Making The World Aware of the Plight of the World's Greatest Cats and Their Fight to Prevent Extinction
04, 2005 — By Reuters
Concerned over the fast dwindling tiger population, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month ordered a police investigation and formed a new taskforce to stem the rapid fall in the number of the endangered species.
"We have suspended the chief wildlife warden and seven other forest department employees posted in Sariska," L. N. Dave, minister for forest and environment in Rajasthan, told Reuters.
The officials were suspended after an inquiry found them guilty of negligence of duty, he said.
Wildlife activists say tigers may have been wiped out entirely in the Sariska sanctuary -- where the ProjectTiger conservation programme began in 1973 and where there were as many as 16-18 big cats a year ago.
They fear the story may be the same in sanctuaries across India, which has almost half the world's surviving tigers.
Dave said though 25-28 tigers were spotted during a census in Sariska in 2003 but since then no tigers have been spotted in the sanctuary.
Killing of tigers, although banned in India, has been going on under cover as a single one can fetch up to $50,000 on the international market.
A century ago, there were an estimated 40,000 tigers in India. Now, some wildlife experts say there are barely 2,000 and the official government census about 3,700.
Bed and breakfast guests sleep yards away from big cats
In our quest to provide news pertaining to the big cats, here is a place that we were told about in eastern Missouri that provides a bed and breakfast experience like no other...
UPDATE: See below for the good news...
Since Chardonel grapes were first planted at Crown Valley Winery in 1998, it has become a regional attraction with more than 32,000 wine tastings recorded last year, said operations manager Bryan Siddle.
"A lot of wineries have bed-and-breakfasts. The tigers are the unusual part of the equation," said Christopher Ruess, Crown Valley's marketing director.
Down in Florida, in Tampa, Big Cat Rescue has a similar program, with a cottage in the middle of the sanctuary, nestled among the big cast. They even allow one of the endangered species, a snow leopard, or other similar cat, to spend the night with you! Don't worry, though, the ones they select to join the overnight guests are guaranteed not to EAT you in the middle of the night.
But in Missouri, many folks are wondering how a litter of tigers, one of them a white tiger, wound up in mid-Missouri.
Judy McGee and Keith Kinkade have cared for the tigers after they helped rescue them from a neglectful owner in Chicago in 2000. The animals would not survive in the wild, Crown Valley employees explained.
DePaul University in Chicago bought the 55-acre tiger habitat in 2002 with plans to develop it as an environmental field campus in Ste. Genevieve, about 375 miles southwest of the Windy City. The school decided instead to sell the property last year.
McGee and Kinkade stayed on to care for the cats and considered opening their own bed-and-breakfast, but the property ultimately was bought by Joe Scott Sr. and his wife Loretta, whose more than 8,000-acre winery down the road also boasts herds of cattle and bison. The Lorettas also own a golf course, two lodgings and three antique malls in eastern Missouri.
The Scotts used their new property to create Crown Ridge, a bed-and-breakfast property with a restaurant and five big-cat stars, named Dee, Max, Paul, T.J. and Vincent.
McGee and Kinkade live adjacent to the tigers' fenced-in habitat. Their home has an up-close, reinforced view of their charges, a "tiger place" rather than a fire place, Ruess explained.
Visitors to Crown Ridge can pay to see the tigers' fenced-in habitat - from a basic tour to see the animals for $8 an adult and $4 a child to a $75-per-person "behind-the-scenes" option in which guests can feed the tigers, if it's their regular feeding time.
Efforts to educate visitors include a colorful, detailed brochure about the animals' endangered status.
However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has raised concerns, saying these animals, and others, should not be viewed for commercial purposes. Also, PETA spokeswoman Lisa Wathne said in a telephone interview from her office in Seattle, places like Crown Ridge could lead others to seek out exotic animals of their own. Wathne said Crown Ridge has extended her an invitation to see the tigers, but she has not been in Missouri to be able to do so.
Siddle noted McKee and Kinkade have cared for the tigers for years, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said their nonprofit had been issued the proper permit, which is granted based on inspections.
Visitors can opt to tour Crown Valley's 44,000 square-foot winery, about seven miles down the road from Crown Ridge, or visit four other wineries in the area. Tastings are available at Crown Ridge for $5 to sample seven wines.
We are very happy to report that all seems to be well in Missouri as far as the cats are concerned. Here's a letter we received recently that will warm your heart.
Hi, I am an animal activist and long time cat lover (big and small) and must tell you my several visits to the Crown Valley Tiger Sanctuary in St. Genevieve, MO is a very positive experience.
The adjoining bed & breakfast, run by the nicest, friendliest people on earth, and the nearby winery are wonderful as well. On our first visit, the tiger sanctuary and restaurant were closed, the iron gates locked. We went to the winery several miles down the road, and the people there were so helpful, a level of service not often seen today. They called the general manager, he went down and checked the sanctuary, and arranged for us to stay at the elegant house, right by the tigers. The grounds are wooded, beautiful and the tigers are in no way disturbed. In fact, they seem to like the guests and certainly, everyone, guests and staff alike, adore the tigers and put their welfare first.
It is true that, under the auspicies of the winery and Bed & Breakfast, they are not able to do the large educational tours they did under the university, and I believe the tiger's caretaker is trying to find a place to move the tigers, but it must wait for the proper time and location. I have no doubt the caretakers love the tigers, and have seen first hand how happy and secure these tigers are. They are getting the best care tigers could get and the work to save tigers the world over is of upmost importance in their minds.
I had the good fortune to stay in the magnigicient home right next to the tigers. They are separated from people by two fences, so you cannot touch them, of course. If you could see the two males, sleeping peacefully together in the sun, lying with their backs touching and one leg over each other, and see how they frolic in the pond, look into their eyes - it's wonderful, wink at them and they wink back. These are happy, happy tigers. The habitat is natural and beautiful.
Please tell anyone to visit the sanctuary before they criticize. I have visited so called "sanctuaries" which were anything but, sometimes, just a front for selling these gorgeous creatures. This is NOT the case here. The tiger sanctuary is doing all they can to save tigers, and these tigers could not be better cared for.
These tigers are not being exploited for profit; and the people coming to the resort go because the love the tigers and want to contribute to their support. Being able to sit next to the tigers and mentally commune with them for several hours in the evening was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I know the tiger liked it, as well. Yes, it would be better if the tigers could run wild and free in their natural habitat, but programs like this are preserving tigers for which that is no longer possible. These animals were misguided people's pets at one time, a shameful thing. What the caretaker is doing to save and love these animals is just the greatest thing in the world.
Be sure to tell your readers to visit the sanctuary and see for themselves before they criticize. And, trust me, I agree with PETA on most everything, hate circuses and other animal acts, etc. Believe me, the Crown Valley Tiger Sanctuary is not that case at all.
Also, there are two small cats who live there, Smokey and Bandit, who will be happy to proudly escort new visitors around and proudly lead you to the pool, and other points of interest. These are two little strays who wandered in, and are as well cared for as the tigers, happier animals, big and small, you have never seen. This is not a dog and pony show. In fact, you should encourage all your readers/viewers who love tigers to support this organization to the fullest.
Don' t take my word for it, for the experience of a lifetime, visit yourself!
Carole Clancy Javaux
Disclaimer:The opinions expressed in this or any of our columns represent the opinions of the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Magic Web Channel or it's Esteemed Panel of Magic Advisors. (The lawyers made us say that.)
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