There are a few things in this world that ought to be inherently obvious.
- You never pour the milk before the cereal.
- Star Wars episodes 4, 5, and 6 are superior to 1, 2, and 3.
- Tigers are not pets.
Apparently that last one is news to Floyd Mayweather because he recently accepted a two-month old cub as an “early Christmas present” from The Money Team Russia.
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I want to thank my family @themoneyteamrussia here in Moscow, Russia for the hospitality & my early Christmas present, a rare & exotic tiger from India. Any suggestions for a name for this two-month old, female tiger? #Moscow #Russia www.themoneyteam.com FOLLOW: @themoneyteamrussia
Fortunately, a large number of Floyd’s followers, plus conservationists, and concerned human beings — among whom we can number Chrissy Teigen — quickly pointed out the obvious. That tigers are wild animals, not status symbols, and that in no way was he equipped to deal with a predator that could potentially grow anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds.
Cue The Money Team’s bizarre attempt at reassuring the incredulous and horrified public.
That’s right. It’s okay, everyone, because he got a “SPECIAL CERTIFICATE” and it’s “TOTALLY LEGAL.”
Looking at these posts — and the language the two involved parties use themselves — let’s deconstruct what’s wrong with this picture.
Mayweather himself describes the cub as a “rare and exotic tiger from India.” This suggests that the animal in question is a Bengal tiger, which is in fact the subspecies doing the best, numbering more than 2,500 in the wild. This isn’t saying much, because the subspecies is still classified as endangered, and is facing the continued threat of poaching and habitat loss, as are the other five subspecies, (with the Amoy being functionally extinct in the wild).
Again, this only suggests that she’s a Bengal. While Mayweather believes she is from India — and she could be — it doesn’t mean that she’s unequivocally a Bengal. Tigers of all subspecies exist across the globe, and in more numbers within private backyards than they do in the wild. It’s not impossible or unreasonable to imagine that the cub, sourced from India, could still be of a different subspecies, or even a mix of more than one.
Regardless of what she is, the fact remains that she is part of a species that has lost 97 percent of its wild population in the last 100 years, which makes her undeniably important: as an ambassador for her species, a potential contributor to the gene pool, and as a living being deserving of consideration and respect. And she’s being used as a Christmas gift/a symbol of indescribable wealth on an Instagram account that flaunts exotic trips to Monte Carlo and Rome, chartered helicopter trips for 20 for lunch, Louis Vuitton pants, Christian Louboutin shoes, and Givenchy shirts.
It’s hard to imagine that her rarity is considered by Mayweather in any way other than in the sense that it makes her covetable by others. He sees it as a boon when it’s actually anything but.
While “it’s totally legal!” sounds exactly like the sort of dubious claim made by the sort of people who don’t actually know anything about the law, the frightening truth is that, in this case, the money team isn’t exactly wrong. In nine states, it actually is legal to keep a tiger without any sort of permit, and 14 others allow it with a permit. Regulations are often sorely lacking; in some jurisdictions where it’s allowed without permit, the owners aren’t required to inform their neighbors or local law enforcement of the animal’s presence. This is true even if they have more than one.
With so little accountability enforced during the animal’s life, the problems continue into its death. Tiger parts — especially bones and pelts — fetch high prices on the black market. The illegal wildlife trade is a $19 billion a year business; it’s not hard to see the gains that could be made from the sale of parts from an animal that’s passed away. Even if that animal isn’t explicitly poached, ANY part of a tiger that’s sold goes on to feed the demand, continuing the vicious cycle.
So, what’s all of this poaching talk have to do with Floyd Mayweather?
Put simply, just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Big cats are not domestic animals. They are wild animals with instincts and capabilities that even the strongest and most unusual domestic pets do not have; and let’s face it, there are more than a few people in the U.S. and abroad who aren’t capable of keeping domestic, too. Adult tigers don’t really have natural predators. They are capable of taking down a gaur, a species of wild bovine that can weigh up to 2,200 pounds. This is considerably heavier than Floyd Mayweather has ever been, despite having competed in four different weight classes during an admittedly impressive career.
Remember, according to his own team in Russia, Floyd Mayweather “just got” a “special certificate” in order to own the tiger. This is apparently meant to subdue and appease the frothing masses — PLEASE EVERYBODY RELAX — but instead, it opens up a world of questions.
Exactly what is this special certificate?
Who is it that is qualified to issue it?
What does obtaining the special certificate entail?
Given the phrase “just got,” it doesn’t seem possible that it included the thousands of hours of study and practice necessary for Mayweather to become competent in the field of big cat husbandry. The first — and so far only — picture of the cub on Mayweather’s Instagram was posted a week ago. As of this writing, Mayweather is in Rome. How much time did he invest in understanding what he had been given?
In comparison, the road to tiger-keeping for individuals working in AZA-accredited zoos, is a long, steep and exacting one. There are SCHOOLS dedicated to teaching the science and craft of keeping wild species. Most entry-level jobs (read, not working directly with tigers) require four-year degrees. The keeper hopeful will often take one or more unpaid internships before graduating to the first of many part-time positions in increasing levels of responsibility, before landing a position working with big cats. Salaries are not high, side jobs and part time positions are de rigueur. It’s hard work and hardly glamorous.
In this light, it’s hard to imagine a more insulting reassurance than, he got a “special certificate.” Would a boxing coach with no background in the sport beyond a certificate of dubious origin be considered as prepared to lead a boxer into the ring as Money Team Russia insists that Floyd is to own a tiger?
HE’S RICH, HE CAN DO WHATEVER HE WANTS!
Well… he already is, clearly. The rich and famous doing the outlandish and the disturbing is no real shock, but we have every right to be disappointed. Mayweather’s wealth and notoriety could do so much more than benefiting his own personal fame machine. Put to a cause, it could have a lasting impact on the planet and the species he shares it with.
Consider Yao Ming’s recent commercial for WildAid. Like Mayweather, Yao Ming has immense resources and public cache; his campaign to end shark finning is credited with creating unprecedented lows in China’s demand for the soup. Since its airing, consumption is down 50 to 70 percent.
His work has real power.
It would be a thing of beauty to see Mayweather put his own power behind conservation, as well.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
While it remains to be seen how the situation with Mayweather’s tiger will play out, or how his feud with Chrissy Teigen will end, we don’t have to wait to help the species: