My family and I recently took a road trip across the beautiful state of North Carolina on our way to see Jack Septiceye in Durham. Yes, we're a family of traveling video-game-loving nerds, and we're ok with that. It was Easter weekend so we decided to make this a mini-vacation, going to the show on Saturday night and just touring around and exploring on Sunday. Just like we always do on trips like this, we scouted the area on google to find any historical landmarks, tourist traps, museums, zoos, etc. Once again, we're nerds; don't judge.
On our way back, we had the opportunity to stop at Tiger World in Rockwell, NC. This is a small privately operated 501c-3 rescue center that focuses on saving exotic animals that have been confiscated from private residences. Let's just get this out of the way now: unless your name is either Siegfried Fischbacher or Uwe Ludwig Horn (otherwise known as “Roy”), there is no reason for you to own a tiger. They don't make good housepets, and cleaning the litterbox requires a full time crew. The fine people at Tiger World take many of these animals that can't be released back into the wild to care for them, house them, and give them the best life they can possibly have in their situation.
Tiger World isn't your average city- or state-operated zoo with amazing habitats and exhibits. This is a facility run by people that seem to be genuinely dedicated to the cause of saving these animals but because this is a privately operated non-profit organization, funding is extremely limited and they have to make do with what little they have to work with.
This turned out to be a really emotional and thought provoking day for me. On the one hand, I was happy to see that someone cared for these animals enough to basically dedicate their lives to keeping them well. On the other hand, I was faced with so much sadness as we walked through the facility that it was a little overwhelming. When we first pulled into the parking lot, I was excited to grab my camera and get photos of the animals. As we walked around the small habitats, though, I found myself only capturing close-ups of the faces that clearly showed the price of life in captivity. I know I'm imprinting a human emotion onto an animal but, as someone that has had pets all of his life, you can't convince me that these wild animals don't feel some of the same emotions that we humans do. As I looked through my camera's viewfinder into their eyes, all I saw was sadness and defeat.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I'm not blasting Tiger World or any other rescue center like it. While I wish these places didn't have to exist, I think they're doing a wonderful job of helping these animals in any way I can. On the contrary, I'm angry with the people that think you can keep a wild animal as a house pet. It's because of people that think it'd be great to own a tiger or baboon, only to find out later that they can't properly manage a large wild animal in the same way you would a dog or cat, that these rescue centers have to exist. I'm not here to fight the rescue centers. I'm here to scold the stupid people that create a need for them.
I'd like to ask you a favor. Take a few minutes out of your day to visit Tiger World's website and show some support. These good people need all the help they can get. Unfortunately, this problem doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, so we need to do what we can to help the people that are on the front lines and really trying to make a difference.