Baby leopards were bred by Lori Ensign-Scroggins three times from the mating of Safari’s Sanctuary’s African leopards Mirage and Oscar. The first litter was born Dec. 9, 2004, on a beautiful 65-degree winter day. The two cubs remained with their mother ONLY TWO (2) DAYS before they were yanked from her, to be bottle fed by humans with the intention of socializing them, to make them more useful as entertainment and for photo ops for another “interactive” exotic animal sanctuary—Tiger Safari in Tuttle, Oklahoma, and for Safari’s Sanctuary in Broken Arrow.
Anyone who knows anything about mammals, knows how important for physical, mental, and emotional health of both the mother and the cubs for them to remain together, so that the babies can be nursed and nurtured, as nature intended. Leopard cubs are weaned at three months of age.
A human mother can relate to the intense stress and emotional violation such an early separation between mother and child would cause both. In fact, it did in this circumstance, too, as the removal of the cubs upset Mirage and also the father Oscar, whose cage was right next door to hers. Later that day, when a volunteer went in to clean Oscar’s cage, Oscar attacked the volunteer and seriously injured him, requiring a visit to the emergency room. The incident was reported as a dog bite to the doctor (as was typical for animal injuries that were caused by Safari’s animals—to avoid reports to the USDA), but later someone did report it to the USDA, and the event was noted in the January 2005 USDA inspection report. [A full post on this leopard attack will be addressed in a separate post later this week.]
Not only were the cubs separated from their mother when they were two days old, but they were separated from each other when they were five days old, when Kurt took one of them (Amadeus) home with him to raise until the cub was older and returned to the park. Amadeus eventually went home to live with Kurt as his personal pet when he was a young adult. One of our sources reported that it was Kurt’s intention from the very beginning to keep Amadeus as his own.
The other cub was sold or traded by Lori to Bill Meadows at Tiger Safari in Tuttle, Oklahoma. He went to live in his new home when he was only two weeks old and started working in photo ops for the park when he was three months old. What is the difference between Bill Meadows and Lori Ensign-Scroggins? Bill doesn’t pretend he owns and runs a sanctuary that only rescues animals. He doesn’t even use the word sanctuary in the title of his park. He is unabashedly running an entertainment venue for folks to get close to animals, have parties with them in attendance, and get their photos taken next to them.
Another exotic animal park in Oklahoma similar (but not the same) to Tiger Safari in the way it operates, in terms of purpose, is G. W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park (also known as The Gerold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park) in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, run by Joe Schreibvogel (aka ‘Joe Exotic’). Again, the name of the park does not state it is a sanctuary and the owner is not shy about informing the public he breeds exotic animals which go to zoos and sanctuaries.
There’s no law against any of the above policies. They are both providing a service for humans, using animals, which many people want and agree with. It can even be argued that they are contributing to the welfare of the animals, not only in their day-to-day care of them, but by allowing humans to get close and learn about them, and perhaps encouraging them to go on to help animals in some form afterward.
Lori, on the other hand, has always said she only rescues animals. All animals at the park are rescued, she has stated time and again. It’s in news articles and on her website. [see our post from last month about her breeding leopards for links to many examples of these statements.] This is false and fraudulent. She often purchased, traded, and sold animals—for her park and for others like it—exploiting animals for human entertainment, not providing “sanctuary” for animals she rescues, as the word is defined. Her mission statement “for the love of the animals” is also a fraud. A glaring example of that is tearing apart two-day-old leopard cubs from their mother.
Lori will no doubt try to make excuses for this behavior in this instance. But there is no valid excuse. She took in Oscar, the male leopard, from Tom Harvey at Safari’s Zoological Park in Caney, KS, after Oscar’s mate died and Oscar went into a depression. It was hoped that by putting him in with Mirage—Safari’s female leopard acquired as a four-month-old cub from Larry and Kathy Armer of Bristow Wilderness Safari (which subsequently closed in 2007)–Oscar would begin to thrive again. And it worked. This was a conscious choice to put two young adult, intact animals together, where offspring would be the likely result. (In fact, one condition of Oscar coming to live at Safari’s was that if there were cubs born, one would go to Tom Harvey at Safari’s Zoological Park in Kansas. We do not know why he didn’t get one of the cubs from the first litter.)
If Lori was not in the position to house a mother leopard AND HER CUBS TOGETHER safely, from their perspective and from the staff’s, then she should have declined the request made for the match. Lori also had a choice of ensuring that adequate housing for Mirage and potential cubs was constructed as soon as possible after putting together the two adult leopards, to be ready with the necessary lockout for staff to feed and clean the cage safely, separated from the mother and her cubs. The gestation period is 106 days (3-1/2 months) for an African leopard—more than enough time to construct a suitable structure in preparation of possible cubs.
We know that Mirage must have been an adequate, and likely completely successful, mother because there were two more litters of leopards born to her. If her cubs from the first litter were in danger from her or neglected by her, a responsible manager/owner would have prevented any further fruitful matings between Oscar and Mirage by having Mirage spayed and/or Oscar neutered or keeping them caged separately. Lori’s intent was not to breed endangered animals to place in accredited zoos that are protecting the species. African leopards, while nearing a threatened status, are not rare or endangered. The cubs were not placed in AZA accredited zoos. They were bred for entertainment—to bring the public in to animal parks as money makers. And to make Lori money or result in new animals for Safari’s (to bring in more of the public to see them and thereby increase money from admissions) in trade for the cubs.
In the case of Amadeus (and perhaps other cubs), the breedings added to the pet exotic animal ownership, in direct contradiction to one of the stated education missions of Lori and Safari’s– to discourage people from acquiring exotic animals as pets.
http://www.safaripark.org/ (where Oscar came from)
http://www.visitbristowok.com/attractions.htm (Bristow Wilderness Safari (closed since 2007) – where Mirage came from)
See more photos and screen caps of evidence through this link to a post on Safari’s Truth Destination on Facebook: