Brazil family fights to keep house-trained tigers
By Renata Brito ,APMARINGA, Brazil -- Dan slurped desperately on his pink nursing bottle and spilled milk all over the place, while his brother Tom patiently waited to take a swim in the family pool.
September 28, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
It would be a typical family scene if not for the fact that Dan and Tom tip the scales at 700 pounds, have claws that could slice a man in two and were raised along with seven other tigers sleeping in the beds of Ary Borges' three daughters. The big cats still amble about his humble home in the middle of an industrial neighborhood in this southern Brazil city.
Borges also has two lions, a monkey, and a pet Chihuahua named Little inside his makeshift animal sanctuary, where man and beast alike live together in his spacious red-dirt compound, separated from the outside world by tall metal fences and high wooden walls.
The Brazilian family is now locked in a legal dispute for the cats, with federal wildlife officials working to take them away. While Borges does have a license to raise the animals, Brazilian wildlife officials say he illegally bred the tigers, creating a public danger.
Borges says it all started in 2005 when he first rescued two abused tigers from a traveling circus. He defends his right to breed the animals and says he gives them a better home than they might find elsewhere in Brazil.
“Sadly there are so many animals dying in zoos that have no oversight. My animals are treated extremely well ... we're preserving and conserving the species,” he said. “We have a great team of veterinarians. We give them only the best, but we're being persecuted.”
Ibama, Brazil's environmental protection agency that also oversees wildlife, declined repeated requests for comment.
The agency is working through courts to force Borges to have the male tigers undergo vasectomies so they can't reproduce. It also wants his caretaker license confiscated and to obtain the cats. Borges appealed and the matter is pending before a federal court.
Ary's daughter Nayara Borges, 20, who grew up with the tiger cubs sleeping in her bed until they became too big, says she thinks the big cats would be mistreated if taken away, “and our family would go into a severe depression.”