Ringling’s remaining big cats – what’s happened to them?
US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently issued a decision allowing Ringling Bros.’ big-cat trainer permission to export their remaining big cats abroad. According to major animal welfare organizations, this is clearly contrary to the true intent of the federal Endangered Species Act.
The agency has approved transport of eight tigers, six lions, and one leopard to Germany, in exchange for a promised payment to a conservation group in India. Many feel this violates the letter and spirit of a law enacted specifically to prevent commercial exploitation of big cats.
Instead of relocating these big cats to sanctuaries, they will still be forced to perform. The general public is becoming educated about the abuse in circuses. More and more exotic animal circuses are closing. That’s what makes this decision by USFWS shocking and disappointing.
Just weeks after announcing Ringling Bros. would be closing, Feld Entertainment (the circus’s parent company), applied to USFWS for an Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit to export the big cats “owned” by trainer Alexander Lacey. His plans were to transport them to Germany where they’d be forced to perform there, too.
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT (ESA)
The ESA was designed to protect endangered animals from exploitation. Exceptions are supposedly allowed only if permit applicants demonstrate their activities enhance the survival of the species. Exporting tigers, lions, and leopards to keep them inside tiny cages and force them to perform unnatural circus tricks does nothing to save endangered species in the wild.
Instead, Feld and others have been able to circumvent the intent of the law by promising to make a payment to a tiger-conservation organization elsewhere. This time, to one in India.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida and PETA have all submitted comments opposing Feld Entertainment’s request. Two dozen members of Congress have also opposed this export permit.
WHAT TO DO
As always, when you refuse to attend any circus, fair, festival, mall, or traveling exhibit showcasing exotic animals, you send a clear message that the era of exploiting animals must end. Being a voice for these voiceless animals is critical. We have tips HERE for how you can continue to be the most effective advocate for them.