Friday, August 01, 2014

VIDEO: Guam's Only Zoo Says Tourist Complaint of Animal Mistreatment Is Untrue

Guam News - Guam News

Guam- For the first time in the 37 years they've been open, the Guam Zoological Botanical and Marine Garden received its first complaint from a tourist about the mistreatment of its animals. However, the owners of the Cushing Zoo say these claims are completely untrue and reassure the community the animals continue to be well cared for.

A tourist from Japan named Stephanie Houghton has caused quite a stir at the zoo in Tumon after she complained to the governor and various hotels about how the business is dirty, mistreats its depressed animals and lacks secured enclosures. However, owners Jimmy and Barbara Cushing say there is no weight to her offensive and hurtful argument.

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“I can tell you right now her complaint is absolutely false,” said Cushing. “I mean you can just verify for yourself that the animals are not in distress. They're cared for.”

Cushing says with the help of veterinarian Dr. Kevin Malakooti, they have taken good care of their animals for nearly 40 years. They also have regular inspections by Territorial Veterinarian Dr. Thomas Poole. She also reassures the public they have enforced safety locks and procedures to keep the zoo safe. She gives an example of how the space that is home to Sae Dee, the declawed black leopard, is completely closed from top to bottom. She also talks about caring for Sae Dee while respecting her wild instincts.

“I can't go in there,”Cushing said. “It's only my husband Jimmy that will handle with her or take care of her in this area going in. I don't do that. We have to keep in mind that she's a wild animal. No matter if she's born in captivity, she still has a wild instinct in her.”

Cushing notes many of their animals have been rescued, such as Fernando the Ostrich.

“He was in real bad shape,” recalled Cushing. “Mud up to his knee, full of cow tick, no feathers.”

Thanks to the Cushings and Dr. Malakooti, Fernando, Sae Dee and other animals were nursed back to health and given a home to live out the rest of their natural lives. In fact, back in 2009, the Cushing Zoo received two female sea turtles that flew from Vancouver, Canada to retire from a life of being research test subjects. They named them Suete and Lina'la'. The owners are also caring for an American alligator named Cypress that was diagnosed with a growing "hunchback."

“Our heart is so big we can't turn animals away, animals needing a home,” said Cushing.

Cushing also responds to Houghton's complaint letter about the "rotting filth of overgrown trees and plants" at the zoo. She mentions those trees and plants are either part of the animals' natural habitat or the vegetation is indigenous to Guam. Cushing adds they would love to have a bigger space and update their zoo, but they don't have the funding or resources right now.

“No support from the government,” said Cushing. “We don't have grants at all. It's family, folks that come in. All revenues generated through admission goes directly to the animals....their food, their power and water.”

The Cushings haven't raised their rates for several years and have devoted every penny and waking hour they have to keeping their animals happy and loved. She mentions most Japanese tourists continue to see Guam’s only zoo as one of the island's best kept secrets.

“We've had Japanese tourists and their families in limousines coming here with suits coming here and they said, 'why is it that we don't hear about you?'” said Cushing.

Cushing says she has invited several senators and even the lt. governor to their zoo, but nothing has come from their efforts yet. In the meantime, they continue to do what they can to support their animal family and keep their doors open for the community to enjoy.

“Our priority is our animals,” Cushing said. “They're our family and so we have to take care of them.”

Rates for the Cushing Zoo:

12 yrs+ $15

11 yrs & below $8.50

Local/Military Rates

12 yrs+ $10

11 yrs & below $6.25

25% off for school field trips

For more information, log on to guamzoo.com .

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