543 Day Writing Journey

The Big Cats’ Real Friend. Day 219.

Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Learning is a practice, a lifelong, tiring event that we have to experience. In order to learn, though, we have to be willing to admit that we were once naïve about something and that we have since changed our ways, or are at least planning to. Learning is about opening our minds and admitting we were wrong. Learning is about not being a big old hard-headed, stubborn, close-minded know-it-all.

It happens in relationships, God know it happens in politics, and it happens when we don’t think it needs to. I learned something, and I’m a little ashamed.

I watched Tiger King, a Netflix documentary about a guy, Joe, who kept tigers in cages. He would meet people in back alleys and buy large cats, bears, and other supposed-to-be-wildlife, and he would also breed in captivity which is a big no-no. He was eccentric and was found guilty of mistreating, and even murdering, his animals (among hire-for-murder and other fun stuff). He’s in prison now. It’s one of those shows you don’t want to admit you continue watching, but so fascinating that you can’t stop. Also, it was during the major COVID lockdown and everyone was watching it.

Recently I saw another little series on Peacock starring the very funny and immensely talented, Kate McKinnon, called Joe Vs Carole. McKinnon plays Carole brilliantly. It is kind of her side of the story, but in a fictional tale rather than a documentary. Between both of the shows, I learned, and I realized, and I changed my ways of thinking.

I went to a tiger sanctuary once in Myrtle Beach, SC ran by Doc Antle, a guy who I will allow you to form your own opinion of. I thought it was a good thing they were doing, but now am not as sure. I’ve heard stories and read articles recently that make me very sad and red-faced, but at the time it was a blast.

While there, I was able to hold a newborn tiger, play with young lions, and (my favorite) pet and socialize with young wolves. It was cool, don’t get me wrong, but I was unaware and uneducated. The fact that they had babies of any kind there should have been a red flag, but at the time I was ignorant to it. Maybe I didn’t want to see it. I cried when I held that small tiger. She was soft and very small, unable to keep her eyes open for long. I thought it would always be a happy memory for me, but it’s tainted by my new knowledge. Anyway, I learned by watching the two very odd shows, and did some more research.

Carole Baskin was a target for many viewers because of rumors about a missing husband that were never proven, and also for her eccentric ways and life. The public, via social media, teased her in posts and shares, kind of like on a school playground or neighborhood playground. She wears many leopard print outfits and artificial flowers in her hair, and doesn’t follow many social norms which of course, in this day and age of keyboard warriors, made her a target.

She loves those big cats, and she has a sanctuary in Florida where she rescues them and offers them good lives. She doesn’t breed the big cats, nor does she sell them or use them in trick shows. They are there because they can’t go into the wild, sometimes because they are ill or injured, and also because they simply don’t know how to be wild animals anymore due to being trapped in captivity for their entire lives.

It’s funny to me how her eccentricities and people’s chat leaned the viewers to collectively call her a murderess and weird (like that’s a bad thing) in a type of mob mentality, without really opening their minds and learning about her on their own. They listened to Joe Exotic and went with it because it was the fun thing to do. Click HERE to see what she does, though. It’s a good thing.

There are 5,000 tigers in captivity and only about 3,900 tigers in the wild that we know of. That’s not OK. They’re in cages pacing around, wanting to climb and hunt. Read more about tigers in captivity HERE, and maybe be open to learning something new. It’s so refreshing.

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