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Studying and Saving the Siberian Tiger.

Co-founder of the Siberian Tiger Project Maurice Hornocker and an authority on the great cats. His photographs of Tigers are featured In "Tigers In the Snow" (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux) by Peter Matthiessen about the tigers of Siberia. The Siberian Tiger Project was founded to study and protect these tigers who are threatened with extinction because of poaching and loss of habitat. Hornocker Is also director of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho.


Other segments from the episode on February 10, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 10, 2000: Interview with Steven Wise; Interview with Maurice Hornocker.


Date: FEBRUARY 10, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 021001np.217
Head: Steven Wise Arguing for the Legal Rights of Animals
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with FRESH AIR.

On today's FRESH AIR, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise makes the case for giving legal personhood to chimpanzees and bonobos. Wise teaches animal rights law at Harvard, is former president of the Animal Legal Rights Fund, and has taken on animal rights cases in court. He has a new book called "Rattling the Cage."

Also, studying and protecting tigers threatened with extinction. We talk with Maurice Hornocker, co-founder of the Siberian Tiger Project.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First, the news.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Steven Wise, wants us to rethink our moral relationship with animals. He's a lawyer who specializes in animal rights and teaches animal rights law at Harvard, Vermont, and John Marshall Law Schools, and at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. He's also the former president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Wise has gone to court to prevent pet dogs from being put to death after they were labeled vicious. He's represented condo owners who wanted the right to live with pets. And he has sued to prevent the patenting of genetically engineered animals.

Now he wants to win legal personhood -- that is, legal rights -- for certain animals, starting with chimpanzees and their close relative, bonobos. He makes the case for this in his new book, "Rattling the Cage."

Chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall wrote the foreword. She says, "Wise's book can be seen as the animals' Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Universal Declaration of Rights all in one."

I asked Steven Wise what legal rights he thinks animals should have.

STEVEN WISE, "RATTLING THE CAGE": They ought to have at least two of the basic rights. The ones I argue for are the right to bodily integrity -- you can't torture them, you can't do biomedical research on them, you can't kill them, you can't eat them -- and bodily liberty, you can't enslave them, you can't shut them up in steel and concrete cages.

GROSS: Now, do you think animals are well represented by existing legal protections, the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, other regulations against cruelty to animals?

WISE: No, the fact that 10 billion animals a year are killed for food production in the United States, the fact that millions upon millions of them are killed by -- through hunting, through biomedical research, the fact that they can be freely exhibited in terrible conditions in zoos and in circuses, demonstrates the problem that nonhuman animals have virtually no legal protection.

That's why I wrote the book, as an argument for why at least some nonhuman animals deserve the same kinds of legal protection that human beings have, and that is, legal personhood, rights. The important thing about rights is that they form a protective legal barrier around ourselves, our persons, our personalities, our physical bodies. And those walls cannot be breached. And we have seen, over hundreds of years, that that's the best way to protect someone. And since that's the best way to protect human beings, that's also the best way to protect such nonhumans as chimpanzees and bonobos.

GROSS: Now, if animals have the right to liberty and bodily integrity, does that mean we become a culture of vegetarians?

WISE: Well, we certainly couldn't eat chimpanzees and bonobos. And we certainly couldn't eat any nonhuman animal who had the right to bodily integrity, just like we could not eat our children. We would only become a country of vegetarians if the animals that we eat have these kinds of fundamental rights. I'm not arguing that they should or should not, I'm just arguing that drawing the line at human beings, where we have drawn it, is arbitrary, and leaves out at least some species of nonhumans who certainly should be eligible for fundamental legal rights. And (inaudible)...

GROSS: Well, you think that chimpanzees and bonobos are the first animals that should be granted the legal rights of personhood. Bonobos are, what, small chimps?

WISE: Bonobos are a species that are closely related to chimpanzees and look so much like chimpanzees that for many, many years, even scientists couldn't tell them apart. Now they can.

GROSS: Why start there? Why start with chimps and bonobos?

WISE: The reason I wanted to start with chimpanzees and bonobos is because they are the best candidate species for legal rights. We know most about them. There have been decades of observations of them in the wild and decades of observations of them and work with them in research laboratories. So first of all, they aren't as much of a mystery to us as many other species are.

Second of all is, what we've learned them is that they are extraordinary creatures with extraordinary minds that are not only remarkable in and of themselves, but are the kinds of minds that are so close to human beings that we can readily identify with them.

GROSS: Isn't it still a pretty anthrocentric, or anthropocentric, whatever the word is, way of looking at who gets legal rights? Well, the animals that are just like us, they're the ones that should get the legal rights, but, you know, animals that don't mirror us in the way that chimpanzees do, they wouldn't get any rights.

WISE: The way that my arguments differ from the arguments of philosophers is this. Philosophers argue about who should have rights or who should not have rights based upon what kind of moral theories they think are just and right. As a lawyer, what I did was say, Let's look at the legal system and see what kind of values are inherent within the legal system? What do we value? What do judges value? What will judges pay attention to?

So after reviewing that and investigating it, it became clear to me that there's a certain kind of relatively low-level autonomy and -- as well as equality that seems to lie at the basis of our fundamental Western legal values. So using those kinds of values, which, of course, are human values, but using those human values, I began to spread them out into the nonhuman animal kingdom, and say, Well, using the values that we've already decided are vitally important, what nonhuman animals should be entitled to fundamental rights in the way we already look at what's important?

And clearly, the animals who are closest to us are the most likely to be eligible. And chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest to us.

GROSS: On the grounds of our genetic similarities, consciousness, language possibilities, what?

WISE: In almost every way. You know, in almost every way, chimpanzees and bonobos are remarkably genetically similar to us, probably 99.5 percent of our working DNA. But that alone is not enough. The most important thing is their minds. Their minds are minds that all of us who have children would readily recognize. They know language, they have simple language skills once they're around humans who have language skills. They have simple mathematical skills. They can do simple mind-reading, at least of their own species. They act intentionally. They're agile. They look just like my 2-year-old twins do, except maybe even a little bit more sophisticated.

And anyone who is -- who actually works with a chimpanzee or bonobo instantly recognizes that in fact, here she is working with a creature that is almost human.

GROSS: Give me a sense of what you think a typical legal case might be if chimps or bonobos had legal rights.

WISE: The problem would first crop up when lawyers thought that the time was right for bringing these first cases. And probably the first case might be a chimpanzee or bonobo who was in a biomedical research laboratory, say, was the subject of a lethal AIDS experiment, a chimpanzee is going to be injected with an AIDS virus and may end up suffering for years, and ultimately dying, which is -- which has actually happened to chimpanzees. And indeed the chimpanzee Jerome, that did happen to, and that's why I dedicated my book to Jerome.

When that happens, and if people found out about it, they could then step in and seek to use that chimpanzee's case as a test case, trying to test whether the law was ready to move beyond human beings to at least one kind of nonhuman being, and one kind of right. And that's where the battle lines would be drawn.

GROSS: Say that chimpanzee won in that hypothetical case that you mention. What will the difference be between the precedents and -- set by that, and just a law outlawing lethal experiments on chimpanzees?

WISE: The difference is that if a chimpanzee was a legal person and had a legal right herself, she or human beings on her behalf could actually sue in a court to stop whatever's happening to her, to seek an injunction, even potentially to seek damages to put her back in the position that she would have been had she not been subjected to this.

The problem with relying upon criminal law is that if a prosecuting agency doesn't want to prosecute, there's nothing anyone can do about it. That's why we human beings in the United States are clothed with all sorts of civil rights, because these civil rights, as opposed to simply the criminal law, allows us to bring lawsuits to forward and represent our own interests, instead of having to wait for someone to bring a criminal action in order to stop something that's harming us.

GROSS: But it puts lawyers in a strange position, I think. It's not as if a chimpanzee is going to call you up and say, I need representation because I want to sue. I mean, you have to guess or presume to know what is in the chimpanzee's best interests, what the chimpanzee would want, what kind of damages the chimpanzee would want to sue for. I mean, the chimpanzee really would be only nominally represented in this, in terms of having a say.

WISE: Well, when you're dealing with a creature who can't speak with you -- and most chimpanzees and bonobos can't speak with you -- although I have to add that some of them can -- but if -- most of them can't. So if you're dealing with a chimpanzee or any nonhuman animal who can't speak with you, and you have to make your best guess relying upon scientific evidence to try to figure out what their minds are about, what it is that they want, what is good for them, what is bad for them.

It's always your best guess. It's not something that's new. When I'm trying to determine, what do my 2-year-old twins want, they don't really speak yet, so I have to make my best guess. If someone is in a coma or in a persistent vegetative state, or someone is mute or severely retarded, now we have to make our best guess as to what it is they want or need for a flourishing life that will allow them to flourish as much as they can.

We know that there are certain things that are almost certain not to be in their best interests, using them in painful experiments, killing them, starving them, depriving them of water, torturing them in some way. So those are really no-brainers. It's the same sort of thing that we would automatically think a 1-year-old or 2-year-old human would not want or would be painful or cause them to suffer, is probably going to translate exactly to chimpanzees and bonobos.

GROSS: Why do you use the word person and personhood when talking about animals? It just seems to kind of linguistically confuse the issue.

WISE: Because I'm talking like a lawyer, that the bearer of rights in our society is a person, is a legal person. You don't have to be a human being. Corporations are legal persons, ships are legal persons. And legal personhood is the holy grail of civil rights. You are essentially invisible to the law of civil rights unless you're a legal person. Once you become a legal person, then you have legal rights, and you are protected and have a status far above legal things.

GROSS: Steven Wise is my guest. He's a lawyer specializing in animal rights. He's written a new book called "Rattling the Cage." Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Steven Wise, and he's a lawyer who specializes in animal rights. He's written a new book called "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals." And he's also the former president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

You say that animal law, the way it exists now, is really property law. Would you explain?

WISE: All nonhuman animals in the West, and certainly in the United States, are considered to be legal things, either owned or able to be owned by human beings. And that is the essence of property law. All animals are our property or can be our property once we control them, in exactly the same way that we can make property out of our cups and our chairs and our cars. That's why we can do anything we want to them, and that's why we do.

GROSS: Now, you have tried to represent animals in court. What are some of the cases you've taken on?

WISE: Well, understand that nonhuman animals don't have legal rights. So what I teach and what I write about is dramatically different than the kind of law that I practice. So the kind of law that I practice focuses on trying to represent the interests of nonhuman animals in a system in which they're seen as things, as property.

So keeping that in mind, the kinds of cases that I do are really divided into two kinds. One is, I represent people who have companion animals, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, all kinds of companion animals, who have gotten into trouble in some way. Oftentimes they may be dogs who've been sentenced to death for biting someone, or someone might have a nonhuman animal in a condominium and is in a fight with a condominium association or a cooperative, or they -- or their companion animal might be the victim of veterinary malpractice, and we're suing in order to get the compensation for the loss of what is oftentimes someone's dearest friend.

Other kinds of cases I take are larger law reform cases, where using the law of nonhuman animals as property, we try to advance their interests as much as we can. For example, I've sued to try to stop the transfer of dolphins from an aquarium to the U.S. Navy, sued to try to open up animal care committee meetings to the public, so that the public can see what's -- what a university is actually proposing to do to nonhuman animals and to be able to look at their records under state public record laws.

GROSS: Now, when you've sued on behalf of dolphins, who were you representing? Who was your plaintiff?

WISE: Well, in one case -- in cases in which I've sued on behalf of dolphins, I've represented people who claim that the transfer of the dolphin will cause them some kind of an injury. But I've also, in at least one case, represented the dolphin himself. And at least I tried to represent the dolphin himself. I was not successful. And what happened...

GROSS: (inaudible) did the judge throw it out because the dolphin isn't a person and can't be represented in court?

WISE: Absolutely. And the judge actually threw the entire case out, and in that case is encapsulated all the reasons I write and I teach about the need for real legal rights for at least some nonhuman animals. Animal rights lawyers are bedeviled by a legal doctrine called standing. And standing was created so that only those persons who were injured can file a lawsuit. Judges aren't in the business of issuing advisory opinions, and they want real problems involving people who've been injured suing the person or whoever injured them in court.

The catch-22 with any case involving a nonhuman animal is that, of course, they're not legal persons, and yet they have been -- they are the ones being severely injured. So you have to find some human who can make some plausible claim that he or she has been injured by the injury to the nonhuman animal. And more often than not, courts don't accept the kind of injury that we're proposing, and throw out not only the claim of the nonhuman animal herself, but also the claim of the human being.

And therefore the nonhuman animal is left completely without protection.

GROSS: Now, this is in part why you say in your new book that you're waiting for a great judge to come along, a judge, what, who wouldn't throw an animal case out of court and be willing to take it on?

WISE: The kinds of legal rights I argue for in "Rattling the Cage" are common law rights. These are the oldest kinds of rights that were developed by judges, not legislatures, not through constitutions, but judges. Contrary to what many people think, in the United States, at least state court judges are really in the business of making laws, changing laws, revising laws, keeping laws the same way.

And what they do when they make it is that they try to do what's right, they try to do what is going to be in the interests of the greatest number of people, and so they have to deal almost as philosopher-kings sometimes with very severe problems. But they've done that for years.

Two hundred years ago, a very great judge, Lord Mansfield in England, was really the first person to strike a blow at the idea of slavery in England, and almost single-handedly led to the abolition of slavery within the United Kingdom.

You need great and bold judges who understand overarching principles, what liberty truly means, what equality truly means, and is able to rise above his or her time, place the decision that he or she is making in a broader, deeper context, and with boldness, say, what we have been doing to such nonhuman animals as chimpanzees and bonobos, even for hundreds of years, is simply wrong. And the common law, which ought to be an instrument of justice, should not be used as an instrument of oppression any more.

GROSS: You know, some people are very offended at the analogies you've made between slavery and rights for animals, saying that, you know, it denigrates what slaves actually experienced.

WISE: Yes, I understand that, and I think people who are offended by the analogy to human slavery don't understand what -- why we're making the analogy. We are not saying that somehow slaves were like animals. We're saying animals slaves. And people like the writer Alice Walker have understood very well what we're trying to say, and in fact she has written that one of the reasons why ex-slaves sometimes get very upset -- or the descendants of slaves sometimes get very upset is that they're placed in the uncomfortable position of realizing now that they now are masters, and they have responsibilities.

GROSS: Steven Wise is the author of the new book "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals." He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: Coming up, why he lives with a dog, but it isn't his pet. We continue our conversation with animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, author of "Rattling the Cage."

And Maurice Hornocker tells us about his efforts to protect the great Siberian tiger, the biggest cat in the world.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with animal rights lawyer Steven Wise.

In his new book, "Rattling the Cage," he makes the case that certain animals, particularly chimpanzees and bonobos, should have legal rights. Wise is the former head of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and teaches animal rights law at Harvard.

Now, I believe you have a couple of companion animals, two dogs, am I right?

WISE: I have one dog named Marbury Madison Wise, who's named after a very famous constitutional law case, and a stray cat named Alice.

GROSS: So I noticed you've been using the word "companion animal" as opposed to "pet." Does "pet" imply a sense of ownership that you don't want to have?

WISE: Yes, "pet" does imply a sense of ownership, and also implies a superior-inferior position. I think companion animal actually more accurately describes what the true relationship is between a dog and a human. Most studies, or a large number of studies, have shown that there is a very intense emotional bond that develops between a human companion and her companion animal, usually a dog or cat, to the degree that oftentimes that relationship is the most important relationship, or certainly one of the handful of most important relationships, that we humans ever enter into.

GROSS: Let's get into some of the trouble that companion animals can get into. And this is where you come in as a lawyer. You have represented people in several cases where their dog has been threatened with being put to death because the dog has bitten a person or persons in the neighborhood who have complained.

What case have you made against that?

WISE: I've probably done between 100 and 150 so-called doggie death cases. We have so many of them in our office that that's how we refer to them. And it's typically involved a dog, oftentimes a large dog, who seems scary to people, who has bitten someone. And when that happens, you'll have local town officials automatically sentence that dog to death.

Our clients become appalled at that, in the way that many of you would become appalled if your young child was sentenced to death because he did something wrong. And they come to us, and they say, This animal is like my child. Do anything you can, try to save his life. And then we treat the case in a very serious way, and indeed do what we can and are almost uniformly successful in keeping them from being executed.

GROSS: Well, what do you think the right tradeoff should be between keeping the dog alive and protecting other people in the neighborhood?

WISE: Well, what we aim at is always a win-win situation. And that's why I think we're so successful in being able to keep the dog alive. We hire animal behaviorists who examine the dog, examine the family, and tell us what was the problem. From the dog's point of view, what happened?

And once we get an idea as to what happened, we can then go back to the human companion and say, This is what we think happened. This is what you need to do in order to convince a judge, who is not a hanging judge who just simply doesn't like animals, but a fair-minded judge that, if she lets you keep your dog with you, the townspeople will not have to tread in fear of an attack.

And it may involve training the dog, it may involve putting fences up, it might involve walking the dog on a leash, making sure you keep him away from children, whatever. We make sure that our clients take the steps that is needed to protect the townspeople in order to be able to convince the judge that the townspeople are protected, and that the dog should be returned to his family.

GROSS: You would like to give legal rights to chimpanzees and bonobos, I think because they most closely resemble humans in their genetics, their DNA, and also their mental capacity. Why draw the line there? I mean, you love your dog, you'd hate to see your dog tortured or injured in any way. You know that your dog experiences pain, even rejection. So what are your criteria, exactly, for drawing the line between which animals get legal rights and which animals don't?

WISE: Well, I'm really not drawing the line anywhere right now. What I'm saying is that there is a line that is drawn, and it was drawn hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and that where we've drawn the line now is palpably arbitrary and unfair and unjust. And in "Rattling the Cage," what I'm trying to do is step over that line, or break through that wall that divides all nonhuman animals from human animals and say, Look, there are at least some nonhuman animals who seem clearly entitled to fundamental rights.

And once that wall is down, and once you've crossed that line, the question is then not, What is your species? but, Where should the line be drawn? And the line may someday be drawn to include dogs. I don't know. But what judges will be forced to do is begin looking at the question in a much more fair, reasonable, rational, scientifically based way than the way they do now, which is simply to arbitrarily say that if you're a human you have rights, and if you're not a human, you don't.

GROSS: But it does seem that it gets so arbitrary, which animals get the legal rights and which don't. Do they have to be more human like us to get it, are we going to administer tests, compare their DNA to ours, see if they have language acquisition skills, see if they can express hurt and rejection? I mean, doesn't it just keep getting more and more arbitrary?

WISE: No, it doesn't become arbitrary at all. You use the same common law principles in order to determine if an animal has a liberty right, you determine whether he or she has a mind, a sophisticated enough mind to warrant that kind of right. You have to, though, bring in scientists and to tell us what is the nature of these other species, what kind of minds do they have? Are they robots? Are they Einsteins? Where do they fall in between robots and Einsteins?

Certainly as you move away from human beings, though not necessarily, because there is such a thing as convergent evolution, but generally the further away you move from human beings, the less human will be the kinds of minds they have, and the more difficult it will be for us to grapple with the problem. But just because down the road we're going to run into more and more difficult problems doesn't mean that we shouldn't take the first steps.

GROSS: I'm sure people say this to you all the time, but what about spiders? I mean, at some point you start wondering if a spider should have legal rights?

WISE: I don't worry about that. Spiders almost certainly, and all the other insects and millions of other species of nonhuman animals, simply are robots. They don't have any kinds of minds at all. And I see no principle under which they would be entitled to legal rights at all.

GROSS: You are teaching Harvard's first course on legal rights for animals. What are some of the main points you're touching on in your course?

WISE: Many of the things that we've talked about today. We'll be talking about how nonhuman animals are treated, we'll be talking about how humans came to have rights, what the legal rights are, who should be qualified to have them, who -- what are the qualifications, are there any nonhuman animals who would meet those qualifications? If there are, which nonhuman animals do? What rights should there be? And how is the common law set up so that it might be flexible enough to be able to make the kind of change that I'm proposing.

And we'll talk about all of these pro and con, and let the students argue among themselves and try to understand what they think is the most just thing.

GROSS: In the more than 10 years that you've been practicing animal-related law, do you feel like the response that you get has changed? You know, do people make fun of it less? Are people more receptive to the idea?

WISE: Yes, it's actually been 20 years. I took my first animal-related case in 1980, and the first years throughout the '80s were rather difficult in that judges, clerks, other lawyers did not take what I was arguing seriously, and would use the cases I brought as an opportunity to make fun of me and to make fun of my clients, to make fun of the problem.

Somewhere about 1990, that changed, and all of a sudden lawyers and judges began to realize that it was a serious issue that I was raising. And the amount of respect that I've gotten within courtrooms has certainly increased, although there are exceptions. And also it became legitimized because courses began to come out, and if it's being taught in law school, it can't be totally off the wall. And so these days, not only is it being taught on law school, but it's being taught in some of the best law schools in the United States, at Harvard, at Yale, Georgetown, Berkeley, UCLA, Northwestern.

And people are beginning to realize that we are raising very serious issues that involve the lives and the suffering of billions and billions of sentient beings.

GROSS: How far do you expect to get in your lifetime with animal rights?

WISE: I expect that before my life ends that the barrier that I say is wrong, the barrier between all humans and all nonhuman animals, will come down, and that within the next 10 years or so, I expect to see the first successful litigation in which, under the common law, a chimpanzee or a bonobo is held to be a legal person with some kind of legal right.

GROSS: Well, Steven Wise, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

WISE: Oh, thank you for having me.

GROSS: Steven Wise is the author of the new book "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals."

Coming up, studying the Siberian tiger and trying to save it from extinction.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Steven Wise
High: Steven Wise is a legal expert on animal protection law. He teaches "animal rights law" at Harvard Law School and other colleges, and is former president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. In his new book, "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals," he uses scientific research about the Intelligence and emotional capacity of animals to argue for their basic legal rights.
Spec: Animals; Justice; Civil Rights; Policies; Legislation

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Steven Wise Arguing for the Legal Rights of Animals

Date: FEBRUARY 10, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 021002NP.217
Head: Maurice Hornocker Discusses His Efforts to Save the Siberian Tiger
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:45

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The Siberian tiger is the largest cat in the world. Larger than the African lion, it is 10 to 12 feet long and weighs about 600 pounds in the wild. It's lighter in color than the Bengal tiger and is equipped for dealing with the cold and snow with longer fur and huge feet.

My guest, Maurice Hornocker, is the co-founder of the Siberian Tiger Project. He's working with the Russians to study the tiger and protect it from extinction. He wrote the introduction and took the photographs for Peter Matthiessen's new book, "Tigers in the Snow."

Hornocker also studied the American mountain lion and directs the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho.

Tigers are a secretive species, so it's difficult to directly observe them. Instead, Hornocker and his team observe them indirectly by attaching collars carrying small radio transmitters to the tigers' necks. The transmitters send identifying signals, allowing the researchers to follow the tigers' movements. In order to attach the collar, the researchers have to first capture the tiger.

I asked Hornocker how that's done.

MAURICE HORNOCKER, "TIGERS IN THE SNOW": Well, with the system that was developed here in the Pacific Northwest for the capture of bears on timber reservations, where bears were damaging young trees. It's a cable system, a snare cable system, it's a padded cable that we attach to a drag or to a tree. It doesn't snap close with -- tight with force, but the animal steps within this loop and the loop is sprung by a light spring that just tightens the loop around the ankle of the animal.

We developed it for cats, the first-ever species of cat that this system was used on, on mountain lions in New Mexico. In most of the Western U.S., to capture lions you must use trained dogs. But in the area where we were working in southern New Mexico, there were no trees, and it was difficult to use dogs there.

So we experimented and evolved the use of this snare system, which worked very, very effectively on mountain lions. It worked really quite effectively on Siberian tigers as well.

GROSS: And once you capture the tiger, do you have to temporarily knock the tiger out so that you can approach it and put on the radio collar?

HORNOCKER: That's correct. And again -- and this is well-developed technology over the last three to four decades of tranquilization with different tranquilizing drugs. And they're fired in propulsion syringes that, on impact, inject the drug agent into the tiger.

So we approach them, fire these compressed-air rifles with the darts in them at the animal. It tranquilizes them. And then we have hour, hour and a half to perform all of the different tasks that we do with each of these animals. Besides attaching the collar, we measure them, we weigh them, we check the condition overall, physical condition, we take blood samples, we take tissue samples for genetic analysis at a later time.

Quite a number of photographs of each individual tiger. And each tiger, above each eye has an individual fingerprint, you might say. No two of these are alike. So individual tigers can be identified by those marks above their eyes.

GROSS: So if you have a few minutes left over, you know, while the tiger's still tranquilized and you've done the work you needed to do, do you just sit around petting the tiger? I mean, this is your only chance, probably, to actually pet the tiger.

HORNOCKER: Oh, yes, we have affection for some of these, a great affection for some of these animals. One we named Olga, the first tiger we ever captured, in February of '92, eight years ago this month. She's worn a radio collar since that time. We've replaced her collar three different times. She's raised three litters of cubs. We think she has another litter now.

So we become quite familiar with these animals. They become old friends, and even though we're observing them indirectly.

GROSS: I know several of the tigers that you've been monitoring have been killed by poachers. What's in it for the poachers to kill the tigers? What do they get out of it?

HORNOCKER: Well, they get a lot of money. It's a serious problem throughout Asia. The ancient Oriental medicine of -- dictates that tiger parts are good for you, and so there is monetary reward for those who are swilling to take the risk. It's illegal to kill a tiger, and we've tightened up a lot on the poaching. It isn't nearly the threat that it was a few years back.

But it still happens. It will be like in Idaho or the Western U.S., offering a cowboy $10,000 for a bald eagle. Some would be willing to take the risk for that amount of money, and sadly, this is true in Russia as well.

GROSS: Is it very upsetting for you when a tiger who you've come to know is murdered?

HORNOCKER: Oh, yes. It's like the loss of an old friend.

GROSS: My guest is Maurice Hornocker, and he's the co-director of the Siberian Tiger Project and director of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho. He collaborated with Peter Matthiessen on the new book "Tigers in the Snow."

This new book has several photographs that you've taken over the years of tigers. And I just particularly like one of them. This is a photo that reminds me of how a pet cat looks when it's on its hind legs with its front paws on the scratching post. But this is a huge tiger on its hind legs, and its front paws are on a tree, you know, the bark of a tree. And this led me to wonder, are there any personality or -- any personality similarities you've found between tigers and pet cats?

HORNOCKER: Oh, a great many. Domestic cats, house cats, and Siberian tigers have so many traits in common, cats.

GROSS: Like what?

HORNOCKER: Truly are cats. The play, scratching the trees, scent marking, burying their feces, a great many different behaviors are so alike, and you see in your pet house cat. It goes way back to when I first became so interested in the cats. I could see in my daughter's pet house cat so many of those behaviors that we learned were common in all the species of wild cats that I've worked with.

GROSS: How do the big cats -- how do the tigers behave around people?

HORNOCKER: Tigers are shy. Siberian tigers are shy and avoid contact with people. There are incidents of physical contact, of tigers attacking people. There have even been fatalities. But this is a rare occurrence. And for the most part, just like our North American mountain lion, most individuals avoid people, stay out of contact.

This isn't the case in some of the other Asian countries where tigers are much more aggressive toward people. The -- but the Siberian is shy and tries to stay, for the most part, away from humans and human development.

GROSS: Now, I believe you've raised a couple of the tiger cubs after the mother was killed by poachers. What did you learn about raising the cubs, about nature versus nurture?

HORNOCKER: The cubs were -- we really didn't raise the cubs. They were raised by Professor Hugen (ph), a professor in the Soviet Academy of Sciences who'd studied the behavior of wolves and other -- leopards, other carnivores. When we first arrived in -- Al Quigley (ph) and I first arrived in Siberia 10 years ago, we met Professor Hugen, and he told us he had these cubs. The mother had been shot in a remote village, orphaning the cubs. He had obtained them and had them there in Vladivostok at the time. And he told us of his plans for building a large enclosure at a remote village some 200 kilometers from Vladivostok, and doing behavioral work with them.

So we collaborated with Dr. Hugen, and over the years, at his enclosure, devised some different experiments to determine what was innate behavior and what was learned behavior. And it helped us -- you have to be careful with these kinds of experiments. You can't replicate them many times, so scientifically you have to be a bit careful. But it did help us understand some of the behaviors of wild tigers, those living in the wild.

An example, none of our Russian colleagues felt that tigers could climb trees. We, for no real reason, didn't think tigers could climb trees either. We devised some experiments there to see. We attached pieces of wild boar hide in small oak trees with some fishing line attached to them, and to get the lion's attention -- or the tiger's attention, we would move these.

This huge tiger, 500-pound male tiger, just went up that tree like a squirrel. The Russians were amazed. And of course we got this on film. So that's an example of what one can do with lions in a natural environment, natural as far as the vegetation's concerned and all that, with some experiments to determine what is nature and what is nurture.

GROSS: My guest is Maurice Hornocker, co-founder of the Siberian Tiger Project. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Maurice Hornocker. He's the co-director of the Siberian Tiger Project and director of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho. He's collaborated with Peter Matthiessen on the new book "Tigers in the Snow."

We've all heard a lot about how the collapse of communism has affected the people of the former Soviet Union. How has it affected the tigers?

HORNOCKER: It had a devastating effect at first. Ironically, under the communist government, tiger numbers grew robustly in far eastern Russia. And the Sekodialin (ph) Reserve was the centerpiece of that population growth.

After the borders opened, after the communist government fell, poaching was rampant throughout the range. We were there at the time. We were working through the government changeover and all. And poaching on the prey species of tigers, wild boar and elk, was also quite prevalent.

But with international support from a number of other organizations, as well as our own foundation, has brought a lot of that under control. It's still a problem, but it's not nearly such a severe problem as it was immediately following the government -- the communist collapse.

GROSS: Are the Siberian tigers close to extinction?

HORNOCKER: Well, they're too close for comfort. Our last census, region-wide census two winters ago, confirmed 450 in the wild, and that includes young. That isn't very many. It's many more than a few years earlier, and we have cause to believe that that number is increasing.

With our information from our research, we've developed a conservation plan. Dr. Dale McHale (ph), our supervisor in Russia, has developed this plan and submitted it to the supreme Russian authority in Moscow, and they've adopted it as part of the Russian plan for conservation of the tiger. It involves saving the environment as well as the tiger.

In any conservation plan, we have to consider the political, the economic, the cultural situation as well with people. And some international programs have failed because they simply didn't do that. Well, here we've tried to cooperate with the Russians from day one. We've hired their scientists, we've hired their students, we have Russian technicians. We've made it truly a Russian-American project.

And so we speak with a unified voice to the government in Moscow, which has the ultimate authority. So we feel that these -- this plan to conserve the environment is based on sound science, is the best in the long run for saving the tiger from extinction and increasing those numbers. We'd like to see many more than the 450, of course.

GROSS: I guess you can't save the tiger if the trees are cut down and there's an open landscape around them. You have to save the environment to save the tigers.

HORNOCKER: That's correct. And it doesn't mean not cutting any trees, it doesn't mean not mining any resources, mineral resources. It means doing it the right way. It's the same as management of lands here in the Western United States. If it's done the right way, it can benefit tigers.

Timber harvest is an example, because if we harvest the timber in the proper way, we can even enhance the forest because of the new plant species that come in, enhance the forest for elk and wild boar, two major food sources for tigers, which in turn enhances the tigers' environment.

So we don't say, Hands off completely, we say, Let's do it the right way.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us about your work.

HORNOCKER: Well, thank you, Miss Gross, I appreciate it.

GROSS: Maurice Hornocker is the co-founder of the Siberian Tiger Project and director of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho. He wrote the introduction and took the photographs for Peter Matthiessen's new book, "Tigers in the Snow."

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today was Joan Toohey Wesman. Our interviews and reviews are produced by Monique Nazareth, Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, and Naomi Person, with Ann Marie Baldonado and Patty Leswing. Research assistance from Brendan Noonam (ph).

I'm Terry Gross.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Maurice Hornocker
High: Maurice Hornocker is a co-founder of the Siberian Tiger Project and an authority on the great cats. His photographs of Tigers are featured in "Tigers In the Snow" by Peter Matthiessen about the tigers of Siberia. The Siberian Tiger Project was founded to study and protect these tigers who are threatened with extinction because of poaching and loss of habitat. Hornocker is also director of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute at the University of Idaho.
Spec: Animals; Russia; Government; Environment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Maurice Hornocker Discusses His Efforts to Save the Siberian Tiger
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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