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Brazil Family Fights to Keep House-Trained Tigers

Brazil Family Fights to Keep House-Trained Tigers

(AP) Brazil family fights to keep house-trained tigers
By RENATA BRITO
Associated Press
MARINGA, 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.

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, even if experts say the situation is “crazy” and sure to eventually lead to a mauling, though one has yet to occur.

Borges also has two lions, a monkey, and a pet Chihuahua named Little inside his makeshift animal sanctuary, where man and beast 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 argues he gives them a better home than they might find elsewhere in Brazil.

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.

Borges has strong support in Maringa for his cause, and earlier this year the city council passed a measure that banned vasectomies on wild animals within city limits.

Next door to the tiger compound, Marli Mendes can see the big cats from her office window. “I have nothing against them, they really don’t bother,” she says.

So far, there have been no incidents with the tigers turning aggressive, which the Borges family attributes to cats being raised in such close proximity with humans.

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.”

Her sister Uyara, 23, agreed, saying the cats are family after spending so many years with the Borges.

Uyara trusts the cats so much, she even allows her 2-year-old daughter Rayara to sit atop them.

Experts, however, sharply question the Borges family’s efforts.

Finch said that “you will see people sometimes get lucky for a while, but sooner or later an accident is going to happen. You never know what’s going to set these animals off because they’re wild.”

Instead of promoting the animal’s welfare, Finch said the Borges have done the opposite.

Upkeep for the tigers and lions costs about $9,000 per month. Borges pays for it by renting the tigers out for movie and commercial shoots, charging $9,000 a day, and with the money he makes in running a dog kennel within his compound.

Inside a high fenced-in area where the tigers now sleep, Borges roughhoused with the animals, playfully slapping one on the flank and then leapt atop him, holding onto the animal’s fur with both fists and grinning widely as the cat growled.

___

Associated Press writers Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo and Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report

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