Crippled animals need money for surgery to help them walk
Zoo's cash claw-back
Story: Neil Reid - Sunday News
Zion Wildlife Gardens is set to appeal to big businesses for $250,000 to perform "reversing" operations on its declawed lions and tigers.
Sunday News reported last weekend that 29 of Zion's big cats featured on the hit TV show The Lion Man, had undergone the controversial procedure, condemned as "barbaric" by the wildlife park troubleshooter now overseeing the animals' welfare.
Consultant Tim Husband, hired by Zion after the fatal mauling of a ranger there in May, said declawing wasn't like removing a humans fingernails but more like cutting the first joints off their fingers.
Husband said if the declawed animals remained untreated, they would all eventually have severe hip and spinal problems from struggling to walk without their claws
Some of the cats had trouble gripping their meat, he said.
But ground-breaking surgery from specialist vet Dr Jennifer Conrad of Paw Project in Santa Monica, US offered hope.
"They open up again where the end of the toe was and they pull out the tendons and get the bone to grow back," Husband said.
"The claw doesn't grow back - but at least the bones are there so they can support the cat when they are walking."
"This surgery rectifies the way they walk so they won't have the problems later on in their life."
Husband said declawing reversal surgery took about six hours per cat, as opposed to "the original surgery to actually mutilate them which is actually only a few minutes" which involved sedating and cutting off the ends of their toes. Paw Project has so far operated on about 70 big cats in America.
"It would be the first time it has ever been done in Australasia. It would be a first and unfortunately it is sad that is has to be done at all," Husband said.
"If we got enough backers to do 29 cats, then they could do the lot." Husband said.
"If we can find funding to redo all of these cats, then that would be the way to do it"
He said Zion's marketing consultant Sara Reid "has been talking to local businesses. But you need the dosh to actually pay that kind of money".
He added: "So it is the real big businesses the park would like to come on board and help out here. It could be from anywhere in New Zealand, it is a real feel-good story for them, righting the wrongs."
Declawing took place before "Lion Man" Craig Busch's mother Patricia took over management of Zion from him two years ago. Two of the big cats had been declawed before arriving at the wildlife park, outside Whangarei.
A Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry investigation into the declawings at Zion included comments from the park's principle veterinarian from 2003-2005 during which The Lion Man series began screening.
The vet said "key drivers" behind the declawing included 'the animals...being used commercially to permit the financial survival of the zoo", and "close contact with handlers and film crews was required and personal safety was an issue".
Craig Busch was unavailable for comment, but his spokeswoman said in a statement he had acted "with the best interests of his cats uppermost in his mind".
The first tigers he brought into New Zealand in 2000 were declawed after "advice from experts in America".
Declawing had been carried out in the presence of MAF vets.
The MAF report, opbtained by Sunday News, considered the possibility of laying charges over the declawing.
But most of the operations from 2000-2008 had been supervised by MAF vets was "problematic to any prosecution".
Sunday News was earlier this week provided with a photograph of a declawed mountain lion, which had ended up walking on its "elbows".
See original article and photographs HERE
So how about it Craig fans? If you really care about these cats why not assist in repairing the damage.
- Declawing of big cats is not and was not standard procedure in any good zoo in the Americas and has been illegal in Europe (and rarely practised) for many many years. It rarely practiced in zoos worldwide because it is NOT necessary. I have never seen a single declawed cat in my zoo career. It has been almost a standard procedure in some countries for some domestic cat owners who should never be permitted to own a domestic cat.
- None of the declawing was done whilst Patricia Busch was in charge. If in doubt read the official MAF report.
- Not ALL the cats were declawed and so some of the clever movie footage will actually show claws on Zion cats.
- MAF vets or all vets for that matter are not 'all seeing all knowing' and act on the instructions of their client. If Craig Busch told his vet that declawing was standard procedure there is no reason why they should disbelieve him especially after his consultation with Big Cat experts elsewhere (Who are they I wonder?)
- The arguments put forward for declawing at Zion were pitiful at the best.
Read: Craig Busch and Zion Wildlife Gardens for further information