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RESPONSE TO THE NSPCA’S MEDIA RELEASE ON THE SOUTH CHINA TIGER REINTRODUCTION PROJECT
By the Chinese Tigers South African Trust March 11, 2008
We are sorry for the delay in responding to the January. 21, 2008 ‘press release’ by the NSPCA, as we were only recently informed of its content as per its website: LIVE FEEDING - IT HAPPENS HERE!
By the Chinese Tigers South African Trust
March 11, 2008
Topped by a sensationalist headline “LIVE FEEDING – IT HAPPENS HERE!” we consider the press release to be inaccurate, spurious and defamatory against the tiger conservation efforts of the Chinese Tiger SA Trust. To equate our acclaimed endangered tiger conservation, breeding and rewilding program to a Chinese zoo is outrageous. We request that the NSPCA makes a public apology for its very public announcement and removes its media release from its website immediately.
The ongoing campaign by the NSPCA in the media and courts is a disservice to the NSPCA donors and the NSPCA’s mandate. Since December 2003, the NSPCA has attempted to bring criminal charges against the Trust without any success. In 2006, the NSPCA brought the matter to the civil courts and lost, filing an application for leave to appeal. They lost again when the court found there was no reasonable prospect that another court would come to a different conclusion. The NSPCA has now taken the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeals for the hearing of an appeal only after a petition permitted them to do so, at great expense both to its donor members and to our charity.
In its latest misguided salvo, the NSPCA’s Alistair Sinclair asserts: “There are clear parallels with the “live feeding” at the zoo in China as exposed by the Saturday Star on 18 January 2008.” This is blatantly slanderous - there is no parallel. The gross exhibit at the zoo is a horrific, brutal, display of greed and so-called public entertainment. Our electrically fenced tiger reserve is a non-public charitable facility to re-wild train zoo-bred tigers for re-introduction into vast protected eco-systems in China and the species’ only last-ditch chance to be saved from extinction. Our reserve is furthermore NOT open to the public in order to rewild these tigers successfully. To couple the NSPCA’s on-going and unjustified attack on our conservation program with the horrific exhibition is unacceptable. The NSPCA is empowered by the 1962 Animal Protection Act No.71 to act like a police force. In our view it is unfortunate it has chosen to use this power in the manner and form it has.
In a seeming contradiction Sinclair says” Creatures in the wild and in captivity are not the same thing, including in the manner of feeding.” We totally agree. Many conservationists have concluded that endangered species can only be successfully rewilded if they are retrained in their normal hunting skills prior to reintroduction. As zoologist Jonathan Wright says: “Zoos are not allowed to feed live vertebrates to zoo animals, so it is very difficult to release a predator into the wild”. Further, a recent study by Exeter University says: “Animals in captivity do not usually have the natural behaviours needed for success in the wild. Their lack of hunting skills and their lack of fear towards humans are major disadvantages. We have suspected for some time that captive-born animals fared less well than wild animals, but here it is finally quantified, and the extent of the problem is critical.” The author Kristen Jule concludes they are “in favour of reintroduction as a part of conservation efforts” and “they could be effective with some changes made that would prepare the animals for life in the wild more effectively. This could mean making sure hunting occurred in captivity, as well as reducing human contact and promoting social group formation.”
We thank those South Africans who have supported our efforts. We undertook this conservation program in South Africa to fast-track the re-wilding process by using South Africa’s esteemed conservation scientists and experienced wildlife managers. We are saddened that the NSPCA’s compassion for animals does not extend to those that are critically endangered like the South China Tiger (fewer than 90 remain). We take pride in our South African reserve’s achievements including the recent birth of a healthy male cub, the first on the planet in two years.
Chinese Tigers South African Trust