Celebs’ Favorite Animal Sanctuary Raises Serious Concerns

·Editor

The Black Jaguar-White Tiger Foundation has quickly become a favorite destination for celebrities from all walks of life. Everyone from Khloé Kardashian to Debra Messing has made the trek to Mexico to visit — and play with — the sanctuary’s exotic animals.

There is just one concern: Black Jaguar-White Tiger is not accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, as pointed out Tuesday by Gizmodo’s Kate Knibbs.

“We do not support open handling [of animals],” the GFAS’s Executive Director Kellie Heckman tells Yahoo Celebrity over the phone. “There are dangerous animals that are driven by their instincts.”

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Kellan Lutz paid a visit to the Black Jaguar-White Tiger sanctuary. (Photo: Splash News)

That open handling in question is Black Jaguar-White Tiger and its owner Eduardo Serio’s policy of allowing VIP visitors to openly frolic with the tigers and jaguars on the sanctuary’s Monterrey compound.

As Knibbs writes:

Since launching in 2013, Black Jaguar-White Tiger™ has cultivated celebrity fans and 4.3 million Instagram followers with photos of Serio and his guests cuddling with a growing collection of over 200 lynxes, pumas, lions, leopards, jaguars, and tigers. Serio’s Mexico compound is becoming a buzzy destination, where the rich and famous can be photographed chilling with exotic animals without feeling guilty about it.

Black Jaguar-White Tiger did not respond to repeated emails, but the foundation’s CFO, Paul Checas, told Gizmodo that Serio doesn’t “like to indulge bullies.”

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Paris Hilton at Black Jaguar-White Tiger (Photo: Instagram)

Asked if she’s worried the spotlight on Black Jaguar-White Tiger will lead to other sanctuaries allowing visitors to interact with the animals, Heckman says she thinks the general public knows better.

“I hope that people would recognize that this is the opposite of a natural situation,” Heckman says. “There was a trend of posing with animals on [Tinder] for a while but I think we’re mostly over that.”

In order to obtain GFAS accreditation, a sanctuary must meet a specific set of standards, which requires, for felids (tigers, jaguars, etc.), that humans not enter enclosures with the animals.

“I think it’s just unfortunate when you have people that are high profile sending an inappropriate message,” Heckman notes.