REMEMBER..."THE WHY".....TONYS LIFE HERE IS UNACCEPTABLE.....little shrubs wont help 11 years later.....
FROM MARK BEKOFF A PROFESSOR OF Animal Behavior/ Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.
University of Colorado
Letter was addressed to Robert Barham of the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries. Nov 18, 2010, when the Animal Legal Defense Fund originally sent letters to them to try and get them to not re-new Tony's yearly permit.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund had asked Professor Marc Bekoff to make an assessment regarding the welfare of Tony.
"It is my professional opinion that based on his review of Tonys enclosure and reports of his pacing along the fence in his cement cell, Tony is being kept in a manner that results in maltreatment. The circumstances of Tony's captivity at the Tiger Truck Stop demonstrate a total failure to give a tiger what he or she needs to thrive. While his enclosure may be sufficient to keep Tony alive, the quality of that life is terrible and unacceptable.
Tony's approximately 3,200 sq foot enclosure is a cement cell and a shadeless grassy yard. This space does not even begin to accomodate an individual of a species who naturally disperses over miles of terrritory. Not only is the size of Tony's enclosure inadequate for his biological needs, it is also IMPOVERISHED. His envoronment is bereft of anything he would come across and interact with in his natural habitat. There is no evidence of environmental enrichment, which is absolutely vital to the psychological health of captive wildlife. A ball is completely unnatural to a tiger and unacceptable as the only provision of enrichment.
Tony's enclosure also deprives him of the ability to make choices about how to spend his time and where. Tigers are elusive and secretive animals. They choose to spend much of their time completely concealed among dense vegetation. Tony is on constant display at Tiger Truck Stop. His only escape appears to be a concrete floored cinderblock den that is face-open to spectators snapping pictures and making noise to get his attention. Ton'ys environment also provides him inadequate water habitat. From what I understand, Tony is part Bengal Tiger. Bengal tigers live in hot climates amd are largely aquatic. Not only do they hunt and play in the water, they need to submerge in it during the heat of the day to stay cool. Tony's water trough appears to be too small for him to swim in and the sides appear to high for him to comfortable to submerge.
In summation, Tony's enclosure is completely unnatural and totally unfit for a wild animal. Tiger's do not naturally live on concrete slabs and eat ground meat, on constant display. They should not endure years of uninterrupted noise, artificial light and air pollution. In light of what is known about the behavior of habitat needs of tigers, AZA accredited zoos are working very hard to improve conditions of tigers in captivity. They are providing the opposite of what Tony is being forced to endure at the Tiger Truck Stop. Specifically, zoos are starting to limit visiting hours and now give tigers the option within their enclosures to be completely off-display. They are incorporating natural features into enclosures SUCH AS VEGETATION FOR TIGERS TO HIDE IN AND SHADE THEMSELVES AS WELL AS POOLS IN WHICH TO SWIM AND SUBMERGE. These zoos are also providing portions of intact carcasses to stimulate natural feeding behavior and implementing varying feeding times and practices to eliminate the boredom and monotony associated with a total lack of novel and unpredictable stimulation to which wild tigers are exposed. To come to the point while we sadly have tigers in captivity, there is clearly a more responsible and humane way to house these wild cats.
The manner in which Tony is being kept at Tiger Truck Stiop falls significantly below what I would consider the minimum required to ensure the psychological welfare of a tiger in captivity."
It is Mr. Bekoff's professional opinion that the manner in which Tony is being kept is negligent and does not even meet the minimum standards for accredited zoos and what he would consider marginally humane. He also states that the situation misinforms impressionalble spectators about the true nature of tigers and demonstrates an abysmal disregard for public safety. The danger is heightened in tigers who are already socially and environmentally frustrated, as demonstrated here.
Tigers are powerful, complex and unpredictable carnivores and should not be underestimated. Experienced handlers and animal behavorists, not someone whose expertise and training is the managment of a gas station, must constantly oversee their care and security. The fact that a person would even house a tiger in a chain link enclosure at a gas station demonstrates the complete failure to appreciate the danger and the needs of this animal.
Mark Bekoff is a Professor in Colorado
Ethologist for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (with Jane Goodall) www.ethologicalethics.org