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Netflix's Tiger King star Carole Baskin criticises Ashford's Big Cat Sanctuary after birth of rare jaguar cub

Infamous Netflix star Carole Baskin has hit out at a Kent cat sanctuary following the birth of a jaguar cub.

The US-based sanctuary owner, who gained infamy on Tiger King as the nemesis of Joe Exotic, criticised The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden, near Ashford following the birth of the cub on Tuesday.

Carole Baskin appeared on Netflix's Tiger King. Photo: Netflix
Carole Baskin appeared on Netflix's Tiger King. Photo: Netflix

The cub was born at Smarden's Big Cat Sanctuary

The extremely rare arrival, born to Neron and Keira and part of the sanctuary's breeding programme, is known as a melanistic jaguar, a rare type with black fur.

Mrs Baskin, who was accused on the smash show of feeding her missing husband to lions, accused the sanctuary of making the newborn cat "a prisoner for life".

In a post on her Facebook page, she said: "I swear! It's one step forward, two steps back.

"First it's shameful that Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, England is breeding and thus obviously NOT a sanctuary, and People Magazine did a fluff piece about a jaguar cub born there despite the fact that legitimate sanctuaries don't breed.

"Despite me talking to reporters at People many times in the past and saying "sanctuaries don't breed" until I am blue in the face, this bit of deception makes the mainstream news...and the world is so caught up in the cuteness they aren't thinking about the fact that this cat is now a prisoner for life."

Baby was born this week. Photo: BCS
Baby was born this week. Photo: BCS

The post, which now has comments turned off, features an image of an adult jaguar unconnected with the sanctuary.

Big Cat Sanctuary– who previously had to deny links with the infamous sanctuary featured in the Netflix show- have hit back in an open letter to Mrs Baskin.

The letter reads: “Hi Carole, We are proud to be a facility offering sanctuary to some of our resident cats as well as being a breeding centre of excellence.

"The Big Cat Sanctuary’s aim is to help provide a future for some of the most endangered and iconic cats on the planet. The aim of the breeding at the Sanctuary is to contribute to accredited international breeding programmes, helping to maintain genetic diversity in a captive population with the ultimate aim to reintroduce them to join their wild counterparts, should it become viable to do so.

"Although we are considered a sanctuary in the UK, we are also listed in the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme that allows the safe and healthy breeding of endangered wildlife.

Baby the Jaguar with mum Kiera. Photo: BCS
Baby the Jaguar with mum Kiera. Photo: BCS

"Only good and accredited zoos and aquariums are licenced to be in this Programme, as governed by BIAZA, EAZA, and WAZA. These governing bodies and the Breeding Programmes are all run and led by renowned conservationists, scientists, zoologists and vets. They have also approved our Sanctuary to be part of their accredited zoo and aquarium community.

"In the case of our most recent cub, wild jaguars are considered ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN Red List due to deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, animal-human conflict and poaching. It is vital to conserve this species within captivity. The IUCN Red List categorises wildlife species dependent on their threat of extinction. We have already raised thousands since announcing the birth to help fund jaguar conservation projects with our partners in Costa Rica.

"We also thought you may be interested to know that cats who are identified as part of the breeding programmes do not technically belong to us, we are merely custodians of these individuals. They are placed with us as a trusted facility to provide the best possible life in captivity as well as supporting the accredited international breeding programmes.

"Welfare, breeding, education and conservation are the pillars that uphold The Big Cat Sanctuary. Our keepers provide excellent welfare so that our cats are mentally and physically stimulated in order to replicate as wild behaviour as possible.

"Ensuring our cats receive excellent care, a varied diet and different sources of enrichment, whilst maintaining a peaceful environment and not compromising the tranquillity of the cats within the sanctuary. With this awareness and education, we can help prevent endangered cats from slipping into extinction.

The jaguar cub has already created a storm with her arrival
The jaguar cub has already created a storm with her arrival

"Just to point out, the big cat featured in your social post does not belong to The Big Cat Sanctuary. The cub in question is a healthy female, who has been doing exceptionally well with her mother.

"If you would ever like to visit The Big Cat Sanctuary and learn more about our wonderful cats and our dedication to conservation, please do get in touch with us."

Mrs Baskin has yet to respond.

Escaped animals, unusual finds and news from the RSPCA can all be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Ashford

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