“Woman Denied Entry At Disney’s Magic Kingdom For Trying To Bring In Baby Bengal Tiger.”
Once the shock wore off, the sadness and frustration set in. The headline was attention grabbing and got a reaction, from myself and many others, but that’s whats headlines are for right? As soon as I could I looked up the story which came from the Inquisitor online. According to the article a guest, who remains unidentified, tried to bring her “pet” baby Bengal Tiger into the theme park on Monday and was turned away by staff. While Disney World does allow entry for service animals Bengal Tigers of any size, do not qualify.
The article then goes on to say that “After a bit or arguing, the Central Florida Zoo was called to retrieve the baby Bengal Tiger until the end of the woman’s vacation…After a long time period of speaking about the Tiger and reassuring her that the animal would be well treated and taken care of during her time in Walt Disney World, the woman did agree to let the animal caretakers from the Central Florida Zoo care for it.“
It was reported in the article that the cub was in the care of the Central Florida Zoo and that Disney would not comment any further. Many people were in an uproar and rightfully so, private ownership of big cats, especially in the US is a big problem. It is currently estimated that up to 10,000 big cats like tigers, lions and cougars are kept captive in the US by private owners in backyards and roadside zoos.
“People are often not able to manage these wild animals once they’re fully grown. Consequently, the animals are poorly fed, and left to spend their entire lives in cages with barely enough room to move. Not only is this inhumane, it also is a great threat to public safety.” – IFAW
A case of mistaken Identity? Now this is where the story gets a little spotted – literally. Upon further reading I noticed what was not mentioned when the story first started making the rounds. Here the Inquisitor says “While Cast Members at Disney did originally say that it was a “baby Bengal tiger,” the Central Florida Zoo let it be known that it was actually a “baby Bengal cat” which was being cared for by the guest looking to enter Magic Kingdom.“
I came across a thread in the online forum WDWMagic.com where someone got to the bottom of this mystery. Post #64 on the page is by a person who works at the Orlando news station WKMG Local 6. They reached out to both Disney PR, who hadn’t heard about the incident, and the Central Florida Zoo who confirmed “The animal is not a Bengal tiger; it is a ten-day old Bengal cat, which is basically a domestic species…the Disney guests who brought it with them on vacation are hand-rearing the animal at present. The animal will be returned to them tomorrow.“
A few lessons here: don’t bring your pets to a theme park, you can’t always believe things you read on the internet, and when in doubt do your research.
All kidding aside, what good can come out of this? A lot of people were shocked and angered by the very idea that a random person could own a Bengal Tiger and, if that helps open up a greater dialogue on the very real crisis surrounding private ownership of big cats, then maybe this is still a story worth sharing.
For further reading on private ownership of big cats and how to help check out:
- Draw My Life – Tiger Edition
- IFAW Big Cats in captivity
- Wildcat Conservation Legal Aid Society US State Laws
- Big Cats kept as pets across the US despite risk National Geographic News