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Why Do Captive Big Cats Attack their Owners?
- Important Facts You Should Know About Big Cat Rescue of Tampa Florida
Is Big Cat Rescue a crusader for captive big cats, or may there be two sides to this story? Interesting information about BCR's founder Carole Baskin, and what may truly be at the heart of the sanctuary's politics.
Every time a captive big cat attacks in any type of zoological facility, ignorant statements abound while the story immediately steals major headlines. In addition, known special interest groups like the Humane Society of the United States and Big Cat Rescue inevitably step in to feed off of the hysterical reports to support their beliefs that animals do not belong in captivity.
Humans have a natural fear of large predators that certainly have every logical reason to exist within the confines of the wild. But what about animals in captivity?
I have made several arguments in the past rejecting the idea that captive wildlife is a significant threat to the public given that statistically speaking, people are far more likely to be attacked or even killed by domesticated dogs. Does this mean that interacting with pet dogs is more dangerous than doing so with a caged lion? Certainly not.
Note: This article was originally focused on the death of a female worker in a California sanctuary, but it is also a discussion on the causes of captive big cat attacks and the victims.
Domesticated cats can attack too
- Are Pet Cats Dangerous? Cat Attacks, Infection, and Bite Incidences
How dangerous or severe can the attacks of domesticated cats become? Do cats attack unprovoked?
The odds of your chances of being attacked by large, 'wild' animals change dramatically depending on the situation.
Walking down a typical street, if I were to guess which animal species I were the most likely to be attacked by, my best guess would be a domesticated canine, even if lions were being kept nearby. However, if I’m in the cage with a lion, my chances of being attacked by one surge from near impossible to extremely likely.
This is especially true if I have:
- No experience with this particular animal or the animal’s species,
- Ignorance to wild animal behavior, or a mix of the two,
- Lack both common sense and possess a youthful naivety about the fragility of life and how quickly it can be lost.
Contrary to a rampant popular belief, big cats rarely, if ever, attack their intruders because they are hungry and have a taste for Soylent Green.
In many facilities like the one Cous Cous the lion resided, these animals were either hand-raised, or have enjoyed much exposure to humans in such a way that they view the tall primates as equals or even as their superiors.
After these maulings occur, the animals usually do not even eat their victims (if they are left there long enough before the cat is shot). Recent reports now reveal that Couscous was fed and confined to another enclosure when he escaped and attacked the young intern.
What needs to be understood is that animals are not robotic objects or toys; they are subject to bad moods, hormonal outbursts, and territorial instincts, as well as a mix of the three just like humans to certain degrees are.
Big cats are not members of our societal moral codes and if their current psychology dictates a fight with an outmatched human, such an event will occur with ease. Many big cats will maintain a certain degree of respect for their human acquaintances until a challenge is evoked by the presence of that human on their 'territory'.
Even in the wild, this results in a confrontation with other lions. Humans are obviously no match for a big cat, and their body language revealing this will entice the animal to pursue a more violent attack.
Many keepers also tend to get used to an animal's behavior before it has hit sexual maturity.
Couscous was a 4 year old male lion, about the age that big cats really start honing in on hard-wired, defensive instincts.
Are Private Zoos Dangerous?
Organizations that have expressed anti-captivity sentiment are now opportunistically using the tragic death of this young employee to once again fabricate myths that there is a "growing epidemic" of people who want to own big cats as pets, even though the facility in which the fatal mauling occurred is not a private pet owning situation or any form of a poorly run sanctuary.
Contacting Big Cats
The idea of contact vs. a ‘hands off’ method of maintaining carnivores and other potentially dangerous mammals is controversial. While it is likely that there are talented people out there that have a natural gift of understanding animal behavior and animal ‘cues’, too many people think this about themselves falsely.
Even people who do possess these traits are always still at risk. We call these occupational hazards, and they must be firmly understood and comprehended. However, there are perfectly safe and responsible ways to maintain dangerous animals without ever laying a finger on them, and as a non-thrill seeker type who does not live to brag to others about experiences and travels, this method makes the most sense to me.
New reports now reveal that Dianna Hanson did not negligently enter the enclosure of the lion, but that she was cleaning the main cage of the animal when it escaped from a holding area and attacked. Therefore, it does not appear that the intern was at fault here, and the lion was likely to be reacting violently to her presence in his territory.
It is likely that many employees in different animal parks continue to engage in interacting with large felines and other potentially dangerous animals.
Some younger people tend to be bold, and there is even biological evidence that this is so. Some people also have a romanticized view of large cats that unfortunately often takes root from animated films that display a fictitious human-like demeanor in animals. Either way, no one really notices these reoccurring interactions until someone dies.
In other news, here are a few animal attacks that took place this week and only made coverage on the local news:
- Dog rips girl's thumb off in King William County - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News
An eight-year-old girl remains in serious condition at VCU Medical Center after a dog attack in King William County.
- Sand Springs Man Saves Neighbor Who is Attacked by a Dog - KTUL.com - Tulsa, Oklahoma - News, Weathe
A Sand Springs man was attacked by his roommate's pit bull while entering his own home, Tuesday, March 5. The victim is in the hospital with injuries to both of his arms.
- Boy dies after dog attack - WTAQ News Talk 97.5FM and 1360AM
WALWORTH, Wisc (WSAU) A 14-month-old boy died after he was attacked by two pit bulls near Walworth in far southeast Wisconsin. Walworth County sheriff’s deputies were told that both ...
- Natuashish boy attacked by dog - Nfld. & Labrador - CBC News
A nine-year-old boy is recovering following an attack by a dog earlier this week.