AR-News: (US-NV) Exotic cats phased out of Reno magicians' act
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Wed Oct 15 22:31:03 EDT 2003
Las Vegas SUN
Today: October 15, 2003 at 8:59:53 PDT
Exotic cats phased out of Reno magicians' actASSOCIATED PRESS
RENO, Nev. (AP) - A pair of Reno magicians say the tiger attack on Roy Horn of "Siegfried and Roy" reaffirmed their decision a few years ago to phase out the use of exotic cats in their act.
Mark and Jinger Kalin said they have abandoned any thoughts of bringing the big cats back.
"We had a good long run," Mark Kalin said of his 22 years working with big cats.
"If there was any doubt in our minds, that incident with Roy pretty much closed the door with us. It made us decide that we were doing the right thing," he said.
A 600-pound Royal White tiger nearly killed Horn during an Oct. 3 performance at the Mirage Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas.
Kalin, 43, said they decided to eliminate the exotic cats from their act for several reasons, including his safety and the safety of his staff.
"With the animals there are all kinds of risks, not just me, but everyone," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
"Yes, the animals are a plus in our business, but at what risk?"
Kalin said he was comfortable working with the animals that were kept at arms length, but he never forgot that he was working with wild animals.
"Theres always potential for that animal to act out their natural instinct," Kalin said. "You cant tame them. You can train them. But they have the instinct to hunt."
The attack on Horn was a wake-up call, he said. When it can happen to the "paramount kings" in the business, it means it can happen to anybody, he said.
"I think that this event with Roy will have a definite impact," he said. "It is causing a lot of questions in a lot of peoples minds about the safety."
Kalin believes the Horn attack will mean changes in the business.
The couple was supposed to use their 19-year-old Siberian tiger, Sonya, in a show in San Luis Obispo, Calif., last weekend but decided not to, saying it was not appropriate because of the Horn accident.
"We have used this opportunity to close that book on our lives," Kalin said.
In the mid-1980s, Kalin owned six cats three tigers, a spotted jaguar, a black leopard and a spotted leopard. He retired four in the 1990s and still owns the Siberian tiger.
The couple performed with the black leopard and Siberian tiger for two years at the Flamingo Reno and two years at the Reno Hilton. The show, called Carnival of Wonders and Illusionarium, ended Dec. 30, 2002.
The decision to phase the cats out of the magic illusion act means taking a financial risk because advertisers, promoters and the public want animals, Kalin said.
"Siegfried & Roy" debuted in 1990 at the Mirage and earned the hotel-casino about $44 million in annual revenue.
"I still dont agree with it no matter how much money it brings in," said Aaron Hiibel, co-founder of the Animal Ark in Stead with his wife, Diana.
Seeing exotic animals perform acts on a stage "gives people a false impression of what these cats are," he said.
"People in the audience see them doing things and they think they can raise them, too," he said.
Many of those animals end up in wildlife sanctuaries such as the Animal Ark, which has reached capacity with three tigers, Diana Hiibel said.
Vernon Weir, director of the American Sanctuary Association, said he expected the Department of Agriculture to review regulations ensuring the safety of the audience but not for the animal handlers.
"I think that the attitude theyve taken is that if the trainers and handlers want to risk danger to themselves, then that is a personal decision they are making," said Weir, who lives in Las Vegas.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal
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