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  • "Do you think a tiger would sit for a photo without being drugged?"
    Wu Shaman
    Oh, Wu. I love you, brother. So. Where do I begin with this one? As enlightened as you are oft-times perceived to be by those of us who resonate to the tone of your written words, I am compelled to note that, this time, you are as misguided, misinformed and wrapped up in a myth as any one of the masses of the great unwashed whom you so enthusiastically admonish to wake the fuck up.

    Perhaps you ought wipe the sleep from your own eyes, sirrah.

    I know for a fact that a tiger will sit for a photo without being drugged. Unlike humans, drugged tigers are incapable of anything resembling normal behavior. I reckon I could dose anyone of you, dear readers, with a wide variety of pharmaceutical drugs and pose you for photos with friends and family or take you out socializing and no one would be the wiser. People function in medicated states all the time. It is one of the notable behavioral attributes of our species.

    I worked for twenty years with The Rare Species Fund and T.I.G.E.R.S.- The Institute Of Greatly Endangered And Rare Species. We took pictures of people cuddling tiger cubs and baby apes in their laps. People posed sitting beside our adult tigers,lions and ligers or standing beside Bubbles a twenty five year old female African elephant, an Ivory-Orphan adopted by T.I.G.E.R.S. when she was six months old. None of the animals are ever on drugs and they have all of their teeth and claws.

    Doctor Bhagavan Mahamayavi Antle established T.I.G.E.R. S. twenty seven years ago as a wildlife education organization, dedicated to promoting global conservation with informative, educational, and entertaining interactive programs. The Rare Species Fund (RSF) was established to provide funding to critical, on the ground international wildlife conservation projects, thereby complimenting the educational messages and field research of T.I.G.E.R.S. Both organizations belong to the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF). Doctor Antle has twice addressed the United States Congress as an internationally recognized conservationist under the auspices of the ICCF.

    Doc Antle and the animal ambassadors of TIGERS have been involved in the production of over 500 films, television shows and advertising of all kinds for twenty eight years. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that directly support the Rare Species Fund (RSF).

    Large, complex animals, apex predators like tigers, lions and leopards for example, do not function when medicated. On an cellular level a tranquilizing drug like ketamine, sets up certain chemical conditions that mimic the cell shut down that occurs with death.

    Tigers are high functioning animals. Millions of years of evolution has produced in tigers a physiology with two settings. Maximum and off. Administering tranquilizers to tigers, lions or leopards initiates a cellular process that sends their bodies into a shutdown mode from which they often do not fully recover. It is a risky business to which most zoos worldwide must subject their big cats at least once yearly in order to undergo veterinary exams.

    Trained big cats do not have to be tranquilized for routine medical exams.

    Dr. Don Harris is the current president of the North American Veterinary Conference, and the founder of the Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Center in Miami, Florida. Dr. Harris is an internationally acknowledged authority on the care and husbandry of exotic animals. He has worked with rare and endangered species for three decades.

    Dr. Harris enjoys a special relationship with his big cat patients at TIGERS. His experience is unique in the veterinarian profession because his adult big cat patients are wide-awake for their vet visit.

    Unlike his peers at most zoos, who only examine adult tigers when they are under sedation, Dr. Harris has a one on one, wide awake, working relationship with his big cat patients. He has gained an insight into their behavior that would have been impossible to achieve with unconscious animals.

    According to Dr. Harris, “The training these cats receive enables them to remain completely conscious and at ease during routine veterinary examinations. I have been able to study and interact with tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs in ways that are simply not possible with sedated animals. This increased knowledge of their behavior enables us to provide these complex creatures the highest level of care and enrichment possible.”

    Animals of stunning size and beauty like tigers capture people's attention so they become more willing to learn about critical conservation issues. The unique opportunity to see these incredible animals up close and un-caged gives people a greater understanding and appreciation of all animals. Tigers and other rare and endangered species presented in alternative educational programs play important roles as ambassadors for conservation issues.

    Do not be fooled into thinking that conservation traditions that have so often failed are the right way. There is no one right way to do anything. Wildlife will only survive with a million Noah's and a million arks!
    (TIGERS staff lounging with Amar a snow-white Bengal tiger and Lord Ivory a white African lion at the TIGERS preserve in Miami, Florida. Photo by Doc Antle)
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