Exploitation comes in many forms, and, unfortunately, it isn’t always obvious at first glance. Many of you have seen the “cute” pictures of a baby chimpanzee holding white tiger cubs or the photos and videos of an orangutan with a hound dog. These images and stories have been circulating and re-released in many forms over the last six years. All of these animals reside at a facility called The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.).
Although T.I.G.E.R.S preaches about species conservation and they claim to contribute toward helping endangered species, the source of their money-making is nowhere near ethical. The premise of their facility revolves around photo ops and up-close and hands-on interaction with these animals, using them in traveling shows, and leasing them out for a variety of media productions. Displaying wild animals in this way involves numerous animal welfare concerns and poses serious public safety risks.
Suryia, the same orangutan who is seen with the hound dog, appeared in a Robitussin ad in 2010. You may remember that this ad was altered as a result of our advocacy efforts and other public pressure – Suryia was replaced by a CGI chimpanzee in the ad.
T.I.G.E.R.S. director Bhagavan “Doc” Antle continues to use the “unlikely animal friendships” angle to exploit endangered species and give the wrong impression of the proper care of these animals. He has published children’s books about Suryia and the hound dog, and now has a new book about Anjana the chimpanzee and the tiger cubs. It is scheduled to release in November, just in time for the holidays.
The books present children with the misleading notion that T.I.G.E.R.S. is a sanctuary preserve, when in truth it is a glorified roadside zoo with a history of violations for improper housing and care for the animals. Antle is also famous for showcasing ligers (a lion-tiger cross) who notoriously have genetic abnormalities, neurological disorders, and short life expectancies due to their unnatural breeding.
Don’t support this exploitation. When you receive an email or see images of baby apes with other animals on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, take the opportunity to investigate where the animals are living, and politely educate people on the true circumstances behind the photos. If the image is an orangutan with a dog or a chimpanzee with tiger cubs, now you know the real story.
Encourage your friends and family to avoid purchasing Antle’s children’s books. As an alternative, we suggest purchasing an educational children’s book about chimpanzee behavior like “A Chimpanzee Tale.” You can also give the books negative ratings on Amazon, which may deter others from purchasing them.
Sample response to emails and Facebook posts with “cute” pictures of baby apes:
Sadly, this picture is not cute and cuddly as it may appear. Portraying these exotic animals as cute and cuddly attractions seriously misinforms people about the true nature of these beings and perpetuates the pet and entertainment industries. Infant apes should be with their mothers — not tiger cubs, dogs, or humans. Unfortunately, the facilities where these pictures originate are breeding exotic animals, which leads to a lifetime of unwarranted imprisonment for those animals. No respectable sanctuary would intentionally breed, nor would they put their animals on display or exploit them for entertainment purposes.
Sample negative feedback for Amazon’s listing of Anjana and Suryia’s books:
This book paints a false picture of a hopeful, loving environment for Anjana and the other exotic animals at T.I.G.E.R.S. Unfortunately, the facility regularly exploits these animals for entertainment purposes, endangers the public by offering “hands-on” experiences, and breeds exotic animals, leading to a lifetime of unwarranted imprisonment. No reputable sanctuary would intentionally breed, nor would they put their animals on display or exploit them for entertainment purposes. Please do not buy this book for your children. It is highly misleading and purchasing it will only contribute to the continued exploitation of these highly intelligent beings.