Arnie of the Linton Zoo Is Remembered as a Wonderfully Loving and Charismatic Cat Who Gave Back Far More Than He Received During His All-Too-Brief Sojourn Upon This Earth
|Arnie and Zara in 2008|
"His most special job...was as the baby-sitter of abandoned newborn animals brought into the house for hand-rearing. Arnie baby-sat all four of our adult lions when they were cubs and some of their offspring too."
-- Kim Simmons of the Linton Zoo
The cat world lost one of its most celebrated ambassadors on January 9th when Arnie of the Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire died unexpectedly. What had started out as just another ordinary day ended tragically for him and all those, both humans as well as animals, who were fortunate enough to have known him.
"...after completing his staff greetings and doing his usual morning rounds to see his zoo friends, purring all the way, Arnie, our ginger tom returned home for a spot of breakfast and then snuggled up on his bed and went to sleep," the zoo told the BBC on January 9th. (See "Linton Zoo's 'Baby-Sitting' Cat Arnie Receives 'Global' Tributes after Death.") "There he passed away peacefully."
Although he did have arthritis in his rear legs and other unspecified age-related maladies, his death nonetheless came as quite a shock. His age has not been disclosed but since he had resided at the zoo ever since he wandered in as a homeless waif back in 2003, he was at least ten years old.
Still, that is such a terribly brief time for any cat and that is especially the case for one as loving and giving of himself as Arnie. It almost goes without saying that he has left behind very large paw prints that will not be easily, if ever, filled.
"A cat with an outstanding personality, Arnie was without a doubt a most extraordinary cat who had an extraordinary life," the zoo stated in an undated post on its web site back in January. (See "Farewell Arnie, You Will Be Missed.") "He will be missed by not only the people who knew and loved him, but by his many animal friends around the zoo."
At Linton, Arnie wore many hats. He welcomed visitors, shared their lunches, and tagged along with them as they toured the grounds. Just his presence alone is credited with boosting the morale and brightening the days of staffers.
From time to time he rescued baby rabbits and marsh hens which he then carried home to the zoo for care and treatment. Of course, ornithologists and wildlife biologists would never believe a word of that, especially those working at the University of Georgia in Athens, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Accordingly to their malicious and defamatory lies, all cats are sadistic killers that must be exterminated at all costs.
As valuable as Arnie's contributions were in those areas, he is destined to be remembered, at least by the outside world, for something ever more remarkable. "His most special job... was as the baby-sitter of abandoned newborn animals brought into the house for hand-rearing," zoo curator Kim Simmons told the BBC in the article cited supra. "Arnie baby-sat all four of our adult lions (Riziki, Karla, Zuri, and Safina) when they were cubs and some of their offspring too."
|Arnie and Zara at Play|
Specifically, he would groom, entertain and, in many respects, serve as the mothers that they had lost. "He would climb into their baskets and snuggle up," Simmons added to the BBC. "There is nothing quite like a real, warm beating heart next to a young animal."
It was his painstaking care of a six-week-old lioness named Zara, however, that brought him worldwide acclaim. Born on May 13, 2008, she was rejected by her mother, Safina, but saved by Arnie after he took her underneath his wing.
Getting large carnivores that are born in captivity, such as lions, to care for their offspring often is an even more daunting challenge than coaxing them to breed. For instance, Zara's father, Zuri, also was rejected by his mother after he was born on July 3, 2006 at the West Midlands Safari Park in Bewdley, Worcestershire, another combination zoo and captive-breeding facility.
He later was transferred to Linton where he and Safina still reside. Zara, on the other hand, either was sold or traded some years back to the Ugandan Wildlife Education Center in Entebbe which is a joint venture run by the Ugandan government and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The latter is better known as the proprietor of the Bronx, Central Park, Prospect Park, and Queens zoos as well as the New York Aquarium.
On September 21st of last year, Zara gave birth to a cub after mating with a sixteen-year-old lion named Kibonge. Both Zara and her cub therefore are living memorials to Arnie.
Since the zoo has not broached the subject, it does not seem likely that it provided Arnie with either a funeral or a proper burial. Perhaps it will elect to rectify that glaring omission at a later date by establishing a memorial in his honor on the grounds but even that is in doubt.
Rather, the zoo seems more intent upon cashing in on his notoriety. "We are thinking about putting together a book," Simmons confided to the BBC. "His life is the stuff of Disney movies."
If reaction to his death is any indication, there certainly would appear to be a robust market for both literary and cinematic depictions of his life. "We had hundreds of messages but it went crazy when MSN ran it in America," Simmons told the BBC. "His story seems to have touched, and been shared by, so many."
|Arnie and Huwi, a Turkmenian Eagle Owlet|
The halcyon account of Arnie's life as presented by the zoo and media is what might be termed as the marquee version. There is another side to this story, however, and it is nowhere nearly as salubrious nor anything that Disney ever would touch with so much as a ten-foot pole.
Like Arnie, thousands of helpless cats currently are unjustly incarcerated at zoos, captive-breeding facilities, and research institutions around the globe where they are nakedly exploited as virtual slaves. In addition to employing toms in order to serve as the playmates of wild carnivores, female cats are pressed into service as surrogate mothers.
For example, at the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam an unidentified cat was handed the job or nursing a red panda back in 2008 after its mother, Gladys, had rejected it. (See Cat Defender post of July 24, 2008 entitled "Red Panda That Was Rejected by Her Mother but Later Adopted by a Cat Dies Unexpectedly at an Amsterdam Zoo.")
At both Carolina Wildlife Care, northwest of Columbia, and Big Cat Rescue in Tampa cats routinely are exploited as surrogate mothers for abandoned bobcat kittens. (See National Public Radio, April 30, 2010, "Domestic Tabby in South Carolina Adopts Abandoned Bobcats" and AOL News, April 30, 2010, "Bobcat Cubs Milk Attention from Adopted Moms.")
Since such facilities require a steady stream of lactating cats, that brings up the disturbing question of what becomes of their offspring. In that regard, it is difficult to imagine that very many of them are treated in any even remotely humane fashion by these cutthroat, shekel-chasing institutions.
The Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES) in New Orleans nakedly exploits and horribly abuses wholesale numbers of cats as sperm and egg donors as well as surrogate mothers in order to carry out its diabolical captive-breeding and cloning experiments. (See Cat Defender posts of September 6, 2005 and November 17, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Healthy Kittens in New Orleans" and "Mr. Green Genes' Coming Out Party Ushers In a New Era of Unspeakable Atrocities to Be Committed Against Cats by Cloners and Vivisectors.")
At the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo in Washington cats are shanghaied into wearing cameras that supposedly record their predatory behavior. The zoo in turn uses this grossly overinflated data in order to trumpet its feline eradication schemes.
Then, to talk about hypocrisy, the zoo in all likelihood employs other cats, like Linton, in order to nurse and take care of orphaned wildlife. It thus is allowed to indulge in its loathing of the species at both ends of the spectrum without ever being held either legally or morally accountable.
Even more outrageously, the zoo is allowed to get away with failing to disclose where it gets its cats, how they are treated and, most important of all, what it does with them once they have outlived their usefulness to it. Since one of its researchers, Nico Dauphiné, was arrested in May of 2011 for attempting to poison a colony of cats living in Meridian Hill Park, it is difficult to believe that the zoo does anything other than systematically exterminate all of its domestic cats once it has finished with them.
|Muschi and Mäuschen|
In spite of all of that, the worthless rotters, blowhards, and phonies at the Washington Humane Society categorically refuse to even look into these matters. (See Cat Defender posts of July 12, 2011, November 18, 2011, January 6, 2012, and December 20,2012 entitled, respectively, "The Arrest of Nico Dauphiné for Attempting to Poison a Colony of Homeless Cats Unmasks the National Zoo as a Hideout for Ailurophobes and Criminals," "Nico Dauphiné, Ph.D., Is Convicted of Attempting to Poison a Colony of Homeless Cats but Questions Remain Concerning the Smithsonian's Role," "Nico Dauphiné Is Let Off with an Insultingly Lenient $100 Fine in a Show Trial That Was Fixed from the Very Beginning," and "The Inexcusable Refusal of Washington's Derelict Legal Establishment to Punish Nico Dauphiné and the Smithsonian for Their Despicable Crimes Was the Most Momentous Cat Story to Come Out of 2011.")
In addition to this litany of systematic and institutionalized abuse, cats that are held hostage at zoos and captive-breeding facilities live under the constant threat of being either mauled or killed by the very same carnivores that they help to rear, not to mention other inmates as well. To its credit, the Linton Zoo openly acknowledged this danger to Arnie but it never specified exactly what precautions were taken in order to safeguard his fragile life.
"Arnie the cat loves having cubs in the house and the two are great friends, but we'll have to guard him as Zara gets bigger and stronger," Simmons admitted to the Daily Mail on June 7, 2008. (See "Zara the Lion Cub and Arnie the House Cat Make a Purrfect Couple.")
No evidence has come to light that contradicts Simmons' version of how Arnie died but then again it strains credulity that she would publicly admit it even if he had been mauled to death by either a lion or some other animal. At the very least, he likely was bitten and scratched numerous times over the years while looking after lion cubs.
At the Zoologischer Garten Berlin, an eleven-pound black cat named Muschi has been residing with a group of black Asiatic bears ever since she wandered in off the street in 2000. For the first decade of her residence, she lived under the protection of a maternalistic female named Mäuschen.
Sadly, the zoo elected to kill off Mäuschen at the age of forty-two on November 16, 2010 after she had developed a movement disaster. The zoo briefly toyed with the idea of teaming Muschi with its world famous four-year-old Eisbären, Knut, but that plan fell apart when he collapsed as the result of an inflamed spinal cord and collapsed into a pond of water and drowned on March 19, 2011. (See Der Spiegel, April 1, 2011, "Folge einer Gehirnentzündung: Knut starb durch Ertrinken.")
Despite the tragic loss of her protector, Muschi amazingly is still alive and living with the bears. According to the zoo's Heiner Klös, she is fed regularly by the zookeepers and is in the "bester Gesundheit." (See Cat Defender posts of June 30, 2008, October 6, 2008, and December 4, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Berlin Zoo Reunites Old Friends Muschi and Mäuschen after a Brief Enforced Separation," "In Memoriam: Thomas Dorflein, 1963-2008," and "Muschi Is Left on Her Own in a Perilous Environment after the Berliner Zoo Kills Off Her Best Friend and Protector, Mäuschen.")
Earlier this year a brown and white nameless cat had a violent run-in with a Gharial crocodile at the Jaipur Zoo in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Although it is unclear whether the cat actually resides at the institution or simply wandered in on its own, it had the notoriously bad luck to wind up in the crocodile exhibit.
As the unsuspecting moggy neared the water's edge the crocodile silently crept up on it and prepared to snatch it between its one-hundred, razor-sharp teeth. Onlookers screamed in a vain attempt to warn the cat of its impending doom.
|The Cat Warns the Crocodile...|
Although cats can see almost nothing directly in front of them, this intrepid moggy must either have heard or smelled the predator because at the last possible moment it spotted it but instead of turning tail and running it astounded spectators by taking to the offensive and scratching the reptile twice on the snout. That was all it took in order to convince the crocodile to abandon the fight and to look for its lunch somewhere else.
"We initially thought the cat was under the impression that it was a rat in the pond," twenty-six-year-old Vishal Chaudhary of New Delhi, who filmed the dramatic encounter, later told the Daily Mail on February 21st. (See "Whisker Away from Death: Moment Courageous Cat Battles with Zoo Crocodile and Wins.") "When the crocodile came up in the water we felt sure we were witnessing the last minutes of her life."
To say that Chaudhary and his twenty-five-year-old spouse, Manu of Southall in Middlesex, were impressed by the cat's moxie would be a gross understatement. "We couldn't believe it though when the cat daringly warned the crocodile and then fearlessly slapped it twice," he added. "I was just screaming: 'Oh my God, oh my God.' We were amazed at what we had seen."
Despite that lofty praise, the cat was extremely fortunate to have escaped with its life. If its reaction time had been a couple of seconds slower the denouement to this story surely would have been altogether different.
Most important of all, this episode vividly demonstrates writ large that cats do not belong in either zoos or captive-breeding facilities under any circumstances. Unfortunately, it is not known what eventually became of the brave little cat.
Besides the threat posed by predators, cats often are horribly abused by both management and staffers at zoos. For example, in March of last year forty of their shelters were destroyed at the Beijing Zoo.
Later on October 4th, the remaining seventy-seven of them were demolished. The zoo's one-hundred-twenty cats thus were left with only their water bowls.
"The zoo faces the nation and the world, and it should not allow these shelters to destroy the zoo's environment," Vice President Qian Jinchao is quoted in the October 11th edition of the Global Times of Beijing as blowing long and hard. (See "Beijing Zoo Accused of 'Cat Expulsion'.")
|... and then the Battle Is Joined|
In addition to expressing concerns over its public image, the zoo also has trotted out the old bugaboo that cats are unhygienic as another justification for its inhumane treatment of them. "It is out of consideration of the potential health threat to other animals in the zoo, because stray cats can spread infectious diseases," public relations officer Ye Mingxia added to the Global Times.
Like the National Zoo and other such dishonest institutions, the Beijing Zoo recruits and exploits cats whenever doing so suits its nefarious designs and then turns around and defames them as a prelude to giving them the bum's rush, or worse, once it no longer needs their services. Besides being inhumane, it is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy for institutions that exploit cats for their milk, nurturing skills, sperm, and occytes to simultaneously claim that they are unhygienic and spread diseases. If there were any validity to such allegations zoos, captive breeding facilities, and Frankensteinesque research centers like ACRES would have gotten rid of their cats long ago.
Moreover, considering the city of Beijing's litany of past and present crimes committed against the species, it is the zoo's cats even more so than its collection of wild animals that are in need of protection. (See Cat Defender post of March 27, 2008 entitled "Tens of Thousands of Cats Are Being Rounded Up and Sent to Death Camps as Beijing Prepares to Host the Summer Olympics.")
Although the zoo has announced plans to build what it calls a "cat island," at last report it had not even begun construction on the project. Instead of being so overly concerned about visitors seeing the shelters, Qian would be better off paying closer attention to all the negative publicity that is being generated by his institution's mistreatment of the cats themselves.
"I don't think a person who disregards animals' lives would take good care of other kinds of animals in the zoo," twenty-four-year-old Li Shan of the city's Chaoyang District told the Global Times in the article cited supra.
Even the now world famous Muschi would not have lasted for very long if she had turned up at the Zooligischer Garten Berlin a decade earlier. That is because back in 1991 the facility's curator, Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, used his very own hands in order to break the necks of four cats.
For whatever it is worth, the zoo now claims that it no longer kills its unwanted felines but rather fobs them off on to the Deutscher Tierschutzbund in Bonn where it is anyone's guess as to what then ultimately becomes of them. Every bit as outrageous as his crimes, Blaszkiewitz never was charged with animal cruelty and continues to hold on to his job.
Wild animals unjustly incarcerated at zoos and captive-breeding facilities are treated every bit as inhumanely as their domestic cat playmates if not indeed worse. For starters, they are deprived of all freedom and dignity from womb to tomb.
Their diets, social lives, and sexual relations are choreographed to the minutest detail by their gaolers. Their unrelenting miseries are compounded by a never ending parade of peripatetic researchers who probe, measure, spy on, and rob them of fluids, tissues, and DNA samples.
|Dianna Hanson with an Unidentified Lion Cub|
At many of these facilities they often are beaten, drugged, defanged, and declawed. They also are starved, forced to live in squalor, and suffer from a myriad of diseases, genetic abnormalities, and infections that go untreated.
The only breaks that they receive from the dull monotony occasioned by their unjust incarceration is when they are bartered and sold and even then they are subjected to grueling trips all over the world in either the rears of trucks or the frigid cargo holds of airliners. Under such appalling conditions they are not treated much better than inanimate commodities that are peddled on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Even if they behave themselves and are lucky their only reward is to be allowed to go on living for just a little bit longer. If the Fates should conspire against them, they are doomed.
That is precisely what happened to forty-nine carnivores, including eighteen Bengal tigers and seventeen lions, that were housed at the Muskingum County Animal Farm (MCAF) in Zanesville, Ohio, in October of 2011 when their owner, Terry Thompson, turned all of them loose before committing suicide. That made it as easy as pie for Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz and his bloodthirsty deputies to embark upon a great safari hunt all the while pretending to be protecting the public. (See Cat Defender post of November 3, 2011 entitled "Sheriff Matt Lutz Settles an Old Score by Staging a Great Safari Hunt That Claims the Lives of Eighteen Tigers and Seventeen Lions in Zanesville.")
Earlier on Christmas Day of 2007, an Amur tigress named Tatiana met with a similar fate after she had the temerity to defend herself against a trio of punks who had attacked her at the San Francisco Zoo. On that occasion it was the local police who practically jumped out of their boots at the opportunity to serve as her executioner. (See Cat Defender post of January 28, 2008 entitled "Hopped Up on Vodka and Pot, Trio Taunted Tatiana Prior to Attacks that Led to Her Being Killed by the Police.")
At Cat Haven, an exotic zoo in Dunlap, California, a five-year-old lion named Cous Cous was shot and killed by deputies belonging to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office early last month after he fatally broke the neck of twenty-four-year-old intern Dianna Hanson of Seattle. Since she had been killed instantly, the deputies did not have a valid reason for immediately killing Cous Cous in that he could have been tranquilized and her corpse retrieved afterwards.
"The lion had been fed, the young woman was cleaning the large enclosure, and the lion was in the small cage," Fresno County Coroner David Haddon explained to The Philadelphia Inquirer on March 8th. (See "Lion had Fled His Cage, Officials Say.") "The gate of the cage was partially open, which allowed the lion to lift it up with his paw."
As was the case with the animals at MCAF and Tatiana, Cous Cous was forced to pay the ultimate price because of human error and carelessness. That is in addition to the ever greater crime of allowing both public and private institutions to incarcerate animals in the first place.
An strikingly similar event occurred at Sea World in Orlando in February of 2010 when a thirty-year-old, twelve-thousand pound orca named Tilikum killed one of his trainers, forty-year-old Dawn Brancheau. Luckily for him, his financial value to the amusement park spared him from being liquidated on the spot. (See The New York Times, February 24, 2010, "Whale Kills a Trainer at Sea World" and The Independent of London, February 26, 2010, "The Big Question: Should We Be Keeping Animals Such as Killer Whales in Captivity?")
Even when captive animals are not preyed upon by either the law enforcement community, visitors, or their keepers, the abominable conditions under which they sometimes are housed are sufficient in themselves in order to lead to their demise. This is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the utter absurdity of incarcerating Eisbären in hot climates.
For example, a polar bear named Winner succumbed to hyperthermia last Christmas Eve at the Buenos Aries Zoo. In addition to the torrid temperatures occasioned by the Argentinian summer, Winner became frightened by holiday pyrotechnics and that made it virtually impossible for the bear to control its body temperature.
Hot climates present insurmountable obstacles for these behemoths from the Arctic region. In addition to their thick fur and fat, their black skin and hollow hairs absorb heat. (See the Daily Mail, December 27, 2012, "Polar Bear Killed by Heat Wave.")
Another odious, although all-too-common, practice of zoos and captive-breeding facilities is to sell off their inmates for their flesh and other valuable body parts once they become either aged or fall out of favor for whatever reason. For instance, at the Zoologischer Garten Berlin, Blaszkiewitz is alleged to have sold, inter alia, three elderly black Asiatic bears to a slaughterhouse as well as an unspecified number of tigers and jaguars to China for their body parts and fluids. That is in addition to having ordered the premeditated killing of at least one-hundred-fifty other animals for various reasons.
It is, however, the business practices of the Bin Feng Tang Restaurant at the Beijing Zoo that really take the cake. The eatery is so brazen in fact that it serves the toes of hippopotamuses, the tails of kangaroos, the penises of deer, shark fin soup, ostrich eggs, ant soup, crocodiles, scorpions, and peacocks to its equally undiscriminating diners. In the past, the zoo even has gone so far as to post notices on its inmates' cages describing not only which parts are the tastiest but also the most beneficial in traditional Chinese medicine.
"Although it is legal, I don't think it is humanitarian (sic)," Chang Jiwen of the China Academy of Social Sciences told The Guardian of London on May 21, 2010. (See "Hippopotamus on Menu at Beijing Zoo.") "It is very inappropriate and immoral of them to sell such products. It is against the aim of the zoo."
The ruthless exploitation of wild animals, especially lions, is every bit as pervasive and egregious in the United States as it is in China and elsewhere. For instance, lions are raised and slaughtered for their meat at several locations across the country and such atrocities are perfectly legal and totally unregulated by either the United States Department of Agriculture, the Federal Drug Administration, or the USFWS.
Just about all of these animals are born in captivity and wind up at slaughterhouses after having been sold off by zoos, captive-breeding facilities, circuses, and animal brokers. (See Living on Earth, May 20, 2011, "Lion Meat, Anyone?")
In the Green Room at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, kangaroos, alligators, pythons, frogs, elk, caribou, and other unspecified animals are on the menu for $125 per person. Although the hotel advertises its exotic animals as having come from Australia and Africa, it is far more likely that most of them were bred, reared, and slaughtered in the United States.
|Arnie and Zara Share a Tender Moment|
In addition to trafficking in the flesh of exotic animals, zoos and captive-breeding facilities additionally are guilty of sacrificing the lives of untold numbers of wild animals, such as rabbits and deer, as well as domesticated ones, such as goats and cows, in order to feed their inmates. Often these unspeakably abused animals are thrown into the cages and enclosures of carnivores while they are still alive so that they can be chased before being torn to shreds.
In addition to not being the natural prey of exotic animals, it is totally inexcusable for zoos to value these animals' lives so little as to warrant disposing of them in such a cavalier fashion. Contrary to what zookeepers believe and practice, just because the public is unwilling to shell out big bucks in order to visit them that does not make their lives any less precious than those of their star attractions.
The argument advanced by the proprietors of these thoroughly reprehensible institutions is that only they stand in the way of mass extinctions. "Captive-breeding programs for as many species as possible, including those species not directly under threat at the present time, will ensure a safeguard against extinction," the Linton Zoo carols on its web site. "It has always been our aim to create a place where these threatened creatures could be brought to live safely and peacefully and where they could be happy, contented and breed."
Although Linton does care for lions, Amurs, leopards, tapirs, zebras, and lemurs that are inching perilously close to extinction, the vast majority of its collection of birds, tortoises, snakes, and insects are not in any present danger. The same can be said for its collection of kangaroos, which the Australians are slaughtering in droves, and wallabies.
Zoos and captive-breeding facilities are not the answer. Although these institutions eventually may succeed in keeping a few species alive, the survivors will be caricatures of their former selves. Robbed of all freedom and dignity and ruthlessly exploited at every turn for financial gain, it is hard to believe that the lives of any of these captive animals could be anything other than a living Hell.
What the animals need are protected habitats that are fenced off and patrolled by armed guards both on the ground and in the air. That is the only way that poachers, developers, and wildlife biologists with their endless tagging experiments can be kept out and the animals protected.
Sadly, there is not any willingness anywhere in the world to do any of that. Consequently, poachers continue to eliminate them with impunity while capitalists follow in their wake in order to gobble up their Lebensraum. The long and the short of the matter is that whether in the wild or captivity, the animals stand precious little chance of surviving.
That should not in any way be misconstrued as a clarion call to throw in the towel on them; au contraire, efforts urgently need to be doubled in order to protect the lives, freedoms, and dignities of all animals whether they be companion, farm, or wildlife.
There never will be another Arnie, however, and the Linton Zoo is unquestionably a far poorer place without him. Although there is not any way of knowing for certain one way or the other, it would be a comfort to be able to believe that his years spent there were not too traumatic and that he was able to find some measure of happiness. That probably is wishful thinking but it at least softens somewhat the heartbreak of losing him so soon.
Photos: Facebook (Arnie and Zara, Dianna Hanson), Linton Zoo (Arnie and Huwi), Die Welt (Muschi and Mäuschen), Vishal and Manu Chaudhary (cat and crocodile), and Natacha Pisarenko of the Associated Press via the Daily Mail (Winner).