Sandys Rotary has pledged to work with the Bermuda SPCA to ensure the wellbeing of a tiger being brought to the Island as part of a charity fundraiser.

In February, the Sandys Rotary Club will host “The Magic of Rick Thomas,” a magic show featuring a white tiger.

The announcement of the show however caused controversy, as the Bermuda Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) expressed concern over the tiger’s safety.

They questioned if veterinary care would be available for the tiger on the Island, saying welfare issues could come not only from the performance, but training, stress and travel.

A representative of the Captive Animal’s Protection Society, a UK-based charity, echoed the SPCA’s concerns, saying: “The life of a performing animal is well documented to be a sad and isolated one far from their native habitat and their normal social groupings.

“We would like to publicly request that the Rotary Club cancel the proposed act or, at the very least, to commit to refrain from using animals in this way in future events.”

In the last week, The Royal Gazette received messages both against and in support of the event.

A Warwick resident wrote: “I’m of the belief that if any animal is not out right being ill treated, and is handled with care and his needs are provided for, then what really is the problem here?”

Another message, sent by M.C. Pereira, said: “I thought mankind had evolved beyond the age of trying to domesticate wild animals and forcing them to endure lives they were not put on this earth to endure.”

In response to the concerns, Sandys Rotary has pledged to work with the SPCA to ensure the tiger would not be treated cruelly or inhumanely. “Representatives from Sandys Rotary met with SPCA officials to inform the SPCA of their due diligence with respect to the tiger, and provide details regarding the care and handling of the animal while in transit and on island,” a Rotary spokeswoman said.

“Sandys Rotary has agreed to have the SPCA inspector inspect the accommodations for the tiger prior to his arrival. Sandys Rotary Club recognises and understands the SPCA’s position, and their concern about the welfare of this tiger and all animals.”

According to Sandys Rotary, funds raised by the event will be distributed amongst local charities and to the PolioPlus campaign to end polio.

“The purpose of this event is solely for charitable purposes,” the spokeswoman said. “Sandys Rotary has taken on the task of raising funds during these challenging times as it believes that charities will need the most help next year when economic conditions are likely to worsen.”

SPCA Director Kim Sherlaw said even if the public chooses not to attend the event, they should still support Sandys Rotary’s fundraising efforts. “Even if you don’t support Rick Thomas Magic Show and choose not to attend, I would encourage people to give charitably to Sandys Rotary being appreciative of their worthy fundraising efforts to help local charities and to support PolioPlus.”

l The Rick Thomas Magic Show will run between February 25 and March 5, 2011 at the Southampton Fairmont Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre.

By Owain Johnston-Barnes The Royal Gazette