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Day in the Work Life: The lion king

Marketplace Staff Feb 16, 2007

The latest and greatest in toys debuted this week at the International Toy Fair in New York City. This year’s crop features lots of online video games. Even in this digital era though, some real live stuff still captures a kid’s imagination better than anything in cyberspace – like say a whole bunch of big freaking jungle cats. On this week’s a day in the work life, we head to the big top to catch a lion tamer at work.

All right. Now here comes a beautiful little female tiger, Hera. Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, this is my family. My name is Clayton Rosaire and I am a ninth generation animal trainer and circus performer.

With the big cats, there’s a lot to do with like an adrenalin rush almost, you know, because no matter what you do, anytime you step in a cage with one of those animals, you’re at risk. You know, you have to remember what they are. My mom always taught me never to turn your back. You always have to have eyes in the back of your head.

I, as you can see, I have a nice hole right through my arm here on my forearm. And that actually was from a – one of my worst experiences in a performance. I kiss all of my animals on the lips and I hug them and I do things like that. Well with my first lion that steps into the ring, he was doing an attack scene, which is just he turns around and swings his arm at me and goes rah, rah, rah and growls at me. Well because I was being silly and thinking about hugging and kissing, instead of doing the attack scene with him I went to put my arm around him to give him a hug. And when I did, of course, he put it right in his mouth and bit me right through my arm. And it happened so fast that not one person in the entire tent saw what happened. I finished the entire act, went to the hospital as soon as I left the back of the tent, and I had a hole all the way through my entire arm.

Well, to get healthcare in this industry is just outrageous. It’s extremely difficult. You know as soon as somebody asks you what do you do I just say performer because as soon as you say tiger or lion, they giggle on the phone right to you, you know. We definitely have insurance. It’s very hard to get, but my mother, myself, everybody that works around the animals, we get it and it’s basically the same thing round about like everybody else. You know you have all the same things involved but with us it’s just the terms are a little different.

A good year for us, maybe a movie deal falls in there or a couple of photo shoots, something like – I would say, you know, about $200,000 to $225,000 but you have to remember the expense that goes along with these animals. That’s not profit. These animals eat between 5 and 25 pounds of raw meat a day, per animal. For just eight animals, to feed them, the veterinary bills and the upkeep for one year was a little bit over $75,000. Now we have 33 big cats. So on a great year for me, it’s about $25,000, $30,000 – really what I take in.

To do this you have to love animals. If you don’t love animals, this is not the life for you because this is a life with every day you spend with your animals. You don’t just leave and travel and go on vacation and ask your neighbor, hey could you come over and watch these 2,000 pounds of cats I’ve got over here, that just doesn’t happen. It’s not a dog you take down to the groomers and leave for the weekend.

Nice kitty. A day in the work life was reported by Judith Ritter.

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