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Exotic Animal Incidents

A breakdown of the injuries and deaths caused by exotic animals and caused by humans owning exotic animals.

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19 comments
Hyacinth Bluthe
Hyacinth Bluthe

There has to be private ownership of big cats, they're going extinct in the wild and there seems to be nothing we can do about it. Atleast having them in captivity shows people how majestic these creatures are and that they are worth saving. Atleast having some in captivity will give us a breeding population once they're extinct in the wild so we won't have another Tazmanian Tiger outcome. If we have them in captivity, whether or not they're pure Siberian or Bengal or Sumatrain etc., we will still have Tigers and that gives us a fighting chance. We can still breed them, and still at some point in the future teach them to hunt and survive in the wild. There needs to be private ownership, don't be so fast to go the extreme route of making it illegal. The United States is the only country with the money and resources to save the big cats, it's up to us. We have the richest land, we have the wealthiest people. All we need are stricter requirements like proper training, income, credit checks, property, enclosure inspections etc and these people should be able to own them. If you can have a human child without any training or certification or prerequisites, if you can own a gun and conceal carry with proper certifications then why can't you have a tiger or lion living in your fenced off backyard. These injuries and deaths are mostly upon the owners themselves and that's their choice and they accept it. People should have the freedom to take risks in this country. Are you going to tell others that they shouldn't climb mountains, surf, or skydive?

1,700 tigers left in India, 300 left in Russia, maybe 35,000 lions left in the entire world, these used to number in the hundreds of thousands not even a hundred years ago! These animals are going extinct, they are being slaughtered by humans for Chinese medicine and canned hunts and that's just the way things are.

laura guilfoyle
laura guilfoyle

The insanity has to stop.  People buy exotics to feed their egos.  When the cute babies mature, they are relegated to chain link enclosure or a basement where someone throws them food.  They  are deprived of their natural behaviors: running, roaming, hunting or foraging.   Even people with the means grow bored:  Michael Jackson abandoned the animals of Neverland.  His  two "pet"  tigers were fortunate enough to land at Tippi Hedren's sanctuary.  Neither he, nor his estate contributed  a dime for their care.     


My brother, a police officer, pulled over a car for speeding.  In the back seat was a magnificent tiger cub.  An animal lover, he asked the driver why she had the tiger.  As a stripper, it was part of her act.  When the cub is no longer cute she'll recoup her investment by selling it to a lodge for a canned hunt, who in turn will charge someone for the privilege of shooting to make it into a rug.  My brother could do nothing, because anyone can buy an exotic animal in Texas.  The precious life of a tiger-- bought and sold 3 times. 


Please write to our law makers to stop the sale and ownership of exotics. We can give them nothing but a life of boredom and misery.



Eric Vansen
Eric Vansen

I have a fat pet puma rescue who cried for me when I finally made it home to him from the hospital after 3 months gone from him. once he started to cry, I started, then the wife, we all wept for a good 15-20 minutes. This wild cat shed pure tears of emotion for me, HOW? I've had cat's for 20yrs and this still blows my mind.



Nepse Patricia
Nepse Patricia

What terrible sad facts...are so many human so stupids and so egoïstics ?

Can man ever learn that to possess is not at all to love...love is to respect the freedom of the other, be it an animal or a human been.

Annabelle Havlicek
Annabelle Havlicek

What statistics aren't telling are the canned exotic animal hunts that continue to go on in Texas and some other states to the tune of millions of dollars. Senior zoo animals that zoos sell to game farms so they can make room for younger animals that game farms use for canned hunts. If you don't know what a canned hunt is, google it and be appalled.

Ross Sherrer
Ross Sherrer

I'm pretty sure animals in general are dangerous. Not just exotic. These statistics tell me that about 4 people die each year from exotic animal attacks. Compared to a domestic animal, lets say dogs, this number really is not that bad. I'm not suggesting that the lack of deaths turns this information into a "good" thing but, should be taken with a grain of salt. If you really think this is a valid statistic for why owning exotic animals is "bad", then you should also take in consideration ownership of all types of animals domestic or wild.

DuheVon Hill
DuheVon Hill

this horrible, don't you think people would have learned from this or by taking it out of the wild in the first place. Animals are wild they should stay wild and not to be tamed.

Robyn Myers
Robyn Myers

Burst into tears when it came to the part about that poor chained up circus elephant who was beaten with a BULLHOOK until she screamed. Sometimes I come across things like this when I'm doing my assignments and it seriously makes me consider whether I want to keep doing it; I just see more and more examples of the kind of abuse and torture some people put these animals through...

Patty Kilgo
Patty Kilgo

I agree with you, Craig. I feel like this article and these numbers are grossly unbalanced. I totally agree that wild animals are not for the average person. There are a lot of people out there that have no business owning a dog much less a wild animal. However, there are a lot of people that are suited for it, are responsible, willing and able. I say more power to them. Let's face it, the wild isn't getting any bigger. These animals numbers are not going to get better in the wild unless humans leave the planet, so at some point there won't be any wild for the animals to be in.

Craig C
Craig C

These statistics seem to be truly lacking and open ended. Itis widely known that statistics can be manipulated and misconstrued. Theopening statement itself is open to debate, what are the real numbers of tigersin captivity in the US?How many are in AZA zoos, in circuses, in licensed private zoos, as pets inhouseholds? What are the accurate numbers of tigers in the wild, even betweenconservation organizations these numbers vary widely.

From the very start these statistics are contorted to showownership of wild animals as a horrific travesty, while many of the incidentsspecifically mentioned are at large institutions, such as Sea World and otherAZA facilities. Some of these animal deaths are attributed to anesthesia orbeing euthanized by police after an incident with people and not caused by anywrongdoing from the owner. Where do these statistics come from, how accurateare the number of incidents, how comprehensive of a survey was done?

These statistics also fail to show the total numbers ofanimals in each of these categories that are owned. As an example, if therehave been 10,000 bears kept in captivity over the last 20 years then 4 human deathsdoesn't seem to be nearly as drastic a number. Without a reference of how manycaptive owned wild animals there are compared to how many have caused incidentsthen there is no scale to how problematic ownership of that type of animal is.

While these statistic here show incidents of wild animalskept in captivity, they don't show a true reference point for these numbers. 19 deaths to reptiles seems like a largenumber, but how many dangerous reptiles have been in captivity over the last 20years. In comparison how many injuries and deaths have been caused by "domesticated"animals. How many deaths and injuries can be attributed to horses orlarge breeds of dogs compared to the number that are in captivity. I can guarantyyou that more people are injured or killed by either of these domestic animalsin any given year than any of these wild animal categories.

The point of this comment is not to say that wild animalsare good pets, but to point out that statistics can be easily misconstrued.Question articles when you read them, what viewpoint are they pushing, whatinformation are they leaving out, how can they be misrepresenting information.All I can ask of people reading any inflammatory article is to take in the ALLof the facts from all sides before you decide your position. I do not think thatmost wild animals should be kept as pets, especially by untrainedindividuals, but facilities should not be lumped in the same box as householdpet owners. Individuals need to be treated just like that INDIVIDUALS. Anymoron with a horse, bull, or large dog could be as likely to be hurt, if notmore so, than an person owning a big cat or large constrictor.

Judy Kirk
Judy Kirk

What is the criteria for these statistics?  One week?  One month?  According to the animal/police shows in Alaska, the moose does kill people every winter.

Melanie Nawrot
Melanie Nawrot

@Nepse Patricia  please refer to my reply above to laura to understand the truth of private ownership and why it is needed.

Melanie Nawrot
Melanie Nawrot

@DuheVon Hill  pls refer to my comment above in reply to laura to understand the truth of private ownership and why it is needed.

Melanie Nawrot
Melanie Nawrot

@Robyn Myers  yes abuse does take place but very seldom, in the right homes, zoos circuses ect.. they are very well cared for and loved. pls look at my comment above in reply to laura post.

Robyn Myers
Robyn Myers

@Patty Kilgo Actually, there are hundreds of conservation projects going on worldwide. We can keep these animals alive, if it wasn't for the idiots that think a tiger or an elephant, for example, make good pets.

Sharie Lesniak
Sharie Lesniak

@Craig C

You are correct Craig, it would be helpful to have more data! How many exotic animals are kept in captivity, what species, etc., but unfortunately no one collects this data. Indeed eight states do not even require licensing or permits to own an exotic animal!

Furthermore, there are no requirements to report when an animal has attacked, escaped or died at licensed or non-licensed facilities, or in a private individual's backyard. So yes, this data only represents a tip of the iceberg. It is just a few of the worst or more sensational stories that actually make it into the news.

This data has been collected by Born Free USA since 1990 and is only a partial list because we can only track the incidents we hear about, usually through media reports and a few USDA inspection reports. This doesn't cover the potentially huge number of incidents in which someone is injured or a captive animal is harmed or killed but the incident does not make the news.

Sadly, one of the statistics we do know is that there are more tigers held in captivity than there are living freely in the wild. And that is something we hope will change for the better as a result of our sharing what we know about the tragic situations of keeping wild animals behind bars (both to the determent of the animals and people involved.).

Born Free USA promotes our viewpoint in our mission. We believe that people should work together to "Keep Wildlife in the Wild."

Melanie Nawrot
Melanie Nawrot

@laura guilfoyle


Now to your statement that these animals are board and unhappy living with humans, that again has been proven wrong... In the right home, zoo or sanctuary they physiologically flourish, live double their life spans, live healthier lives, have no fear of hunters, starvation, where to sleep ect...


Now for their "instincts" of how much land they need to roam. As studies have proven by many scientists and the AZA reports from many who study animals behavior in the wild and captivity as well as their brain and thinking process goes, heres some interesting stuff...


You see animals roam miles in the wild for reasons, in search of food, a place to sleep (as they constantly move for food and due to people, or to find mates.) Now in a captive setting, their food is given to them, their home is given to them and controlled without danger such as predators, humans hunting them, weather changes, mates are given to them, vet care ect..                                            

Now with that being said these people who specialize in these fields and have done decades of research have found their "natural instinct" of roaming is no longer there, its not needed., as studies have found in the wild, there was a place in which was so many acres, yet a number of tigers lived in this small area for some time, never roaming miles, because they had all they needed there, yet when their supplies ran dry, they only then roamed miles in search of a new home and to hunt for food.


So you see, in a captive setting the small area does not effect them in the way some believe or these AR groups want you to think, even these AR groups are well aware of these factual studies and findings yet they chose not to disclose them to the media because, well that could hurt their agenda from pocketing your money.


I would like to add that I am a member of the USZA, SSA, UAPPEAL and have worked with and studied non human primates for 15 yrs. I am educated and knowledgeable in what I speak of, not making assumptions or having personal beliefs or feelings, I only state facts.

Melanie Nawrot
Melanie Nawrot

@Robyn Myers @Patty Kilgo  actually, private ownership has proven to be a good thing. I have seen many private owners who have far better living conditions than sanctuaries, yet even private owners are licensed and regulated just the same as zoos and sanctuaries. We have the same regs, requirements and laws to follow, a sanctuary vs a responsible homes is no difference in the US where it is regulated. Please read my comment above in reply to lauras post.

Larry Rouse
Larry Rouse

 I agree with Craig that the data is not sufficient to make real comparisons.  Also I have read posts elsewhere in which make the point that more people are killed or injured by dogs and other domestic animals.  That is a comparison of two very different populations and you cannot calculate risk by simply looking at the raw numbers because there are many more domestic animals in the environment and people come into close contact with them much more often.  You cannot calculate risk that way.  A better way to do it is to break down the number of incidents per animal in the environment and from that calculate a comparative risk (i.e. what percent lesser or greater is the risk of being injured by a pet lion as opposed to a pet dog)

Unfortunately there isn’t enough data to really get those numbers.