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CARE Tour - 1

Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions #1

Aquarium owner looking to bring in more wild life

2004-02-17

2/17/2004 8:18 AM
By: Tad Hathaway

Tilman Fertitta would like to add a white-tiger exhibit to his downtown aquarium.

Aquarium owner Tilman Fertitta says the tigers will be a first-class attraction for his restaurant and the downtown area in general. But not everyone agrees it’s so humane.

In a restaurant already filled with exotic ocean animals, Fertitta is hoping to go a step further with the addition of five white tigers. They’re the same kind of animals that attract hordes of tourists in Las Vegas.

"I think it would bring a lot of excitement," said Jim Prappas, Aquarium Restaurant.

Those at the aquarium say the animals would make their restaurant, and therefore downtown Houston, a more attractive destination for tourists and conventions, as well as Houstonians.

But don't try telling that to Tiger Preservationist Anthony Marr.

"To keep five tigers for entertainment is not within the realm of acceptability," he said.

Marr has led three tiger-saving expeditions in rural India and championed the rights of dwindling species. He opposes the idea of bringing white tigers to the Aquarium, mainly because of the way they're bred.

Because white-tigers are such a genetic rarity, animal traders often inbreed them with family members to increase the likelihood of a baby white tiger.

"Inbreed to the point where it causes genetic defects," said Marr.

Meanwhile, Aquarium officials respond by saying humane treatment is their first and foremost priority, along with raising awareness of the plight of endangered animals among those who go to their restaurants.
"Education is what we're all about, teaching people about conservation, so hopefully we can implement this exhibit," said Prappas.

But the Aquarium could face opponents with far more authority in Houston than animal conservationists. Some city officials argue that tigers in the downtown area violates a number of city ordinances.
Marr will voice his concerns to the Houston City Council at their meeting on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Fertitta hopes to have the white tigers on view at his restaurant by the time the Major League All-Star Game arrives in July.


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