The Wildcat Sanctuary was pleased to recognize East Central High School senior Rowan Hilty as the 2012 recipient of the TWS No More Wild Pets Scholarship at graduation ceremonies this past weekend. The $1500 scholarship will enable Rowan to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, MN where she will pursue a field of study in English Education.
This is the inaugural year for the TWS No More Wild Pets Scholarship. As part of the Sanctuary’s No More Wild Pets campaign, the scholarship is intended to foster an interest in wildlife conservation and inspire adoption of appropriate pets, rather than the buying and breeding of wild animals.
Rowan’s essay, entitled “Co-Existing,” was selected due to her insights about the captive wildlife crisis we face, as well as the solutions she proposed. Her essay is copied below.
Monica Crocker, board member of The Wildcat Sanctuary, was proud to present this scholarship to such a wonderful recipient at Sunday’s ceremony. “We are inspired by Rowan and by her leadership and commitment to her community,” she said. “She will make a difference.” Besides being the Salutatorian for the 2012 graduating class, Rowan also excels in areas including government leadership, drama, music, and community service.
She understands the importance of education in solving many of the complex problems our society faces. With graduating seniors like Rowan Hilty, the future looks bright!
by Rowan Hilty
Since the beginning of civilization, humans have been fascinated with the wild and the unknown. Whether through films, museums, books or zoos, it would seem that we are all explorers at heart and crave insight into all aspects of life. Wild animals serve as glimpses of distant and foreign lands, and, because of this, we as humans have for centuries captured and used wild animals as a source of information and entertainment. In some cases, this can be beneficial. Many animals, such as the Giant Panda, rely on captivity for the survival of the species. In many cases, however, captivity can be detrimental to animal populations as well as to the people holding them captive.
Especially in the last several decades, the captive wildlife crisis is a growing problem in the United States. According to a 2004 study, there were approximately 5,000 tigers in captivity in the United States, only about five percent of which were registered in accredited zoos. Some sources such as the Humane Society place that number much higher, sometimes reaching up to 10,000. Today, the trafficking of exotic animals is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry; second only to the illegal trafficking of drugs.
Needless to say, the market for capturing and displaying these creatures for amusement has always been present. When people discovered the demand for exotic wildlife, the practice reached its peak, and a large influx of captured wild animals was sent to zoos all over the world.
However, in the mid-nineteen hundreds, zoo populations leveled off, and a surplus of wild animals was left unwanted and homeless in foreign lands. Additionally, zoo populations continued to increase within themselves when reproduction in their own animal population became viewed as a success in conservation. Zookeepers also inevitably discovered the effect of baby animals on business, causing numbers in already over-populated zoos to increase even further.
And so, a wave of unwanted animals – often large, wild and dangerous to humans – was released into developed countries across the globe. Some of these animals were lucky enough to end up in wildlife shelters and sanctuaries, but most found their way into the hands of humans who were sadly unaware of the dangers that accompany the keeping of a wild animal as a “pet”. For example, in 2008 a woman was arrested for selling baby tigers in a Wal-mart parking lot.
This clear exploitation of wild animal populations is, to most, obviously exceedingly harmful to the animals themselves. Wild animals held as domesticated pets are undoubtedly deprived of their natural habitats and are often subject to inadequate opportunity for physical activity, nourishment and social interaction with other members of their species. However, this practice is also extremely dangerous for the people holding them in captivity. Most wild animals simply cannot be domesticated. We see examples of this danger all the time.
In February of 2009, Travis – a domesticated chimpanzee living in an apartment complex – attached 55-year-old Charla Nash, inflicting nearly fatal wounds to both her limbs and face.
A 52-year-old woman from Pine County, Minnesota was killed in 2006 by her nearly starving Bengal Tiger when she entered its cage to feed it.
In 2009, a 37-year-old Pennsylvania woman was mauled and killed by her pet bear while she cleaned its cage.
In all three of these cases, the animal was killed.
When presented with stories such as these, it seems that keeping wild animals as pets is clearly a dangerous and often deadly practice both for humans and animals. Humans cannot be expected to adequately care for a wild animal, just as wild animals cannot be expected to ignore their natural survival instincts. However, most of the population does not realize the dangers that accompany the practice. So now we come to the problem of how to stop travesties such as these from occurring.
Most issues with mistreatment of wildlife stems from a lack of information and adequate resources. For example, most people do not have access to enough food to feed a Bengal Tiger, or access to enough habitat to safely satisfy the needs of a Grizzly Bear. To prevent individuals from taking on responsibilities they cannot handle, it is crucial that the general population is educated on these issues and is aware of the dangers that accompany the keeping wild animals. Organizations such as Born Free USA, The Wildcat Sanctuary and The Wild Animal Sanctuary serve to inform the public on this crisis and also offer refuge and rehabilitation to animals in situations of neglect. These organizations need our help and support to keep the resources they offer readily available.
In addition to making information on the captive wildlife crisis more available, most believe that stricter regulations on the sale and possession of wild animals are necessary. There are currently eight states in the United States that have no regulation on private ownership of wild animals. And, those that do are largely ineffective because their laws do not apply across state borders. If we hope to eliminate this practice and ensure the protection of both humans and wild animals, we as a nation have to create stricter laws on a federal level.
A wild animal is a beautiful thing. In many cases, captivity can save a species but in others, it can be exceedingly harmful. Holding wild animals in captivity as domesticated pets – far from their natural habitat, separated from their families and restricted from their natural instincts – is a form of abuse that is far too prevalent in the modern age. However, there is hope. With more available information on the topic and stricter regulations on wild animal ownership, we might see a day when wild animals and humans can coexist – sharing habitat, insight and beauty – safely and peacefully.
At this time of year, we hear a lot about the spiraling cost of a college education. In fact, it’s become so expensive that, unfortunately, some students find it hard to afford continuing their education after high school.
The Wildcat Sanctuary wants to make sure this isn’t the case for a local graduating senior in Sandstone, MN. As part of our NO MORE WILD PETS campaign, the Sanctuary is offering a $1500 scholarship to a graduating senior from East Central Secondary School or Crossroads Learning Center.
In order to qualify for the TWS NO MORE WILD PETS $1500 SCHOLARSHIP:
After high school graduation,this scholarship can be used toward further education at a college, university, vocational or trade school.
Supporting the local community and the success of local students is a priority for The Wildcat Sanctuary. By promoting interest in natural science and wildlife conservation, the hope is that more and more graduates will be excited to pursue careers in these important areas.