June 19, 2014
Big cats gain a local ally
(Thorofare, NJ) Big cats, such as tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars, are in desperate need of allies. That is exactly why Kellie Ellison founded a nonprofit called Big Cat Allies, with a twofold mission: to educate the public about the plight of big cats in the wild and in captivity and to financially support existing big cat rescue groups and conservation efforts.
Kellie has long been fascinated by big cats. When she was eight years old, she was given a stuffed animal tiger for Christmas. That was the start of her extraordinary love for tigers and other big cats. When asked why she decided to start BCA now, Kellie says, “I’ve always dreamed of being able to help big cats in some way. I don’t have the resources to start a sanctuary and I don’t have the knowledge to work in the field. But I do have the ability to raise money and awareness. Personally, it’s the perfect time for me to finally pursue my dream and passion.”
Big Cat Allies will focus on local event-based fundraising to raise money. Events will range from educational affairs to plain old fun events that just happen to be hosted by BCA. Big Cat Allies will utilize its website to educate the public and drive more traffic to the organizations it supports. Kellie says, “Often, the public is simply unaware of the issues that big cats face in the wild and, especially, in captivity. By bringing light to this area, I hope to encourage others to support this cause.” All profits from events and all money donated on its website will be donated to one of its “hero” organizations: other established and successful sanctuaries and conservation efforts, such as Big Cat Rescue and Panthera.
So, what are some of the issues that big cats face? Many big cats in the wild are endangered and have seen their populations plummet in the last decade. In the past century, the wild tiger population has decreased by a whopping 97%, with only about 3,200 tigers left in the wild. Humans, through deforestation and poaching, are directly responsible for the decline in big cat populations. The good news is that there are some great strides being made in the world of conservation but there is still a long way to go. BCA hopes to financially support these efforts to help organizations continue to make a difference.
While big cat populations have been dwindling in the wild, the number of big cats in private possession has been growing. It’s estimated that well over 10,000 big cats are privately owned in the United States alone. This does not include institutions such as accredited zoos and sanctuaries. Cubs are wrongfully bred for commercial use and pets and once they get too big for owners to handle, these cats end up neglected, abandoned or sold into the illegal wildlife trade. Big cat sanctuaries take in these neglected animals who have nowhere else to go. Says Kellie, “It costs about $10,000 a year to feed and care for one big cat, so donations are vital to ensure these sanctuaries can continue to run.” Sanctuaries can only accommodate so many cats; the only way to end this vicious cycle is to end wrongful breeding and possession of big cats. There is no federal ban right now, but the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act would do just that. By raising awareness among the public, BCA hopes to gather support for this bill.