Zoo association condemns treatment of big cats in ‘conservation game’

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The first trailer was released Wednesday for an upcoming documentary starring Jack Hanna that explores the involvement of famous conservationists in the exotic animal trade.

On Thursday morning, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums released a statement condemning the treatment of animals depicted in “The Conservation Game” documentary, including animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, one of its member zoos. the most importants. It is currently carrying out a review of practices.

The film, which will debut in theaters later this month, focuses on where big cats like lions, leopards and tigers go when they are no longer shown on television. He calls them “the missing cats”.

“The conservation game”:Columbus Zoo abandons some animal sellers after Jack Hanna is included in documentary

Director Michael Webber, who lives in the Cincinnati area, told The Dispatch he’s also discussing the relationships artists like Hanna have with unregulated ranchers and roadside zoos. Hanna was the longtime director of the Columbus Zoo from 1978 to 1992, then its director emeritus. He retired at the end of 2020.

Hanna’s family announced that he had been diagnosed with dementia and was retiring from public life on April 7, the day after “The Conservation Game” premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums unequivocally condemns the treatment of animals that is portrayed in ‘The Conservation Game’.… Individuals should not be allowed to own or raise big cats. statement from AZA CEO Dan Ashe.

“The Columbus Zoo is an exceptional facility and a treasured part of our community. Yet the practices shown in the documentary attributed to some staff at the Columbus Zoo, if correct, are not what we expect of a modern accredited zoo. “

Jack Hanna feeds manatees at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in May 2018.

Ashe viewed the film “on several occasions” via a link provided by the director and producer of the film, according to his statement.

The Dispatch has not yet been cleared to view the documentary.

Trailer for documentary starring Jack Hanna hints at big cat concerns

The Columbus Zoo is currently in the middle of its five-year routine review of its AZA accreditation. A decision on whether to renew that status is expected in late October, officials said at a zoo board meeting on Wednesday.

Hanna is featured in the opening clips of the new two-minute promo for “The Conservation Game,” though the trailer doesn’t offer any details on what the film reveals.

In one scene, retired police officer Tim Harrison, an animal rights activist the film follows, asks Hanna, “What happens to cats being used as animal ambassadors?” while they are filmed from a distance. In another, Hanna holds a baby tiger and shows it to a crowd, following one of her television appearances.

The film will make its audience debut on August 27 at theaters in Santa Barbara, California, and Los Angeles.

A release is also planned at theaters in Ohio, according to the film’s website.

In another connection to Ohio, the trailer features scenes from a football game at Massillon Washington High School in northeast Ohio, which has been using a living tiger mascot called “Obie” for 50 years. years. This tradition ended last year.

‘Conservation Game’ Drives Change at Columbus Zoo

Last month, Columbus Zoo officials announced they would be ditching some of the zoo’s animal sellers featured in the film who do not meet the animal welfare standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, of which it is member for years. They said the changes focused on the zoo’s animal programs department, which houses the animals used in educational programs and television appearances, separate from the animals on display in the zoo’s gardens.

“The Conservation Game” gained attention this summer after nationally promoting Carole Baskin, a big cat advocate featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King.”

More: Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo:Jack Hanna has dementia, his daughters say

In an emailed statement to The Dispatch, Hanna’s family said last month that they would never try to speak for him because Hanna was diagnosed with dementia.

"The conservation game" focuses on where big cats like lions, leopards and tigers go when no longer shown on TV.  it calls them "missing cats."

“What we can emphatically say is that he has worked his entire career to improve the animal world,” the Hanna family statement read. “He has played a role in some of the most positive and profound zoological advances in the world and in field conservation efforts around the world. He always believed that progress was only the beginning. Zoos will continue to change. and grow up. We’re convinced that’s what Dad would want – or even demand. “

awidmanneese@dispatch.com

@AlissaWidman


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