthermore, cats born at Tanganyika Wildlife Park are represented in zoos across the country and have positively contributed to multiple international breeding programs.
Lie: Using baby cats is stressful to the cats.
Truth: The animals well-being always comes first. Our accrediting body sets forth guidelines that we must follow including: animal selection, training and socialization of the cats, training of staff, etc. Animals are worked with daily to minimize any stress they may have. If we feel an animal will stress or be uncomfortable in an environment, we won't use that animal. If an animal that is normally fine starts to stress, we remove them from the situation. We don't pull these animals kicking and screaming. There are some cats that don't have the right temperament, and we don't use those animals. Any accredited zoo should have the expertise to make that determination before using them as ambassadors and both AZA and ZAA have guidelines to help them. Finally, most of the cats used find the interaction to be enriching and even comforting just like your cat at home.
Lie: These baby cats are "wild animals".
Truth: While their cousins in the wild are certainly just that, cats born in a captive environment and hand-raised have a personality much more like your domestic house cat, especially when they are younger. They are not immediately born with "killer" instincts. In fact, most of them don't even know what meat is for almost two months. In general, they are immature and do not demonstrate the adult instincts that most people perceive as "wild" instincts. Most the big cat species don't start to develop those behaviors until a year old, but SB97 would prevent contact way before to that point.
Lie: Baby cats can spread zoonotic diseases.
Truth: The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not even keep track of such incidents because they feel it is a diminutive risk. In addition, the baby cats are kept in an indoor nursery and other highly controlled environment with daily checks by zoo staff and frequent oversight by the facility vet. Ultimately, you are more likely to get something from your own dog or cat, especially in a rural setting.
Lie: Tanganyika has multiple USDA violations including unsafe contact with lemurs.
Truth: Tanganyika Wildlife Park has no USDA violations. USDA often cites facilities for non-compliant items; most of which are fixed by the time an inspector leaves. The main issue they site was an infant "left unattended" on our lemur island. While this was a violation of our own protocol, the infant was hardly unattended. It was strapped in a baby carrier and sleeping. The mother set the carrier down to take a picture of her other daughter when a baby lemur crawled on the head of her baby. It was interested in the toys dangling from the handle. In the end, the lemur left the baby's head and it never woke up. The mom thought the incident was cute and shared it online. The photos of the experience went viral and the animal rights groups turned us in the USDA.
Lie: People are allowed to hug the animals
False: Tanganyika Wildlife Park, and any accredited zoo, does not simply allow people to "hug" the animals. In general, contact with the cats is petting with one hand or finger.
SB 97 will be going to the floor of the Kansas senate next week. You can show your support for this bill in the following ways: