New Bedford Zoo Director: Tiger Incidents Result of ‘Idiocy’
Can you imagine hearing a news alert that a tiger is running loose among the streets of New Bedford?
"In Florida, it happened to me two or three times, when the state wildlife officials called and asked for help capturing a tiger running around. And it had nothing to do with the tiger escaping from an accredited zoo. It always had to do with people who owned their own private menageries," said Keith Lovett, Executive Director at Buttonwood Park Zoo.
We contacted Lovett after a news report stated someone broke into the Franklin Park Zoo Monday, whose intentions were to get close to the tiger, but never did reach the animal's enclosure before being arrested.
"Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more people trying to do very stupid things trying to access wild animal enclosures. At the accredited Buttonwood Park Zoo, we've been lucky and haven't had many issues like that, but this is a growing trend, nationally and globally, because of social media fame and fortune," Lovett said.
In places like Florida, where getting a tiger permit is just about the same effort as getting a dog license, the wild animals usually escape from someone's cage in the backyard. Lovett said there are more tigers in North America than in the wild combined.
We hear of people doing brainless things that actually threaten the animals. There was an incident recently at the Naples Zoo in Florida, where a man decided he wanted to feed the tiger Pop-Tarts, so he hopped over the public barrier fence and stuck his arm into the tiger's enclosure. The tiger attacked his arm and when police arrived, they had to shoot and kill this beautiful endangered Malayan Tiger in order to get the tiger off the person's arm.
"Here, we're trying to save these disappearing tigers and this one is killed because of idiocy," Lovett said.
Lovett said two increasing problems are people not thinking through what they're attempting to do for the chance to have their video go viral, and the issue of pet tigers.
"Last May in Houston, there was a Bengal tiger that was running around the neighborhoods for nearly a week, before being captured safely by authorities," he said.
Cuddly tiger cubs are sold at truck stops or online. They are trafficked into the United States, but when they start to grow larger, people who thought it was cool to show off a pet tiger sell them on the illegal marketplace. Lovett said the vast majority of tigers in the U.S. come from the irresponsible captive breeding to supply the cub petting industry.
"Tigers are smuggled in, but this is mostly a U.S.-born issue," he said.
The Netflix sensation Tiger King did no favors for this dilemma, especially knowing that of the 10,000 captive tigers, lions and other wild cats in the United States, only an estimated 350 are held in registered and accredited zoological facilities. Private ownership of tigers and other exotic cats has accelerated, as have the number of incidents of people attempting to gain access to the zoo enclosures.
People have become mindless when they hear, see or read something, and accept it without questioning it or thinking it through because they're impulsive, meaning they act on instinct. Tigers also act on wild instinct.
There's an old saying that a tiger can be trained, but never tamed. The same goes for us.