Mothering Survivors of the Exotic Pet Trade
May 9, 2019
This Mother’s Day, we reflect on what it means to be a mother. A quick Google search of the word “mother,” will reveal it’s meaning in verb form is to “bring up with care and affection” or “look after someone kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.” If you can relate to that in any way, we believe you deserve a Happy Mother’s Day!
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is full of mothers yet lacking in typical children. We have a diverse team of male and female counterparts affectionately caring for a whole passel of large carnivores, looking after them “kindly and protectively,” and yes… “sometimes excessively so.” We have interns who make sure our animal residents are fed and comfortable, animal care staff to keep an eye out for any “boo-boos” or “ouchies,” and supporters like you who spoil them to no end with their favorite treats and enrichment.
Ironically, a large part of mothering these big cats involves passing legislation that limits their reproduction. The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 1380, focuses on illegalizing cub petting. The cub petting industry is a ruthless business that relies on brutal breeding practices to supply a steady flow of cute and cuddly cubs that are drugged, starved, and then inhumanely disposed of when they are no longer of use, all in the name of making a buck.
Shakira II is affectionately known as “Mama Shakira” at the Refuge. Although she birthed at least 13 cubs, she never truly got to be a mama. Her babies were ripped from her as soon as they were born so she could get right back to breeding. Her offspring includes Tanya and Kizmin, “The Trio” (Rocklyn, Blackfire and Peyton), Snowball, and Aurora who were all rescued with her.
The close ages of these four different litters demonstrates just how quickly Shakira II was reproducing. In the wild, a normal female tiger gives birth to 2-4 cubs every two years. Aurora was born in May of 2015, Snowball was born in September of 2015, the Trio was born May of 2016, and Tanya and Kizmin were born in September of 2016. All have health conditions that could have been prevented had they gotten proper nutrition from their mother early on.
Giving birth with no period of rest is very taxing on the mother, it takes a lot of energy and nutrients to create life. Usually, the mother has 2 years to let her body replenish her energy and nutrients, but with the rapid over breeding, they cannot, which can cause health issues for the mom.
Shakira II and her babies now live among the other survivors of the Exotic Pet Trade at Turpentine Creek and have all of their needs met with love and respect. Receiving love, support, and protection is vital for all creatures- the two-legged and four-legged alike. To those who mother, whether your “children” are animals or humans, we want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day! Your importance deserves recognition each and every day.
Please consider helping the other “Mamas” still trapped in the Exotic Pet Trade by emailing your representative about H.R. 1380 today.
For PAWESOME Mother’s Day presents, consider symbolically adopting a TCWR animal resident, shopping our online store, or getting a membership for the entire family.