Question of the century: Did Carole feed Don to the tigers?
Not a chance. The largest of our cats eats roughly 18 pounds of food a day. There's no way even that cat could eat an entire body in a short amount of time, and leave no trace of evidence. Even if the body was cut into pieces, it would have to have been a lot of pieces given to a lot of cats. Also, these cats are very picky. One day they love chicken thighs, the next they turn their nose up at them. They would not want human meat.
Is Carole forcing you to do this? Blink once for yes, twice for yes
Nope. Haven't spoken to Carole since I was there in 2017. In fact, she most definitely does not know I exist
Have you watched the full documentary? If so, what was most surprising to learn, and what seemed most misrepresented?
I have watched the whole thing. The most surprising to me was how many people Joe got to vote for him as governor. The most misrepresented was Carole. They do not show her for who she really is
Did you listen to the Over My Dead Body podcast? Which do you feel was more representative of your understanding of Carol, the podcast or the Netflix show?
Yes, I did. I thought that the podcast did a better job or portraying the situation compared to the Netflix show but it's not perfect either.
did Carole and her husband make you watch their music video with the red-haired singer?
No, I had never even seen that until the series.
Overall how was your experience volunteering there? What was the worst/best part of it all? Thanks for answering!
The experience was like no other! I wouldn't have traded it for a billion dollars. It's hard to pick a best part but I would have to say the relationships I built with other keepers and the cats. There was one cat in particular that I bonded with on a very deep level. Seeing her every day and being able to care for her was such an honor. The worst part was the Florida heat in the summer. I'm from Michigan so I was not acclimated to the 100 degree humid weather.
Were you aware of any of the lawsuits or court battles during your time volunteering? Did it happen before your time? Or was that side of things kept from the volunteers?
I was aware that there were legal battles going on during my time there, the peak of the debacle was actually happening while I was there. Nothing was ever hidden from us. But, I chose to keep my focus on the cats.
How did you experience compassion fatigue? What caused it?
Because big cat rescue is a rescue/sanctuary/retirement home, many of the cats are very old. We actually had a black leopard that was 25 and got himself in the guiness book of world records. (For reference, leopards live about 8-12 years in the wild) because of the old age of the residents and the abuse they suffered earlier in life, a lot of them had health issues and I experienced a lot of deaths at the sanctuary. Some cats died on their own, others had to be humanely euthanized. (by a licensed veterinarian with euthanasia drugs, same as you would your dog, not being shot in the head with a gun) and while it was good to know we provided them with a quality life, it was sad to see them go knowing the abuse they experienced.
What other kinds of things do they do for enrichment while they are in their normal enclosures?
Do big cats love cardboard boxes as much as house cats?
Oh yes! Lots of boxes!! They get sicles (frozen blood or sardines in ice), paper bags with spices, etc. There are hundreds of videos of the cats playing with their enrichment on their YouTube channel!! Definitely worth a watch
Isn’t everyone there working for free? Do you feel you should have been compensated for the work you were doing?
Not everyone works for free. There is a small number of paid staff but they do more of the administrative stuff. Everyone that does animal Care is a volunteer, including me. This is a common thing in many fields. People volunteer at animal shelters, people volunteer at homeless shelters. I'm not sure why so many are so fixated on the idea that this place runs on volunteers. I was provided free housing on site as well as a weekly stipend for food. I don't feel I needed to be compensated more than that. The experience was compensation enough.
Is 1200 square feet acceptable for a large cat based on the accreditation agency? That seems really small for a 10’ long tiger.
1200 square feet is the size for the smaller cats. The larger cats have much more space than that.
Do you still talk to other people that worked there with you? What's everyone's thoughts on how popular this thing has gotten all of the sudden?
Oh yes! Some of my best friends are the people that I met at big cat rescue! We are all dissapointed in how the series came out. It could have shed a light on how big the big cat trade is in the United states but instead they chose to go for the drama
Hi, I spent 4 years volunteering at a similar rescue. Then I was hired by our veterinarian, where I ended up treating cats at other similar places for an additional 2 years. I've been away from it for 2 years now and I realized many of the people involved seem rather unstable.
Why do you think all of these groups attract these kinds of people?
Honestly, I have no idea.
If you HAD to pick one to work for, "Doc" or Joe?
If I was held at gunpoint and told I had to pick one to work for, I would pull the trigger. Although I will say, Joe is very upfront about what he does, doc is not, which seems much scarier to me.
Do you have to spend any of your own money on this? The shirts? the classes? Is all of that included in your volunteering or out of your pocket?
All included! When they reference "classes" it's really just videos they have made about certain topics. You can access those "classes" at zoocollege.com
What made you want to do this Ask me anything?
The misinformation from the documentary and all the hate towards big cat rescue because of it
How did you find your experience there as a whole? Did you ever meet Joe Exotic?
No, I never met Joe exotic. The experience was incredible, a once in a lifetime, dream come true sort of thing.
Is Carole as ditzy and eccentric as they make her seem on the series? She seems very knowledgeable about wildlife and how that pertains to the government, but otherwise far out, socially uninvolved, and disinterested in anything besides wildlife rescue. Is this in line with real life Carole?
Eccentric, yes. Ditzy, no. All us animal people are a bit eccentric and she's no different. She is a kind hearted, gentle person. Nothing like the person they portrayed on the series.
How do you feel about normal citizens owning exotic pets? Where do you draw the line on what people should own as pets?
Well first off, the cats are dangerous and pose a public safety risk. See Zanesville 2011. And, they don't deserve to live their life in a cage for a person's enjoyment
So what do you do now if you left the field?
I'm a science teacher! I love sharing about my experience with the cats and my students love to hear about it!
Where do most of BCR’s cats come from? How many of them are released back into their natural habitats?
Most come from private owners and failed zoos like Joe's. Only the Florida bobcats are released. There are strict laws and regulations regarding whether or not an animal can be released back into the wild. Any animal that is raised by humans is definitely not eligible
What was your favorite cat breed to take care of?
Ooh that's a good question. Probably the Canada lynx. At least the two that we had while I was there were very lazy and didn't bother me too much while I was cleaning or feeding them. Servals were hard to care for because of their pissy demeanor. They have really long arms that reach out of the enclosures at all angles and you really have to watch your back for them
We visited 4-5 years ago and after the tour there was a high pressure pitch to have every visitor sign a petition to support all of BCR’s initiatives through the government. It was an over the top dramatic presentation and volunteers were literally putting pens in people’s hand to have them sign petitions before leaving that the visitors clearly didn’t understand, nor were they given complete and unbiased information about these initiatives. The whole forced ending felt cheap, slimy, and had a time share type pitch to it that was a train wreck.
Is this still going on?
We do not have you sign petitions anymore. Instead, we ask that you call your representative to ask to pass the bug cat public safety act which would end the private ownership of big cats.
Does catnip have the same effect on big cats?
Yes it does but they need a LOT more of it
How much are you being paid by BCR to talk about how great it is?
I wish, I'm broke af
How do you feel about the documentary? Did you know Carole well? Do you think she ever did things that weren’t for the cats? If you did know her well than how much did she talk about joe exotic? Did the documentarians make anyone look too good or too bad?
The documentary is a disgrace. It had the opportunity to shed light on the massive problem that is the big cat trade in the us but instead it makes Carole look like a crook. Everything she does is for the cats. I did not know her well, only interacted with her a few times.
Aside from Don, has anyone gotten injured at big cat rescue from the animals?
Did you think she was abusing the volunteer loophole to avoid paying people?
Not at all. Volunteers were treated very well and many put in years and years of volunteering because of their love for the cats. Typically, animal Care is done by zookeeper's as a full time position. But this volunteer opportunity offers a unique experience for people that have different day jobs.
Do you feel that he private ownership of big cats in the USA will ever be stopped ? What’s something the average person can do to keep them in the wild where they belong?
I sure hope so! In fact, big cat rescue is working to end the private ownership with a federal bill! You can support the bill by going to bigcatact.com by far the most important thing to do if you care about the issue
Is Carole Baskin a bitch as described?
Not at all. She is very kind. Nicer than me for sure.
Great Ask me anything. Was it a difficult process / application for you to intern and volunteer there? Did you ever get injured by a big cat? How close were you able to get? Thanks for answering.
It was like applying for any other job, resume, recommendations, interviews. I was never injured nor was anyone else. Day to day we were just on the other side of the cage wire. One day I helped with a procedure on a tiger and was able to brush out his mats
What do you think about the treatment of rabbits at BCR? I thought the happy photo with dead rabbits was odd, if not a little hypocritical. I know big cats have to eat meat, so it doesn't bother me. However, I feel like the people smiling with dead, bloody rabbits were the same type that would think someone holding a fish in a Tinder pic was a monster.
Yes, it is an odd picture but I understand that they were very proud to be able to treat the cats to this type of meal. Some of the cats love whole prey day
What do you do for work now? Did your internship there turn into a future job working with animals?
I am a science teacher now. After being an intern at BCR, I worked as a veterinary technician but decided to pursue teaching because of the compassion fatigue I experienced at both bcr and the vet's office
How do we know this isn’t Carole??
Uhh I posted a picture of myself even though I haven't washed my hair in three days.
Carole mentions many times that petting cubs (like what Joe Exotic allowed people to do at malls and what people pay to do at gw zoo) is bad for the cats. Why is that?
The Cubs are taken from the mothers at birth and not given proper nutrition. The mother is then bred again shortly after which can cause cancer and other health issues.
What was the usually age of volunteers? Did you notice a specific pattern with type of people that would volunteer?
The interns were mostly college students that were working towards a degree in the field. The volunteers were a much wider range of ages!
Are you a cool cat and/or kitten?
Did you ever interact with guests to the park and if so did you have a favorite encounter or moment between a guest and a cat?
Yes! We did yours of the sanctuary for the public. I don't have a specific encounter in mind but anytime someone really responded to the information about a cat and decided to do something about it really pulled on my heart strings.
Do you have any pets at home?
Just a dog!
Thanks for doing this!
Me and my girlfriend binged the show in a few days thanks to self isolation.
My question is:
Have you watched the show yourself? What were your thoughts on it?
I have watched it. Twice actually. It's dissappointing to me because it could have shed light on the massive problem that is the exotic animal trade in the us. With all this publicity, it could have made a big difference in ending that trade. But instead, people can't stop talking about whether or not Carole killed her husband.
One of episode of Tiger King makes it seem as if all the Big Cat Conversations (Joe, doc, and even Carole) are low key cults. Did you get this vibe from working for Carole?
Did you feel like you were in a cult? Massive tier system where the lower half does massive amounts of work to prove themselves for a chance to get into the top tier cult.
Or is that just America?
That's just America
I would ask a different question but i just had a brain fart What is something all people should know about you..? & What do you like to do in your spare time/hobbies..?
I'm basically a grandma. I like to read but my favorite is quilting! And of course I love to hang out with my doggy. I, like Carole, am also allergic to cats.
Are you in a cult?
Nope, I live at home with my helicopter parents
Where’s Caroles first husband? What happened?
Also, I'm not being paid to do this.
But maybe you'll get a green shirt?
I have no plans to go back to Florida or to volunteer at big cat rescue in the future
How did you get hooked up with BCR? Were there any others you considered volunteering for?
I had been following bcr for a while. I have loved big cats since I was little and bcr was one of the first rescues I came to know of. It has been a dream of mine to work there
This isn't really about BCR
I'm a wildlife Ecology student feeling burnout in my current occupation (I work at a snake farm). I'm worried about burning out all together because I haven't even really had the urge to own my own animals which I used to love doing. What caused your burnout, how did you know it was happening and what did you do?
That's a hard question to answer because there wasn't really just one thing that caused the burnout. It was more of a slow burn from the frustration. I was frustrated that this terrible abuse was happening to these cats and people didn't seem to care. The show actually stirred some things up in me and that's why I decided to do the Ask me anything, to educate people on the issues and try to make a difference. But if you read the comments you can see that what I'm saying is once again falling on deaf ears and again I'm frustrated. I guess I just felt like I wasn't making a difference and the issue was too big for me to handle and I needed something where I could see the difference I was making. Hence, teaching. Just try to remind yourself that every little thing you do is making a difference, even if you can't see it.
when you were an intern, how was the racial diversity in the volunteer, intern, workers? from what I seen online, the pictures and videos they posted its 100% white people or close to it. as someone from Tampa, that doesn't represent the racial diversity of the city and I found it odd.
I agree. As far as interns go, there was little diversity but none of us were actually from Tampa. As for volunteers there was a teeny tiny bit of diversity and it did bug me.
Where is your BA from?
BS, The Ohio State University
Are there any other refuges/sanctuaries besides BCR that you would recommend people support?
Yes! Safe haven, national tiger sanctuary, crown ridge tiger sanctuary, among others
Do you wanna see pictures of my cats?
Of course I do
How are you not scared of getting in a cage with tigers?
We never got in a cage with a tiger unless they were sedated for a medical procedure.
What does the fur of a big cat feel like? Are they as pleasant to pet and hold as the show makes it out to be ?
Not really. It's very coarse and somewhat rough.
Does big cat rescue feed the tigers expired Walmart meat as well?
Did you know about Joe Exotic when you worked at BCR? Was he ever talked? What was the reputation around him at BCR? (circa 2017)
Yes I knew about him. He was mentioned by some of the higher ups to tell us not to let him in the gates but other than that we didn't really talk about him. We all knew he was crazy and that was that
What was your favorite part of the documentary? Do you feel it will help to protect the species or hurt it as these topics have become memes?
The very last image about the numbers of tigers in the wild versus the number of tigers in the us. Ultimately, I hope it will help the situation but j really don't know
Do you think using your main reddit account to do this Ask me anything was a good idea?
Probably not but hey what the heck?
I feel we need more proof, maybe a picture with the big cats, just more proof. This entire Ask me anything is fishy, these dont seem like the responses of someone who volunteered a few years ago. Is this you Carole?
How much did you actually interact with Carole, if at all? How many other interns were there like you?
I interacted with her probably once a week for a short time. There were about 15 interns at once
Did you ever feel like you were part of an MLM/ cult?
The way people described dedicating a lot of their time to reach the next shirt level feels like similar taxtics the church of scientology uses.
The reason people get excited about the next shirt is that they get to work with bigger cats. Red shirts can only work with the small cats so they want to work up to green and navy so they can work with the tigers.
How many tigers are there? Joe said there are only 12? Is this true?
I'm not actually sure how many are there currently but I'm sure at one point it has been down to 12. No where near the number of tigers Joe had
Doc Antle was on Theo Vons podcast today and he said the black market for tigers in the US is now nonexistent and that reported numbers for tigers in captivity are overblown. Do you have any knowledge about his claims?
Man, now I gotta go listen. I have no evidence to whether or not his claims are true or not. Im sure the trade is much much smaller than what it was in the past though
Did you interact with Howard at all? What's he like in real life, if so?
I interacted with Howard slightly less than Carole. He's very quiet but at the same time all of the recordings that we play on tours of the cats stories are narrated by him so his voice will never leave my head
Are tigers friendly & predictable like regular house cats.. Or could they turn malicious out of nowhere?
Some cats are more predictable than others but the predictable ones are the mean ones. The mean cats are almost always mean. Even the nicest of cats can turn hostile in a split second.
Are big cats really solitary creatures? That doesn’t sound right. Why do we see lions in a pack in the wild?
Lions are the only cats that live in groups.
Hey! I work in a similar field; what other work experiences shaped you? How did you decide to become a science teacher?
After being an intern I worked as a vet tech for a little over a year. I had worked with kids previously and did a lot of babysitting. My parents always told me I should be a teacher and it was something I could pursue with the degree I already had
Has anyone ever been hurt by a cat at BCR?
I know you’re criticizing the show for not focusing on the issue at hand, but do you truly think this would have been as popular as it was if they didn’t focus on the drama? I would argue the way it was filmed helped bring awareness to a wider audience.
I guess you're right but right now with everyone in quarantine, I'm sure a lot of people still would have watched it
I see where you said you knew about the legal happenings while you worked there.
Was there ever a time you felt threatened or nervous about your safety? (Nervous about humans....not the cats)
Also, what specific tasks did you routinely do and which of all your tasks was your favorite?
Not at all. The place is locked up tight and I lived on the inside of the big cement wall that goes all the way around the place.
Routinely I cleaned enclousres, fed cats, and did yours. My favorite was giving enrichment to the cats
Does bcr breed cats?
Seems like that's the biggest difference to me.
They do not breed and yes, it is the biggest difference
What is the harm in humans petting the cats at a young age, when the documentary portrayed them as “harmless?” I feel like Carol took a hard stance against it, and it didn’t make sense to me. They aren’t going back into the wild and it feels like a good way to get people up close and personal. I could see that having such a powerful impact in someone to where they would want to have a career with animals or want to find a way to support wildlife projects.
I’m asking this putting aside the idea of breeding purely for using the cubs as a way to profit.
Putting aside the profit, these Cubs are taken from their mothers at birth so they are not able to get milk from their mother and are instead given a substitute which causes them to be malnourished and sick.
Would you prefer a thriving cub trade or the extinction of all tigers?
That's a tough one. I don't think it has to be one or the other but for the sake of the question, probably extinction
Was there any "accidents" there or close calls you had with the cats?
There has been a few instances in this Ask me anything where you've replied about current policies and procedures at BCR, using the present tense, and words/phrases like "we" and "our cats".
However you also state you only worked there for a relatively short period of time (3 months) a few years ago (2017) as one of a large pool of interns, so it does perhaps seem strange that you would still feel entitled to discuss BCR with such familiarity/ownership.
Just to clear it up, what is your current affiliation and contact with BCR and its management?
I feel ownership because I am proud of the work that I did there. I still am friends with current volunteers but do not live in Florida nor have contact with management
Hope I’m not too late...
What’s up with the animosity between BCR and Busch Gardens?
They breed and they're close by
If the producers of this documentary were to meet with you, would you?
Probably, but there are much more knowledgeable people with more experience at bcr that they should interview first
Ever feel bad for the Savannahs that used to be house cats and look like they want some human attention?
No, none of them look like they want human attention. After bcr I was a vet tech and a client brought in a Savannah. The owner was literally dripping blood with scratches covering her face, neck and arms. It was terrifying.
Respect the defending MG of BCR and Carol. I want to know your thoughts on her benefiting the most from her husbands death, the fact that the husbands family believes she did it, and the subsequent “proof” they believe they had. I understand the support but no way she did it seems like a major stretch. Most murders are committed by a spouse or the person who would benefit the most. She happens to be both?
You have to think about where that information is coming from. The ex wife that was cheated on doesnt seem to be doing too poorly. Yes most of the time it's those people, but that's most of the time, not all of the time. And the fact that they still haven't found a body says a lot to me
A lot of people are criticizing me for how little I know about Carole but I actually interacted with Dr Justin a lot more than a lot of the other volunteers. At the time, I wanted to be a vet and spoke with him about it a lot. He is truly there for the cats. He loves caring for them just like I did
The tone of the responses seems very defensive; how did you come to find yourself employed by these sorts of people? There seems to be a trend in the industry
Yes I'm being defensive because I believe that Carole is being painted in a negative light due to the documentary while she is doing such amazing things for the cats. I love big cats and wanted to work with them, so I signed up to work with them
Why don’t BCR ship the animals all over the world to let them be free in a Jungle or Savane or anywhere they will be free?
Any animal that is raised by humans can not be released back into the wild. They would lack the knowledge to be able to hunt and keep themselves alive.
You got a bf? 👀
Nope, just a fiance