If you are an avid viewer of Netflix, you have probably heard of Carole Baskin–the Founder & CEO of Big Cat Rescue (BCR). Carole has courageously taken a stand against an entire big cat industry that profits from their abuse and harm. Carole's rise to international fame began after appearing on Netflix's popular 2020 miniseries "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness." Carole played the rival and foil of Joe Exotic–the main character; and she opposed and brought public outcry for the manner in which Joe treated his animals (at his formerly owned G.W. Zoo) in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Their years-long battle culminated in the felony conviction and 22-year sentence of Joe for trying to arrange a murder for hire to assassinate Carole and for the killing and mistreatment of his animals. Carole was later awarded control over Joe's G.W. Zoo and property to satisfy a trademark dispute and legal settlement. More recently, Carole sold this property with the stipulation that it not be used as a zoo for 100 years.
But viewers of the show only saw what the Tiger King producers wanted them to see. They missed the thoughtful, empathetic, and caring Carole; who is also a very intelligent and forward-thinking person. And with her millions of followers spread out over social media, Carole's Big Cat Rescue is now becoming well known for their own original cryptocurrency called $CAT, as well as NFTs, minted on OpenSea, Foundation.app, and now the Proton Blockchain.
Dan: Hello, welcome, and thank you for taking time out to be here and for sharing your passion with us for big cat conservation and crypto.
Carole: Thanks for the "op-purr-tunity" to talk about what is important [big cats and crypto]. Too many people just want to rehash the Netflix series. But it totally missed the point that we will lose the tiger in the wild in the next five years if we don’t end the practice of keeping them captive. I just can’t imagine a world without tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and other exotic cats, can you?
Dan: No! That would be terrible! Before we get to talking about crypto: in preparation for this interview, I learned some shocking facts about private and commercial ownership of big cats. There are more big cats in the U.S. privately-owned than there are in the wild. Only five U.S.A. states (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Louisiana) have a total ban on possession; and four states (Nevada Wisconsin, Alabama, and North Carolina) have no laws to prevent owning big cats. The rest of the states require a permit for individuals and commercial exotic cat exhibitors. Your activism and the work for your non-profit Big Cat Rescue have helped give rise to legislation called the Big Cat Public Safety Act that would end cub handling and phase out future private ownership of big cats. Do you think this legislation goes far enough to protect these animals from harmful abuse?
Carole: By prohibiting cub handling [through this Act], it turns off the faucet of discarded cats [getting] into private hands. The bill [also] lets current owners keep the cats they have [if they] register them so law enforcement knows where they are. [The Act also] prohibits private owners from buying, breeding, or acquiring more [big cats]. Most private owners don’t keep their big cats past the age of maturity, which is around 18 months to five years. So the problem will die out in a short period of time as those cats are transferred to legitimate sanctuaries that do not buy, breed, sell or allow public contact. Cub petting accounts for more than 95% of the big cat cubs who are bred; ripped from their mothers at birth; passed around as pay to play props; then killed, discarded, or just disappear when the exotic cats get to be about 12-16 weeks old. That’s [the age] when they can take a finger off a child and become a liability instead of a moneymaker. In time, the sanctuaries, like mine [BCR], won’t be needed and we can redirect our efforts to saving big cats, in the wild, where they belong in the first place.
Dan: Way back in 2018, you bought your first NFTs called CryptoKitties. You've also minted NFTs on OpenSea and Foundation.app on Ethereum blockchain. However more recently, you minted your Big Cat Rescue NFTs on the Proton Blockchain. What are some of the reasons why you decided to create your latest NFT series on the Proton chain, and what advantages do you think Proton has over Ethereum?
Carole: Some things, like banking, may need the security of the extensive mainnet systems. Proton’s blockchain offers a distinct advantage by not having the associated gas fees required for the mainnet. [Note: Metallicus–the parent company of the Proton Foundation–has proposed using Proton Blockchain for a bank called First Blockchain Bank & Trust].
Dan: Do you plan to release more NFTs on Proton Blockchain?
Carole: Yes! Fluctuations in ETH activity make it hard to plan a release, because there is no profit to be made [on Ethereum] for the cats when fees are high. Proton Market has proven to be a financially viable alternative to these more expensive NFT markets that require such huge gas fees for minting, listing, and selling NFTs.
Dan: Big Cat Rescue has its token $CAT (you created) on Rally.io. What are some of the ways you have used this token, and have you considered creating a $CAT token on the Proton chain? It could be wrapped as an xtoken called XCAT. This way users of $CAT can take advantage of zero fees and the faster transaction speed on Proton Blockchain.
Carole: It sounds like wrapping $CAT for Proton Blockchain may be worth considering for the future. I’m currently using $CAT (and yes, I know that reads like scat; which is something some people say to feral cats and another name for cat poo,) as a way to reward fans for making the "Call of the Wild" (a call to Congress in support of BigCatAct.com) and sharing our message that big cats don’t belong in cages. Over time, I can see [$CAT] or something like it becoming the subscription token for the live camera feeds.
Dan: The Covid lockdowns of 2020 caused many people to have to reorder their lives. None were more affected than the millions of small business owners who no longer had employees coming to work or else were forced to shut down, and thereby they suffered huge losses of revenue. Besides raising funds for BCR with sales of NFTs and your $CAT cryptocurrency, what are some other adjustments you have had to make to recoup your financial losses at BCR due to Covid?
Carole: I’ve done a number of things to augment our income so that we can keep battling to end the abuse of big cats through better laws. Those things include the fees paid to me for Dancing With The Stars; some licensing deals for bobbleheads and YouTooz (collectables); animal-print face masks [BCR Shopify] and my appearances in cameos and memmo’s (celebrity video messages) I do for a fee. We have cut back everything that isn’t mission-critical, to make sure that if these variants keep turning our world upside down, the cats are safe for the rest of their lives.
Dan: Big Cat Rescue is still not open to the public and so still missing the revenue public tours previously brought in. Yet on your website, you've come up with a novel new model of using 360º virtual worlds to bring attention to the plight of these amazing creatures and to educate the public to the conservancy of them. What made you think of using these videos and VR (virtual reality) to allow the public to view and interact with big cats, and how do you see blockchain technology advancing your conservancy goals?
Carole: Imagine a network of linked cameras around the world, (much like Explore.org’s webcams), where the [big cat] stream is monetized. The viewers with headsets, or smartphones, can subscribe to the feeds through an NFT and the blockchain automatically distributes the funds to local people who live in regions populated by wild cats. This [can] make everyone in the community a game warden to ensure the safety of the animals and integrity of the ecosystem; [especialy] because their livelihood is directly linked to their success. For people who can’t afford a headset or subscription fees, their local zoos can transform from pitiful [animal] prisons to location-based experiences that are educational, thus providing the conservation goals zoos claim to care about.
Since 2010, we have had live streaming cameras on our cats. As that tech improved, we’ve added more cameras with a goal of having around 50 cameras on our 50+ cats. Iconic Engine says they already have 360 degree, Internet streaming cameras available, so we are very close to being able to organize these feeds. Also after rehabbing bobcats, [we] re-release the wild-born bobcats back to the wild, [&] often set up trail cams. All of these experiences have led us to the fact that people LOVE to watch wild cats doing what they do when they think no one is watching. We’ve all seen camera trap footage in the form of black and white photos and videos. But now, that’s available in color and in real-time via [free] internet streaming on our website.
Dan: Thank you again for this interview. You are truly a hero to so many people, and I think you are also a hero to the magnificent creatures you have saved from untold suffering. In closing, do you have anything you would like to add for our readers?
Carole: I don’t need to be the person who brings this vision into reality. I hope someone really smart adopts this idea [VR and Blockchain for big cat consevancy] as their own and makes themselves rich while saving the planet.
(Amazon will donate .5% of every dollar you spend to Big Cat Rescue AT NO COST TO YOU! Simply go to BigCatRescue.org/smile and choose Big Cat Rescue as your charity). [Be sure to follow Carole and her Big Cats on Twtter: @carole_baskin @BigCatRescue