The first tiger of 24 rescued from a New Jersey sanctuary greeted Texas on Thursday with a spine-tingling roar.
"Stop it! Get back, get back," said Carol Asvestas, 52, director of the Wild Animal Orphanage, a 112-acre San Antonio nonprofit that agreed to take in the two dozen Bengal tigers.
The big cats were collected Tuesday from the Tigers Only Preservation Society, a Jackson, N.J., organization that the state for five years has worked to shut down because of squalid conditions.
Asvestas, who traveled to New Jersey to assist in the transfer, called the animals' living quarters "appalling." Several of the tigers, which range in age from 3 1/2 to 10 years old, had burns on their feet from standing in urine. Hip bones on some of the animals protruded from their sides because they were forced to compete with more dominant animals for food and were malnourished, she said Thursday.
Most were housed in narrow metal cages called shoots and couldn't turn around. One lived in a windowless trailer and never saw daylight. Another was found covered in its own feces, Asvestas said.
The tigers' rescue, one of the largest in the United States, was delayed in court for years by owner Joan Byron-Marasek's attempts to keep the collection. The legal battle, and the oddity of so many cats in suburban New Jersey, generated countless news stories along the East Coast and earned Byron-Marasek the moniker of "Tiger Lady."
Even this week, Byron-Marasek sought the court's help in stopping the transfer, arguing that it was an unlawful taking of property prompted by real estate developers who wanted her land cheap. A federal judge on Wednesday, however, declined to stop the convoy of tigers, already on its way to the northwest Bexar County animal orphanage, about 20 miles from downtown San Antonio.
Here is a local paper's account of the court ruling. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has a press release with some photos of the tigers' living quarters. Here is the Tigers Only Preservation Society web page, which has an understandably different view of the situation. Personally, I just think it's a shame these cats can't live where nature intended them to. Being cared for is the next best thing, but it's still a shame.Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 14, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack