Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s New COVID-19 Guidelines Fail Big Cats, Primates

As Local Roadside Zoo Is Still Offering Animal Encounters, PETA Urges Agency to Protect Captive Species Susceptible to Novel Coronavirus

For Immediate Release:
July 30, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382


In response to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) new recommendations for minimizing the risk to wildlife of contracting COVID-19 from humans, PETA sent a letter this morning urging the agency to expand its guidelines to apply to all captive species susceptible to the disease, including non-native big cats and primates.

In the letter, PETA notes that the World Organisation for Animal Health has reported that “cats are the most susceptible species” for COVID-19, and several studies have found that certain primates are also highly susceptible. Although eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the disease in April—and as the number of cases in humans is soaring statewide—the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF) is currently advertising hands-on encounters with big-cat cubs and baby primates, putting those susceptible animals at risk and highlighting the urgent need for the FWC to expand its recommended protections to include them.

“Baby animals already have underdeveloped, vulnerable immune systems, which are weakened by the stress of public handling, putting them at particular risk of not only contracting COVID-19 but also not recovering from it,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA is calling on the FWC to step up and protect these at-risk animals.”

The ZWF’s history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act includes keeping highly social primates in solitary confinement, locking a wolf outdoors without shelter, and housing incompatible macaques together, resulting in bloody wounds. The operation is run by former drug kingpin Mario Tabraue, who served 12 years in prison for racketeering and narcotics violations and whose exotic-animal business served as a front for his drug-smuggling enterprise in the 1980s.

In response to an appeal from PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an advisory note in May recommending that exhibitors not allow the public to have contact with big-cat cubs, yet Tabraue continues to advertise these encounters.

PETA opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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