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New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (Newspaper) - May 14, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Page HBRALDZEITUNG Sunday May BY AMY UNDERWOOD Special to the HeraldZeltung Just outside of Hanvood Texas theyre having a baby boom Actually it a tiger boom but to Rick Watson theyre babies He even has a nursery with baby blan kets to prove it Watson and his wife Cheri run Noahs Land Wildlife Park a 450 acre home to about 400 animals including five pregnant tigers With an influx of cubs on the way litters usually bring three to four cubs Watson is likely stocking up on film for his Polaroid Lined on the wall of Noahs Land gift shop are photos of guests holding tiger cubs For plus the price of admission guests can leave with a photo that Watson says is unique I mean how many people get to touch or hold a baby tiger Watson asked For some experts this question sparks a heated debate Some feel strongly that the breeding of tigers in captivity is not helping the tiger population but harming it By breeding these tigers and showing people cubs people go ooh and said Dr Ron Tilson zoo conservation director of the Minnesota Zoo Its the most irresponsible thing in the Tilson is the tiger coordinator for the American Zoo and Aquarium Associations Species Survival Plan a conservation pro gram aimed at ensuring the sur vival of wildlife species Vital to the organizations goal is the use of studbooks which trace the bloodlines of the captive popula tion of a species to ensure maxi mum genetic diversity Unless the tigers are listed in studbooks breeding them is not contributing to a conservation Tilson said Mike Dee general curator of the Los Angeles Zoo agrees If you breed the animals indis criminately youre not going to know who comes from Dee said Tilson advocates the use of implants to sterilize the females in captivity so that breeding does not occur Implants cost virtually nothing and prevent the females from Tilson said With close to 40 tigers at Noahs Land the Watsons are often asked why they let the tigers breed Cheri Watson said they are not actively breeding the tigers but that preventing the breeding is dif ficult We just dont have the facilities to segregate Watson said I wouldnt mind having a litter a year but Im not happy about hav ing all of these Watson said they do not sterilize the tigers but that they do plan to limit the breeding through separa tion Our best bet is segregation she said Rick Watson said he will give tigers to parks and zoos if asked He also said he plans to start a tiger conservation project in India to release some of the tigers back into their natural habitat Cheri Watson said she knows the genetics of some of the tigers at Noahs Land but because others were taken from situations involv ing abuse or neglect its difficult to have information on their bloodlines Although experts such as Dr Tilson feel the breeding of tigers contributes to the weakening of the species the Watsons have a legal right to breed if they choose to In Texas as long as an owner of a wildlife facility has a current permit with the United States Department of Agriculture breed ing is legal said Dr Bruce Mammeli supervisor an4 care specialist at the USDA office in Fort Worth Mammeii said 999 and to ttwnw U up to long tfat Tigers are giving birth at Noahs Land Wildlife Park and some scientists aren tod happy about it about outof Watson said With five litters of tiger cubs on the way and two cubs that were recently born the Watsons plan on turning to volunteers for help Yes we have asked ourselves What are we going to do with these baby tigers Thats when start calling volunteers who have had some experience and ask them to take care of a few of Watson said Cheri Watson pets an elk cared for properly and they meet the minimum standards they can said Mammeii Mammeii said the breeding of exotic animals is often met with debate I know Texas has been trying to pass legislation to control this type of Mammeii said Mammeii said about 50 owners in Texas are licensed to house large exotic animals He said the danger involved with these ani mals is a concern Theyre still wild Mammeii said When the tiger cubs are born the Watsons take the cubs to their home and feed them For Rick Watson raising the cubs is a way of bonding with the animals Photo submitted at Noahs Park petting zoo If you raise them yourself they look at you as their Watson said If you let the mom raise them they look at you as food Big For some experts however rais ing tiger cubs away from the mother is not a way to prevent the animal from becoming dangerous Mike Dee of the Los Angeles Zoo said tigers are not social cats A 10pound cub will turn into a tiger that is not only capable of killing the person responsible for breeding it but the neighbors Dee said Tilson is also concerned with attempts to domesticate tigers Theres no such thing as a pet Tilson said Theyre an adult Siberian Tiger Although Watson has formed friendships with many of the tigers at the park by caring for them from the start he recognizes the danger involved with wild ani mals and does not go into the cages of tigers he did not raise Varying opinions aside there is no arguing that the care of the ani mals is not only timeconsuming but costly With about 400 animals at Noahs Land plus about 120 animals at their home the Watsons have to provide 800 pounds of meat a day to feed the animals Cheri Watson said they depend on nearby ranches for meat We get food from all different Watson said If some body loses a cow from known causes we will take it A big cow will feed everybody for the Because there are not always available cows for donation the Watsons are often forced to buy meat Sometimes we go to the gro cery she said You look for whats on The animals also feed on turkey pork and venison which is expen sive Noahs Land is nonprofit Photo submitted but the revenue from admission primary source of rev enue at the park is not enough to pay for the cost of feeding the animals The Watsons have been forced to use their own resources to keep the park running In the past year Ive spent Wa rics HUNTER RO A MINI Smith Traditional Sofa Price uiiJi Lacks Best Just Got Better To All HAPPY MOTHERS DAY Zenith 32 TV Comb filter front surround sound universal remote and more List Price 704053 Gift For all Mothers Making a Purchase Today Smith Traditional Sola and Loveseat Multipillow back design with contrasting welt Fringed correlating throw pillows and kidney pillow Covered in gold fabric List Price 903800 se coupon Loveseat LaZBoy Leather Touch Rocker Recliner or Lane Leather Touch Rocker Recliner UM Price SM Coupon Rfciirwrt Coupon tfood lovpid a170001 aiaoo I Zenith TV Price with Many more Coupons Available In Store 3 PC coupon Sob Pace kjon Coupon Coupon good toward Jteiict mirror and 3 PC Oak Bedroom by Webb Contemporary oak solids and veneers Includes 68 triple dresser landscape minor and panel headboard 9272 PC Coupon 5 Drawer Chest Door Chest Night Stand King Panel I Headboard 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