Monday, September 5, 2011

Protecting tigers

From the Animal Legal Defense Fund: (and a poem from me): While the disturbing circumstances surrounding Tony the truck stop tiger have received enormous attention, there are an estimated 5,000 -- 10,000 additional captive tigers throughout the U.S. The majority of these big cats are classified by the federal government as "generic" tigers -- tigers that are not purebred and are not in the same classification as endangered tigers in zoos (Tony, for example, is a Siberian-Bengal mix). Most of these tigers are kept as exotic "pets" and are virtually unregulated by the federal government due to a 1998 United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rule that exempted "generic" tigers from the permit and reporting requirements that normally apply to endangered species. Due to the current lack of regulation by the federal government, there is not an accurate count of how many thousands of these tigers are living in the country, or whether they live in potentially abusive -- and dangerous -- conditions.

After years of pressure by tiger advocates, the USFWS, on August 22, published a proposed rule that would eliminate this generic tiger exemption. Should it be adopted, all tigers in the country, regardless of their lineage, would be better tracked and regulated by the federal government. People who own these tigers would be required to report annually on the number of tigers they have in captivity and on activities involving the tigers. Until this information becomes available, there is only anecdotal knowledge about the extent and whereabouts of the tiger population in this country. Such critical information could play a vital role in advancing laws that acknowledge and protect these currently "invisible" animals.

The USFWS is accepting comments on this proposed change through September 21, 2011 and your help is crucially needed! Please submit a comment in support of the proposal to eliminate the exemption for "generic" tigers today. Your support will help demonstrate to the USFWS that Americans are deeply concerned about better protections and oversight for captive tigers.

tigers pace the golden cage
     (to tame is to embitter
dreaming deep of jungle days,
the reign of dapple summer.

when rarely I pursued you, man,
I smelled you as an equal.
now fiery hoop, your whip and chain
daily make you smaller.

dust rises from the circus floor;
a tiger coughs politely.
the red and empty human roar
hollows her heart and frightens.

bars are built by weaker men
     (to tame evokes compassion
bones too fragile to withstand
the tigers’ jaws are clapping.

tigers have no love of pain
but know the need of killing,
whether as captor or enslaved
the tigers could be willing.

stripes of yellow, stripes of steel:
survival throws a shadow
that vigils in the tigers’ hearts
and sniffs the air for wild.

truth is water in a pool
now still and growing clear.
when tigers next leap thru the hoop
they will not reappear.

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