Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

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Richard Kaufman
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Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 11th, 2010, 12:24 pm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/1 ... 18032.html

Yet another person killed by their pet tiger.
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 11th, 2010, 12:45 pm

"pet tiger"

Two words that shouldn't go together. Just because you can own them, doesn't mean you should. I don't how it is now, but it used to be very easy to buy a tiger. They weren't very expensive, less than $500. It's expensive to keep them, but not to obtain one.

I spent over a year working with exotic cats and looking back was very lucky. I had a tiger bring me down once. I was bit on the leg by a leopard. While grateful for the opportunity, it wouldn't be my back-up career choice.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 11th, 2010, 1:06 pm

I cringe when folks say that such attacks are unforseeable. As if having a large dangerous wild animal around is somehow normal - and that these creatures normal territorial behaviors are somehow surprising.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 11th, 2010, 1:18 pm

Considering that:

1. A tiger bit Jonathan Pendragon in the arm and could have killed him (and did permanently disfigure him) ...

2. A tiger got loose during one of Doug Henning's live TV shows and killed several animals backstage and could have killed a person ...

3. A tiger bit Roy Horn in the neck, leading to a series of strokes that permanently disabled him and ended the career of Siegfried and Roy ...

It seems obvious that no one should really be using these types of cats in their act.
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby CraigMitchell » January 11th, 2010, 1:27 pm

And yet - it was S&R's remarkable connection with the animals that made them the entertainment phenomemon that they are. It is difficult picturing S&R achieving the success they did without the use of animals in their act.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 11th, 2010, 1:36 pm

I actually believe that Siegfried and Roy would have attained stardom with or without the wild cats.
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 11th, 2010, 1:51 pm

Everyone who works around these animals has a story to tell and that's because they're unpredictable. They can be as sweet as your house cat and that's where the false sense of security comes in. Most of the times, if they've been trained correctly, they are very sweet animals, but all it takes is one moment, maybe something bothers the cat or who knows what goes off in the cat's brain and it's over. There's nothing you can do.

Roy is THE example. Anyone working with cats has to figure if it happened to Roy, it can happen to me(and what happened to Roy was minimized in the press). Mark Kalin was smart and stopped using big cats. These other guys are just foolish. You're never going to be stronger than the cat and once an attack starts, you're at the mercy of the cat.

Cats used in illusion shows are not treated well. How do you get a cat into hidden compartment of an illusion? You force it because they don't go willingly. It's amazing how small of an area you can get a 400 pound tiger into.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby David Alexander » January 11th, 2010, 2:10 pm

The great novelty of S&R when they started out was the surprise of the cheetah popping out of the box. It hadn't been done in Vegas and was big. They capitalized on the novelty of the cats and expanded. Then they got into the white tigers that were a decided novelty. All of that compounded their success and made them extremely wealthy and iconic. They even made The Simpsons.

Roy had a fantasy of what the tigers thought of him and eventually paid the price. He's lucky to be alive.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Mark Collier » January 11th, 2010, 2:16 pm

In 1981, I spent a month (it felt like a year) traveling with Circus Vargas. I worked inside the tent so I saw every show. By the end of that month, I knew every act. I knew the introduction to each act verbatim.

The tigers were kept in very small cages with just enough room for them to stand up and turn around. They were always in these cages unless they were in the ring performing. One day, it was very hot and the tigers were not in a mood to perform. They were not cooperating with the trainer and kept jumping off the stools they sat on during the show. They would sit on the wrong stool. They were snarling and taking swipes at each other.

One trick they did was all lie down in a row and all roll over in unison. The trainer was having a hard time getting them to line up and stay put. It got confusing and he got between two tigers. In his distraction, one of the tigers swatted the arm that held the whip. It just filleted his arm wide open. He stepped over to the netting that surrounded the ring and stuck his arm through so an assistant could tie a restricting band around his bicep. He went on with the show but cut it short and went straight to the finale. Even with the restricting band, he was clearly losing a lot of blood. The audience could see it poring off of his fingers. As he went to move the fire ring to the center for the finale, he got dizzy and dropped to one knee for a moment. He stood up and started calling each tiger by name. Each tiger would then jump off its stool and run up the stairs, jump through the fire ring and exit the ring into a tunnel made by adjoining cages with insert able partitions. After about the third cat, the trainer passed out. The assistants (outside the ring) kept calling the tigers names (they always went in the same order) until they were all out. Then they went in and helped the trainer, who had partially regained consciousness, out of the ring. He was back the next afternoon performing at the matinee with his arm wrapped in gauze.

In the wild, tigers roam large territories and travel many miles a day. If you keep them in cages and make them perform unnatural acts, something will eventually go wrong.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 11th, 2010, 2:53 pm

Both Mark Kalin and Kirby VanBurch had very similar living conditions for their cats. When the cats were at home they lived in 14x14 (approx) cages. They would be moved into transport cages which were about 3 ft wide, 4ft tall and 6ft long.

I never worked with Mark's cats, only "baby sat" them for a summer in Vegas when he was in Atlantic City. A typical schedule for Kirby's cats were they got loaded in the transport cages about 5:00pm to be transported to the theater and stayed until about 1:00am. We did 2 shows a night, 6 nights a week at the old Aladdin. At the time we had one tiger, two leopards and a bear. Don't get me started with bears.

The tiger was walked out of the truck and into the Lion's Bride illusion and he stayed in there for the entire time in the theater. Leopards & bear went from transport cages, to their illusions, back to transport cages during the show. A cat could be loaded into an illusion for about 20 minutes before it appears.

I don't know if he still does this or not, but Kirby would have his two leopards and his bear walk free out of the illusion and into the wings where we were waiting with the transport cage. We were lucky. There were only a few times the cat didn't want to come off stage and I would have to go out and get it. I've heard that Rick Thomas' cats are on cables, so they can't get to the audience. One of the conditions that had to be met every show for us was no children in the first section of the audience.

It's one thing if it goes bad for the performer, it's going to be a completely other scenario if it goes bad in the audience. That will be the game changer for these acts.

Incidentally, ownership of exotic cats in the States is overseen by the USDA who can, and will, show up where the cats live and in the middle of a show. They have the power to shut down an act and take the cats away.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby CraigMitchell » January 11th, 2010, 3:24 pm

Steve - you truly have some fascinating stories of being 'in the trenches' ... you should consider writing a book !

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Ian Kendall » January 11th, 2010, 3:28 pm

Am I the only one who thinks that taking these beautiful and majestic creatures and forcing them to be stuck in a box for (did I read that right?) 20 minutes for our entertainment is wrong on several levels?

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 11th, 2010, 4:41 pm

Ian,

No, you're not the only one. Personally I don't agree with it. When I was working with Kirby's animals I was young and needed work, so I did what I needed to do. That was over 22 years ago.

I was shocked at the what it took to get the animals to work in the props. Are they beaten? No. But they are being made to do things against their will. Food place a big part in all of this. They are motivated by food and their meals are planned through the evening. they would get one meal late afternoon, then several snacks during the show. Each snack would relate to task the cat had to perform. To go from a transport cage into a prop, they get food. From the stage, back to the transport cage, more food.

Getting a cat into a prop is one thing. Getting them into a compartment is another. His spotted leopard had it easy. He just stood on a pneumatic lift that brought him to the top of a prop. his brother, a black leopard was pushed into a compartment that he couldn't stand up in, was less than 2 feet wide and less than 5 feet long. That compartment was them placed into a double tip-over trunk.

The worst was the bear. Kirby had a giant mirror ball that a girl went into and torches were pushed through. Fire came out of the top and then a bear came out. Neither the girl nor the bear were in danger from the fire, but getting the bear into this thing was a nightmare and very sad because some nights we literally had to pull him and push him down into it with the bear just about screaming the entire time.

Abuse comes in many forms. For the protection of everyone, when the animals are young they are taught to be afraid of a stick, like a wooden hammer handle. You also reinforce that with the word "no" which is what you would naturally say in a bad situation. So it was possible to keep a cat away or under control when needed with a simple wooden stick. I never had to use it, but I always had one in my back pocket.

We all know what assistants go through. Box jumpers wear their bruises with pride. But how exotic animals are used in illusion shows isn't widely known and I think if more people knew what was going on, there would be less praise for some of these acts and the magic community may not be as supportive.

The magic methods S&R used were no different than what everyone else uses. However the compound where they keep their cats is incredible and far nicer than what anyone else has.

CraigMitchell wrote:Steve - you truly have some fascinating stories of being 'in the trenches' ... you should consider writing a book !


Thanks Craig. People suggested it in the past. Maybe a magazine article instead. I'm happy to share some good or funny stories about Copperfield & Blackstone and others I've worked with, but I've also been discreet about a lot of things. My life now is so far removed from all of that, but I think you have to tell the bad with the good and I'm not comfortable bringing out someone's dirty laundry. But if I do decide to do something, I'll get David Alexander to write it.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Mark.Lewis » January 11th, 2010, 7:55 pm

I never thought I would agree with the rather awful Kendall personage but I really don't like the concept of performing animals. I also worked in a circus and it was there I realised things weren't quite right. It was a small circus and didn't have a lot in the way of animals although the few they had didn't look that comfortable to me. However, it was more the attitude of the circus people towards the animals that shocked me, particularly the animal trainers.

Some of them worked in far bigger circuses and worked with bigger animals including lions and suchlike. They talked in rather a cruel manner concerning them. I kept my mouth shut but I really didn't approve of their conversation. It was an eye opener to me since I had often seen press reports where circus people defended the way they treated the animals and they made it sound as if they loved them with all their hearts. I was dumb enough to believe what I read in the paper.

The circus I was in had a baby elephant. When the public came around afterwards to look at the elephant the circus people were very lovey-dovey towards it. As soon as the public departed they treated the animal quite roughly. Not cruel per se, but too rough for my liking.

I had always been of the opinion that a circus is not a circus without animals. I am afraid that I have now changed my mind. I don't think animals should be used for performance purposes.

Believe it or not I don't even like magicians who use rabbits in their show. I don't think it is fair on the rabbit.

Blame the circus for my attitude.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 11th, 2010, 8:46 pm

Mark.Lewis wrote:I never thought I would agree with the rather awful Kendall personage but I really don't like the concept of performing animals.


I never thought I would agree with the rather awful Lewis personage, but...

All kidding aside, there is no glamor with animals in these situations. If you think a leopard shouldn't be in a tiny compartment for 20+ minutes, should a dove or a rabbit? Is it cruel to propel a dove out of your coat on a fishing string invisible harness?

The problem, at least in the USA, with these matters is the low standards. The USDA oversees a lot of this. They arrive unannounced to examine everything. I dealt with one USDA inspector who ordered a tiger be examined by a vet and the cage rebuilt to resolve a problem. But it's easy to fool these guys. Yes, the vet has to give the animal a clean bill of health, but the USDA doesn't see everything that happens. It's like dealing with the fire marshal. You set the pyro to half of what it would be for a regular show, over do it with the precautions (have several fire extinguishers on stage, with wet towels and a bucket of sand) and you'll pass. I once worked with a pyro tech who didn't know how to use a fire extinguisher!

The US government says what you're doing with exotic animals is ok, so I guess it's ok then. But it's really not, because when the USDA inspector showed up we didn't have the hammer handles in our back pocket. They inspected the illusion, but the didn't watch the procedure to get the animal in the illusion.

Alright, I'm agreeing with Mark Lewis, so I'm off to go earn a respectable living and pitch some Svengali Decks to unsuspecting children.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Jeffrey Korst » January 12th, 2010, 12:11 am

In 1984, I worked at an amusement park where one of the other acts was a circus cat act with lions and tigers. We were living in trailers on the grounds and became pretty good friends.

He has a large ranch in Texas. His first cats came from people who had kept them as pets until someone got hurt, or roadside "zoos" that were going to be shut down. Rather than see the cats put down, he took them in.

After a while, he realized how much it was taking to keep them fed, he taught himself how to train them and put together an act. This with cats that had been abused and in some cases, attacked someone.

To the point of the thread: He told me once that a lion can be raised from a cub and you can play with it and wrestle with it and be pretty confident of your safety.

A tiger on the other hand--even a cub so small he can stand all four paws on the palm of your hand--you can see in its eyes that he's looking at you thinking, "I could eat that."

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby David Alexander » January 12th, 2010, 12:14 am

Thanks for the kind words, Steve.

Understanding the mind of a tiger is easy. Thousands of generations of Natural Selection have eliminated the tigers that didnt do a good job surviving to procreate.

A tiger is hardwired at birth to be a successful tiger. They have a simple and successful view of the world: food and sex. Other tigers are seen as either potential competitors for food and mates, or as a mate.

Everything else that is non-tiger (including us) is considered dinner. Those who forget that are vulnerable to the forces of Natural Selection themselves.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Diego » January 12th, 2010, 1:26 am

"I actually believe that Siegfried and Roy would have attained stardom with or without the wild cats."


That is possible with their drive and talent, but the cats caught people's attention and made them stand out.
Before S&R were known by their names, people were saying, "You should see those guys with the tigers in The Lido show".
People who saw the earlier shows a The Lido or MGM, went to see the guys with the cats, no one said, "That blond guy makes doves appear and together they do big box trick.
That they could have acheived fame/success because who THEY are, is proved that there have been and are now, different magicians who have cats in their acts, but who remembers their names?

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Joe Mckay » January 12th, 2010, 2:29 am

How do you teach an animal to be scared of a hammer handle? Is it by hitting the animal with it (from time to time) from an early age?

Sorry if this is a dumb question!

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby jason156 » January 12th, 2010, 3:39 am

From what I have read, in another 50 years you won't have to worry about anyone getting injured by a tiger....

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby IrishMagicNews » January 12th, 2010, 6:22 am

This is a fascinating discussion.

For those who haven't listened already , Dodd interviewed Rick Thomas a while back. In the piece Rick talks a lot about working with cats. It is well worth a listen. Listen here
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Mark.Lewis » January 12th, 2010, 6:38 am

I have seen doves in harnesses and thought it was bloody horrible. And the thought of using live chicks in the cups and balls as a few performers do turns my stomach no matter how startling the effect. And I don't see why rabbits have to be cooped up in boxes just so a magician can earn a few dollars.

I am not even an animal lover particularly, either.

Some animals are indeed nasty but the nastiest animal of all is the human animal.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 12th, 2010, 7:39 am

Joe Mckay wrote:How do you teach an animal to be scared of a hammer handle? Is it by hitting the animal with it (from time to time) from an early age?

Sorry if this is a dumb question!

Joe


Joe,

The ol' "motivation stick" is a way to diffuse potentially hazardous situations. When these cats are cubs, you have complete control over them and that's when they need to be taught that you're in control. A stick, dowel, hammer handle is used to punish bad behavior. There are other reinforcement techniques to reward positive behavior. After a while you don't need to hit them with the stick and just showing it to them is enough.

Kirby and I were getting a lion ready for an event and we were in it's cage. I realized I had my stick in the wrong pocket, so I took it out to move it to another pocket. The lion caught a glimpse of it and in seconds was on the opposite side of the cage because it was afraid of the stick.

Compare it to your pet dog. Maybe when they're young, you smack it on the butt for punishment. As time goes on, you don't have to hit them anymore, and just the gesture and the tone of your voice is enough.

One day, maybe illusionists will smarten up and realize the life they give these cats isn't in the animal's best interest. It used to be acceptable behavior to put a real canary in a vanishing bird cage, which after a very fast journey up the sleeve typically killed it.

All the praise for Gali-Gali and his production of baby chicks, but the truth is the chicks are only good for a couple of days before they get too big. He would kill them by stomping on them and flushing them. I'm sure Johnny Ace Palmer is more humane with his!

I haven't heard the Rick Thomas interview. I may listen later. I'm sure he puts a positive spin on the whole thing. I'm wouldn't doubt he takes great care of his cats, but so do most of these guys. They'll tell you that the animals are treated humanely, are regularly inspected by a vet and have a longer life expectancy than their counter-parts in the wild. For the most part, all true. I know some of Kirby's cats lived to 20+. It's possible to form close bonds with these cats, but I still feel this isn't the life for the animals. This isn't conservation, it's really a cruel existence which goes against the cat's natural instincts. Sure they're living longer, but they're living longer in a cage. You too could live a long time with life in prison, but would you want to?

This thread has been interesting for me as well because I realize I've never talked about this stuff publicly. Reading the experiences by others here, the stories are always about circus animals and not illusion shows, so now you guys have a little more insight into what it takes to do a show with big cats.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Mark.Lewis » January 12th, 2010, 8:11 am

I heard one circus act talking shop with another. One said, "I have some trouble getting the lion to roar properly" The other one advised, "Why don't you use a shocker?" I, in my innocence asked what a shocker was. It was some kind of stick that gave the lion an electric shock and made the animal roar properly. I remember thinking that that the trainer should have been given the shock instead of the animal.

I asked one act what he did with the horses after the season. He said "Oh, I just have them put down"

Some circus guy once told me that Siegfried and Roy were just as cruel to their tigers as every other performer who used live animals. I argued that I thought they weren't. The guy insisted that you should never believe what you read and all the lovey-dovey talk they came out with in the press was false. I still like to think he was wrong but I have no idea.

In any event I am not in favour of performing animals no matter who does the performing.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby IrishMagicNews » January 12th, 2010, 8:21 am

This thread has been interesting for me as well because I realize I've never talked about this stuff publicly. Reading the experiences by others here, the stories are always about circus animals and not illusion shows, so now you guys have a little more insight into what it takes to do a show with big cats.


Many of us who are at least somewhat well read have a good working knowledge of most areas of our art. The big cat stuff is probably one of the area's of expertise least written about and therefore I find it massively interesting. Please don't stop Steve.

With regard to Rick, he certainly comes accross as very caring & responsible and speaks out publicly about the "rent a cat" brigade.
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 12th, 2010, 9:28 am

The only instance I can recall of a magic act using a shocker were with The Fercos. They used to be at the old Dunes in the Casino de Paris show. They did a bit where a leopard would, on cue, jump off of a raised platform on to one of their shoulders. The platform would give the cat a jolt and cause him to jump.

I've never seen any thing like that in my experiences.

Another issue that comes up with animals is the use of drugs and sedation. Many times you'll see a cat get produced in a Lion's Bride-type illusion and they just sit there, so people think the animal has been sedated. It's not the case. The animal is just bored or it fell asleep in the prop and is just waking up. To sedate an animal isn't necessary with the proper training and is very traumatic for the animal. You don't just go up to a tiger and give it a shot in the butt. That have to be darted. When they get their annual shots that is delivered via a dart as well. Kirby's vet used to use a blow gun. No kidding, he had a long tube and would blow into it to shoot the dart.

Mark.Lewis wrote:Some circus guy once told me that Siegfried and Roy were just as cruel to their tigers as every other performer who used live animals. I argued that I thought they weren't. The guy insisted that you should never believe what you read and all the lovey-dovey talk they came out with in the press was false. I still like to think he was wrong but I have no idea.


"Cruel" can be a matter of opinion. Is forcing an animal into a compartment in an illusion cruel? Some would argue yes and some no. I doubt any of these guys think they're being cruel to their cats and are always going to put the best light on it. Not one of these guys can afford to have even the slightest hint of cruelty creep in.

The reason little is known about this in the magic community is that we respect secrets, so you would never go up to one of these guys and ask how all of this works. You learn about it by being on the inside.

There are some misleading conceptions about S&R. The animals were Roy's deal. Siegfried had little to do with them and was afraid of them. It's not widely known, but he was either bit or clawed by their lion about 30 years ago (I don't remember which). He told me once (insert German accent here)"I'm scared to hell of them".

Taking care of these animals is a big job and they have more than most, so don't think for a second Roy was out in the compound cleaning out the cages. They have a team of animal handlers that spent more time with the cats than Roy did. We've all seen video of their animals wondering free throughout the compound and in their house. It makes for great video, but is stretching the reality of life with the cats.

Cleanliness is a big deal and something you may not consider. All the cages are cleaned a couple of times a day. Where the food is kept is clean, the prep area for the food is clean, the illusions have to be clean. There are always towels and various paper products nearby in case the cat relieves itself while in the prop. Nothing worse than producing a tiger and it's slipping and sliding in it's own urine. By the way, tiger urine smells like popcorn. (I bet Rick Thomas didn't tell you that!)

You know you're in the big time when a tiger starts to squat in the illusion 2 minutes before it goes out on stage and you have to run over and slide a towel under it to absorb it all. Glamorous!

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Jim Martin » January 12th, 2010, 9:49 am

Steve Pellegrino wrote:You know you're in the big time when a tiger starts to squat in the illusion 2 minutes before it goes out on stage and you have to run over and slide a towel under it to absorb it all. Glamorous!
What's the punchline to the joke: 'What, and leave show business?'

I also find your posts very interesting, Steve. Thanks for sharing this information.
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Joe Mckay » January 12th, 2010, 10:46 am

This is a fascinating thread. You are an excellent writer, Steve...

Now - This may be an impossible question to answer and I apologise for drifting off on a philosophical tangent. But - I often wonder how much an animal enjoys being in the wild? It seems to me like it is a scary place and alot of the time animals are just running around fearing for their lives. And when they get injured they spend alot of time in pain (and even more fearful of being attacked). These are things that no animal in captivity has to deal with. Personally - I am not a fan of animals in magic or in the circus. My instinct is always to leave them alone in the wild. But - which is the 'lesser of two evils'? Is it possible to romanticise the wild? I wonder if there is any research in this area? - I would guess that animals spend alot of their time in very stressful situations... This is all philosophical guesswork.

Indeed - I don't even watch many nature documentaries so I may be way off base!

All the best,

Joe

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Matthew Field » January 12th, 2010, 11:05 am

Guy has a pet donkey that he wants trained. He brings him to an animal trainer and says, "I'm very close to this animal. I don't want him mistreated."

"Don't worry," says the trainer, "we train using only love and the reward system. The animal learns what he is expected to do by being rewarded with treats."

"Great," says the man. Leaving, he happens to walk by the side of the place and he peers in the window, where he finds the trainer beating the sh*t out of the donkey with a big stick.

"Hey!" says the man. "What's going on! I thought you said you use the reward system!"

"We do," replaies the trainer calmly. "But first you have to get their attention."

SteveP
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 12th, 2010, 11:34 am

The exotic cats used by all these guys are all born and raised in captivity and it's been like that for generations of cats. That doesn't mean their natural instinct has been bred out of them. The cats in captivity aren't having fond memories of roaming the Serengeti, nor are their wild counter parts dreaming of a better life in America! But going back to what David Alexander wrote earlier:

David Alexander wrote:Understanding the mind of a tiger is easy. Thousands of generations of Natural Selection have eliminated the tigers that didnt do a good job surviving to procreate.

A tiger is hardwired at birth to be a successful tiger....


Nature is smarter than we are. Wild cats are having a harder time in the wild because of us, not because of nature. The life they lead in the wild is what they are built for. When we go in to their territory and disrupt everything with construction, hunting, etc., that is where the threat is greater.

There isn't a lot of difference between a typical house cat and an exotic cat. Similar temperaments. The both like to be scratched under the chin and play exactly the same. But if you take a house cat and lock it out and never let it back in again, it will be fine. It will survive. It will know how to hunt birds and squirrels and mice and bugs. Give it a few months without human contact and it will no longer desire it. Again, they are hardwired for it.

So yes, keeping animals in captivity keeps them safe. They get 3 squares a day, medical attention and an environment safe from predators & competition for food. But they lose their freedom. Their natural instinct to hunt, run, jump, etc is suppressed.

We like to think in terms of happy and unhappy. Wild animals are neither, they just are. They don't have long-term goals. They live in the moment.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 12th, 2010, 11:35 am

Matthew Field wrote:Guy has a pet donkey that he wants trained. He brings him to an animal trainer and says, "I'm very close to this animal. I don't want him mistreated."

"Don't worry," says the trainer, "we train using only love and the reward system. The animal learns what he is expected to do by being rewarded with treats."

"Great," says the man. Leaving, he happens to walk by the side of the place and he peers in the window, where he finds the trainer beating the sh*t out of the donkey with a big stick.

"Hey!" says the man. "What's going on! I thought you said you use the reward system!"

"We do," replaies the trainer calmly. "But first you have to get their attention."


There ya go! That sums it all up nicely!

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 12th, 2010, 11:37 am

Steve, there is research with foxes where after about 40 generations they start getting quite tame. Is there similar with the big cats? If so, what do the tamed tigers and lions etc look like? By way of example the foxes got floppy dog ears and their tails went from downward turned to upward turned.
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David Alexander
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby David Alexander » January 12th, 2010, 12:09 pm

While implied, I should have added, "in the wild" to make the sentence read: "A tiger is hardwired at birth to be a successful tiger in the wild."

As Steve has pointed out, house cats are much the same as the big ones, only smaller. I've watched a friend's Siamese stalk another house animal and then leap on its back - a hardwired hunting behavior. In the wild the leapt-upon animal's back would be broken and the cat would have a meal.

In my current neighborhoods we have a number of feral cats. They seem to survive and multiply without any difficulty, domesitication having been shed like their last winter coat.

I never much cared for cats as when they'd come around and lick my hand I always thought they were sampling the merchandise, thinking "If only I were larger this guy would be lunch." I never got that feeling from a dog.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby SteveP » January 12th, 2010, 1:14 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Steve, there is research with foxes where after about 40 generations they start getting quite tame. Is there similar with the big cats? If so, what do the tamed tigers and lions etc look like? By way of example the foxes got floppy dog ears and their tails went from downward turned to upward turned.


The cats that you see in magic shows are basically "tame", or at least as tame as an exotic cat can be. But that doesn't make them any less dangerous just due to their size.

I don't think there are instincts that can be removed from them. Like the previous comments I made about house cats. Without being taught how to stalk and catch prey, instinct kicks in and they know what to do.

If you think about how many shows all of these guys have done, the amount of incidents are extremely low. Obviously all it takes is one time to, at worst kill, or at least ruin a career. So it's not like these guys are beating their animals every show to get them to do what they need to do.

So why do the incidents happen when they do? Sometimes it's just carelessness. I had a tiger drop me once. I was in her cage and was trying to turn over her water bucket. I had to turn my back on her to do so and then next thing I knew I was on the ground trying to get a tiger off my back.

Was I in danger? "Technically" yes, but no because she was just playing. It was my error. Never turn your back on a big cat. Now a cat in the wild isn't going to want to play and if I was in that situation, I wouldn't be writing this now. So the problem comes in where you have a tame cat that is many times more powerful than you are and even innocent playtime can be dangerous.

The cats can be as loving and as affectionate as your house cat. Kirby had a tiger named Sorcery and she was just a very sweet cat. I worked with her over a year. At one point Kirby sent her to the Spellbound show at another hotel and I was working with Blackstone. I hadn't seen her in about 6 months, so I went to the Spellbound show and afterward went backstage and saw the tiger. As soon as she saw me she stood up and started making affectionate tiger noises (what is called chuffing). I was able to put my arms in the cage, give her a hug and she stuck her paw out. So if that's not tame, I don't know what is.

But that's part of the problem. Sounds like a sweet story, but as I wrote earlier in the thread, it's moments like that which give you a false sense of security.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby David Alexander » January 12th, 2010, 1:15 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Steve, there is research with foxes where after about 40 generations they start getting quite tame. Is there similar with the big cats? If so, what do the tamed tigers and lions etc look like? By way of example the foxes got floppy dog ears and their tails went from downward turned to upward turned.


Jonathan,

I am assuming you are referencing Dmitry K. Belyaev's work with foxes which began around 1959. It should be noted that Dr. Belyaev's work involved selection of foxes for breeding for what he called "tamability," or the animal's "amiability to domestication." This was a specific and vigorous program that sometimes involved the transplantation of embryos.

I am unaware of any such program being done with tigers where domestic traits are selected above aggressive traits for selective breeding. Given that domesticated house cats still retain all the instinctive characteristics of their larger cousins, I suspect any sort of breeding program to domesticate tigers would be doomed to failure.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Brandon Hall » January 12th, 2010, 2:25 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:I actually believe that Siegfried and Roy would have attained stardom with or without the wild cats.

Sigfreid, perhaps
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Randy Sager
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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Randy Sager » January 12th, 2010, 2:26 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Steve, there is research with foxes where after about 40 generations they start getting quite tame. Is there similar with the big cats? If so, what do the tamed tigers and lions etc look like? By way of example the foxes got floppy dog ears and their tails went from downward turned to upward turned.


Jonathan you are also talking about much different animals. Every breed is different.

If what you said about the fox generations becoming quite tame was going to apply to wild cats such as tigers, Lions, etc.. Don't you think this would already be known to work with big cats if it was going to? Comparing the fox with a tiger is like comparing apples and oranges. It makes no sense.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 12th, 2010, 2:33 pm

Randy, that's why we have science - to find out rather than give in to unfounded presuppositions.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Randy Sager » January 12th, 2010, 2:49 pm

That's true Jonathon. I'm sure it's been thought about and maybe tried and was found either way to be a bad idea.

It would be nice to think that these animals can and will as the saying goes "have the wild taken out of them.} But it's not going to happen. At least not in my opinion anyhow.

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Re: Another Reason Not to Keep Tigers

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 12th, 2010, 2:52 pm

Hey, I'd settle for cute mini rabbits that only grow as large as mice.
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