CAPS has today criticised a big cat breeding centre, which claims to operate as a conservation charity, for carrying out a photo shoot which saw a well-known tattoo model pose inside the cheetah enclosure at the centre. The video of the photo shoot was released by the centre, The Wildlife Heritage Foundation, on its Facebook page and was accompanied by a shorter clip which saw the model, Lusy Logan, stroking a tiger’s face through the bars of its cage. A spokesperson for CAPS said the stunt was “both dangerous and irresponsible”.
The Kent-based Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which is financed by Paradise Wildlife Park zoo in Broxbourne, is not normally open to the public but offers paid-for “experiences” with the animals held there. The organisation states that its overriding objective is to “support conservation in-situ and ex-situ projects and to assist with endangered species breeding programmes” but this has been called into question by leading animal protection charities. Both the zoo and the breeding centre have been criticised in recent years. In November 2012, Paradise Wildlife Park came under fire for its programme of breeding white lions; animals which are inbred to perpetuate their unusual colouring. In addition to the breeding of white lions, the zoo rented out a young cub for people to handle during their visit to the zoo.
In 2013, it was revealed that white lions at both Paradise Wildlife Park and Wildlife Heritage Foundation originated from a South African lion breeder who offers “canned hunts” where lions bred in captivity can be shot and killed by visiting tourists.
The most recent photo shoot stunt has, once again, cast serious doubts over the operation of the two organisations. Said CAPS Director, Liz Tyson:
“We have long had concerns about the way in which animals are used by these two organisations to turn a profit, not to mention the apparent links with a canned hunting operation in South Africa. To find that the animals are now being rented out for photo shoots is shocking. Allowing close interactions between members of the public and dangerous wild animals is unethical, irresponsible and extremely dangerous”.
Last year, a zoo worker in Cumbria tragically lost her life after being attacked by a tiger and in the last few months, a trainer was mauled by a tiger at an Australian zoo. Another zoo worker nearly lost her arm when she put it into a tiger enclosure in the United States in October last year and in 2011, a cheetah mauled two men at Eagle Heights Zoo which, like the breeding centre, is also located in Kent.
Miss Tyson added:
“To call the continued use of animals in this way an accident waiting to happen is perhaps an understatement. We have numerous examples of people either deliberately or innocently coming into contact with wild animals with tragic results. It is time we all seriously question the keeping of these animals in captivity; not just for their sake, but for ours too”.