The Conservation Game: Carole Baskin Releases Film Online

A tiger in The Conservation Game. Courtesy of NightFly Entertainment.

In a surprising turn of events, Carole Baskin has released The Conservation Game on YouTube through the Big Cat Rescue channel.

Howard and Carole Baskin (of Netflix’s Tiger King fame) surprised fans today by teaming up with director Michael Webber to release his highly-anticipated documentary, The Conservation Game, on YouTube for free to U.S. audiences. The film will only be available online for a limited time on their Big Cat Rescue YouTube channel. It’s a bold move by the film’s director and comes on the heels of receiving high marks from film critics and landing a raft of global sales.

According to Webber, “There’s been a seismic shift in the animal entertainment industry as a result of the film’s limited release. This has inspired me to make the film accessible to the entire country, free of charge, with a partner that has tremendous influence and a massive public following.”

Carole Baskin has been discussing the much-talked-about film for a number of months now. The film chronicles a three-year investigation into the trafficking of endangered species used on popular late-night and morning talk shows. The film alleges that Jack Hanna and other high-profile conservationists have been duping the public for years, presenting so-called “ambassador cats” on television to adoring fans, only to later discard them into the exotic animal trade. As for Carole, she’s eager for the truth to finally be known to the public. “For the first time, these self-proclaimed conservationists will be exposed for who they really are. By using my platform to bring The Conservation Game to the American public, we have the potential to create much-needed change that could save thousands of innocent cubs from a life of exploitation,” said Baskin.

The film’s main focus is on a retired cop, Tim Harrison. Following a discovery at an exotic animal action, Harrison decides to dig deeper into the big cat trade. The film also features expert animal protection attorney Carney Anne Nasser. Members of the film’s investigative team include Keith Gad, Rus Muntz, and Jeff Kremer. Both Howard and Carole Baskin have several appearances throughout the film as they work with Tim Harrison.

The film is already doing to the zoo world what Blackfish did for Sea World nearly a decade ago. If you ever watched Johnny Carson, David Letterman, James Corden, Maury Povich, Good Morning America or other programs, you’re probably familiar with Jack Hanna. Jack Hanna, as noted below, is stepping away from public life. Meanwhile, the Columbus Zoo is no longer accredited by the AZA. To say that documentaries do not have consequences for their subjects is not an understatement.

After its award-winning premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Social Justice Award), the film sent shock waves through the zoo world and the animal entertainment industry. Following the film’s premiere, Jack Hanna’s family announced on Twitter that Hanna was stepping away from public life, citing an unexpected acceleration of dementia. The timing of the announcement raised eyebrows, including open cynicism by movie reviewers. Months later, the world-famous Columbus Zoo, which Hanna led as its Director for decades, lost its prestigious accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). AZA president, Dan Ashe, explained that issues revealed in the film “weighed heavily in the decision to pull Columbus’ accreditation.”

In a statement posted online, director Michael Webber explains, “As soon as the film began screening, the decades-long practice of dragging endangered cubs onto television shows and deceiving the public into believing they were part of a conservation program appears to have suddenly ceased. By making this film accessible to everyone in America for free, I hope to ensure that this new trend becomes a permanent policy.”

The film also follows a high-stakes battle in the halls of Congress, over a federal bill that would end cub petting and phase out owning big cats as “pets.” Referred to as “The Big Cat Public Safety Act,” the proposed bill is currently making its way through Congress in hopes of a vote by lawmakers this summer. Howard and Carole Baskin’s work on Capitol Hill is featured in the film and is a driving force behind the movie’s free online initiative. According to Carole, “The public needs to be informed of the deception associated with cub petting and the real threat that exists to first responders and the public when, after a few months of exploitation as cubs, these dangerous apex predators can end up in backyards. Anyone who watches The Conservation Game will immediately recognize the need for common-sense legislation.”

Carole says that dangerous big cat encounters in the United States are not as rare as you might think. Just last year, a tiger was caught on tape, roaming the suburbs in Houston, Texas. Not long after, an 80-pound“pet” cougar was removed from an apartment in the Bronx, New York. Prior to that, a full-grown tiger was shot and killed after being seen prowling the backyards of a densely populated Atlanta suburb. In 2018, law enforcement officers stumbled upon a white tiger cub being kept in a home in New Orleans.

The film will be available—without a paywall—for a limited time on Big Cat Rescue’s YouTube channel and geoblocked to US viewers only. “I spent nearly four years making this film in an effort to reveal the truth to the American public in hopes of driving much-needed change,” said Webber. “Democratizing this film now is my boldest move yet in an attempt to effectuate that change.”

Watch The Conservation Game below:

The Conservation Game is now streaming on YouTube for a limited time.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.