Craig Busch and Zion Wildlife Gardens
Craig Busch - Lion Man?
Due to a squabble with his mother in December 2008, Craig Busch, the infamous 'Lion Man' was forced from his position and out of Zion Wildlife Gardens in New Zealand. There were suggestions of inappropriate behaviour, petty theft and failure to observe implemented safety procedures amongst others
His mother wanted him off the premises altogether for her own safety. She feared he may assault her. Mr Busch has twice been convicted of assaulting women. Once in 1991 and again in 2007. Regardless of the circumstances I have always viewed men who hit women with suspicion and distrust and especially with regard to the way they may treat animals. He has been described as physically intimidating and verbally abusive to staff.
There was a 60 Minutes TV programme about Craig Busch. This interviewed many people who had suffered at his hands and outlined the abuse he carried out. Though placed on YouTube on a few occasions it has always been removed by pressure and complaints from the Craig Busch Fan Club. They argue that there is nothing to hide and yet they don't want anybody to see the truth. The programme showed the real 'Craig Busch'.
Presently videos are available again:
They were posted on the 17th April 2010 - REMOVED AGAIN by the 19th April 2010 - Someone definitely does not want you to learn the story!
....Happily they are currently vieweable on YouTube.
lionman Craig Busch part one
lionman Craig Busch part 2
Craig Busch is an actor. A very good actor. The person he portrays on the TV and for the public is that of a knowledgeable and caring conservationist. The truth is that he is a cruel, uncaring and deceptive bully.
I have worked in zoos for more than forty years. During that time I have, by necessity rather than design, hand reared a number of Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Jaguars, and Pumas amongst other animals. I have never had occasion to declaw a single one of these and nor has the thought of doing so ever passed through my mind.
Declawing is as barbaric and inhumane as it is unnecessary! There can only be one instance where such a procedure should be considered and that is if the animal was self-mutilating. Even then it would be after all other options had been explored, and explored twice over. Euthanasia would be a kinder and more considerate option than declawing. This in as much as euthanasia does not hurt and is quickly over but declawing is painful and lasts a lifetime.
This cruel procedure is not simply a matter of trimming the animals toenails but is actually the surgical amputation (Onychectomy) of the end of the animals toes. It is much the same as cutting off the end of a human beings fingers and toes. It is not minor surgery! It permanently maims the animal. Such an action affects the big cats natural behaviours and instincts and in turn its long term physical and mental state. Such disablement affects the ability to groom itself, to climb and to defend. It messes with their minds. The removal of an essential part of the body leads to a change in the way nature intended the animal to move and unnatural locomotion is used to compensate which will eventually cause painful arthritis and back problems. Abscesses of the feet are common after surgery. Fifty percent of all cats which are declawed have some form of obvious complication and with twenty percent of these it would be long term.
Declawing is actually illegal in many countries or considered extremely inhumane. These include England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Brazil, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Malta, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Australia and New Zealand.
Sadly in some other countries the declawing of domestic cats has been almost a standard mutilation to protect furniture or similar.
Why would anyone consider such an awful and cruel procedure with a wild animal such as a lion or tiger which is never going to come anywhere near a piece of household furniture? The short and true answer is simply so that someone can enter an enclosure with such an animal and come to next to no harm. Providing the animals are hand reared and humanised then such a person can play Tarzan, showing off as to how clever, brave and 'in touch' with nature they are. Teaching an animal not to bite is very easy. Teaching a clawed animal not to scratch is more difficult and actually does need someone who understands animals.
Entering an enclosure with a Big Cat serves no useful purpose. It is not educational and it plays absolutely no part in research or conservation. Playing with Big Cats is pure circus and has no place in the modern zoological garden.
It is easy to do however. You simply take the cub from its mother shortly after it is born and rear it on the bottle. It becomes humanised and apart from size lions and tigers are not so very different in behaviours to your household tabby cat. It is the size and strength you have to be cautious of. If your domestic cat swats you with its paw in annoyance then a lick may be enough to soothe. A lion doing the same thing may mean you require some surgery. Biting, in spite of the teeth, is not so much of a problem. If trained correctly then the word 'No' should be enough. There really is nothing brave, clever or magical about such 'communion' with cats.
The so called 'Lion Man', Craig Busch of Zion Wildlife Gardens in New Zealand has achieved an almost cult status through regularly appearing on TV playing with declawed Big Cats. The only educational value is in showing how easy it is to dupe the public.
35 out of the 41 Big Cats at Zion Wildlife Gardens had been declawed.
Read: PLAYING WITH LIONS
The Declawing Issue
Read more about DECLAWING TIGERS AND LIONS
The website for Zion Wildlife Gardens claims that they are the holders of Royal White Bengal Tigers a Bengal sub-species . This is absolute rubbish! There is no such thing as a 'Royal White' and as far as suggesting that it is a 'Bengal sub-species' it only goes on to compound the lie.
When Craig was running Zion the website stated: "All Royal White tigers are a Bengal sub-species and have a double recessive gene that causes the striking colouration, resulting in cinnamon stripes, blue eyes and pink noses. It is reported there are only 120 Royal White tigers left in the world and the species has been extinct in the wild since 1958 ."
The origin of the white tiger lies with a Bengal Tiger but man has messed around with the genetics for so long now that it is doubtful that any remain purely Bengal. The white tiger has, according to the website, been "extinct in the wild since 1958". This implies that there were dozens of white tigers running around in the wild before that time. No there were not. There was an occasional animal born in the wild and the possibility remains that one could be born there again. White Bengal Tigers are an aberration of nature, an infrequently occurring freak.
The website goes on to proudly claim that one of their white tigers carries the gene for the Golden Tabby Tiger whose marmalade colouring make it one of the "rarest in the world".
The website stated "The only female, Rewa, carries the solid white gene and has already produced New Zealand's first two Royal White tiger cubs in late January 2005. In her lifetime it's possible she may deliver a solid white tiger cub (with no stripes). She also carries the gene for a Golden Tabby tiger, which is a marmalade colouring and one of the rarest in the world ."
This is not clever. It is NOT conservation. It has no useful place in a modern zoo. Zoos are about the long term maintenance of wild animals, research, education and not to be party to the deliberate manufacture of freaks! Okay the freaks will bring in the gullible and uninformed but so too would the two headed turtle and six legged sheep that I remember from fairgrounds as a boy.
Zion Wildlife Gardens is trying to breed a stripeless white tiger. For as long as they pursue this ignorant and pointless prize, white tiger cubs will be born weak and deformed or the wrong colour and have to be euthanased. Euthanasia in a vets hands can be a kind and efficient procedure. Not so in the hands of Mr 'Do It Yourself' Craig Busch.
WHITE TIGERS ARE NOT RARE OR ENDANGERED
Unlike many the Zion Wildlife Gardens does not claim that their White Lions are a separate species or subspecies so they must recognise that this startling looking creature was, at least at one time, an infrequently occurring freak. Why then have they made the effort to obtain two of each sex with different bloodlines all carrying the same recessive gene? Once again it is to manufacture a cartoon animal for people to gawp at. There is no conservation value at all in keeping or breeding white lions.
WHITE LIONS ARE NOT RARE OR ENDANGERED
There was actually a Barbary Lion. The last one was shot in the wild in the early 1900s and some existed in captivity in Morrocco for some years after that. There is presently no formal breeding programme for the Barbary Lion. It is not unusual for some zoos to advertise the fact that they have Barbary Lions without having supporting evidence.
The Zion Website in Craigs day stated "It is believed there are only approximately 250 alive in the world today. Zion Wildlife Gardens is now part of a specialised breeding programme to help this species remain in existence."
Somewhere along the way I have read that one of the Barbary Lions in Zion is white!!!! Is this Gandor? If it is correct then it makes an already ridiculous situation worse.
BARABARY LIONS ARE EXTINCT IN THE WILD. THERE ARE NO PURE RACE BARBARY LIONS IN CAPTIVITY.
Any zoo which goes down the road of breeding unnaturally coloured animals, animals harbouring harmful genetic traits has divorced itself from conservation. They have become ANTI CONSERVATION. They are not just producing animals which are useless, but animals which can never be released into the wild. Nor can their cubs or their cubs cubs or their cubs cubs cubs, They are freaks!
Further to that the zoos which keep such animals are taking up captive spaces which could be used for genuine important conservation work. There is real need for places to keep various species in captive breeding programmes. Places like Zion Wildlife Gardens have the spaces but prefer to fill these with 'junk' animals.
Zion Wildlife Gardens claims to be involved in conservation and implementing strong breeding programmes. Sorry but no, it is not! Under the leadership of Craig Busch this collection has lost its direction so badly that it has fallen off the edge. It is laughable to call Craig Busch a 'Big Cat Expert' if the man fails to recognise these facts. He actually claims to be their 'Dad' on his website. What sort of Dad has his kids finger ends chopped off? What sort of Dad incapacitates his children for life? What sort of Dad produces unneeded children just so he can get the right coloured ones? Craig Busch has no more the "unique ability to understand and handle big cats" than Joe Bloggs on the corner of the street. I note too from his video that he has visited the Tiger Temple in Thailand. If he had a remotest understanding of big cats then we would have recognised what was wrong there and spoken out. But he didn't.
Zion Wildlife Gardens after Craig Busch
Because of the difficulties the Zion Wildlife Park was under the management of the collection became the responsibility of his mother, Patricia Busch. She sensibly called in expertise in the form of Barry Nalder as business consultant and Glen Holland (ex Zoological Director of Auckland Zoo) as licensed operator. Glen was a committed conservationist and recognised that White Tigers and their kind contributed nothing to conservation.
As Craig was no longer in charge various changes were implemented and all declawing ceased. It was decided also to cease breeding from the animals which were of no conservation value and contraceptive implants were but in place. Understandably Craig was not in favour of changes being made in general zoo practices and there were disagreements leading to a very difficult work atmosphere. Eventually these came to a head and led to the dismissal of Craig Busch in December 2008.
Sadly in spite of changes in practice implemented not all had completely taken place. Whereas is totally unnecessary ever to enter an enclosure with a big cat, a keeper Dalu Mncube did just that and was tragically killed.
Glen Holland eventually left to take up another position and was replaced in May 2009 by Tim Husband who continued to slowly put right those parts of zoo practice which were not in line with the norm. These included improving the safety of the enclosures as well as feeding and husbandry.
Tim has left as well now to fulfill contracts elsewhere but with the changed routine and health and safety Zion Wildlife Gardens is a different place today. It is safe for both staff and visitors and a much more professional outfit than in Craigs day. Plans are afoot to try to raise money to repair the damage done to the big cats feet by the inhumane de-clawing. Lecture Tours and other events are regular features on offer to visitors.
Zoo News Digest
Follow news and views of zoos at Zoo News Digest
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS
Before you consider commenting....please don't bother. I have ceased to accept comments on this article either positive or negative. I believe most points of view have been aired a couple of times over. The majority who have sent comments recently have very clearly not read the article. Seems a bit pointless.
I have had some quite interesting ones recently including two from people of assumed identity. Interesting though this may be it does not change the article at all.
More by this Author
The declawing of Tigers and Lions is and never has been an operation that has ever needed to be done. It cruel and unnecessary. It always has been and it always will be. The only time a claw should have to be removed is...
To you and I it is probably obvious. We have a cat or dog or some more exotic 'pet' at home. We care for it. It is our responsibility. The caring means that we want that animal to be both happy and healthy. Even if you...
To be able to humanely kill a chicken quickly and without causing pain or distress is an important skill for anyone thinking of small scale farming.