The tourists who put a bison calf in their vehicle last month at Yellowstone National Park are trying to explain their actions after facing public backlash when the animal was later ostracized from its herd and had to be euthanized.
"We didn't have the heart to, kind of, just leave it there and let it suffer, you know, as the darkness descended," Shakeel Kassam told Linsey Davis of "Good Morning America."
His dad, Shamash Kassam, who lives in Brossard, Quebec, has pleaded guilty to wildlife disturbance, been fined a total of $235, ordered to donate $500 to the park’s wildlife protection fund, and instructed to refrain from picking up any other bison as part of his probation, the Toronto Star reported.
The newborn bison, which was euthanized last month after attempts to reunite it with the herd failed, was shivering and still had its umbilical cord attached when it approached the father and son, presumably seeking warmth from the vehicle's engine.
"I thought it was going to be a happy ending and the calf was going to be integrated with another herd and everything was going to be fine," Shakeel Kassam told "Good Morning America" of the May 9 encounter. "We had no idea it was going to turn out so bad like that."
Shamash Kassam said he expected the park to have a place to care for abandoned animals, explaining that he used to live near a game reserve in Tanzania, where rangers would look after baby animals whose mothers were killed by poachers.
But now he knows the rules are different in Yellowstone.
"In Yellowstone Park, we would just leave it," he told "Good Morning America." "It's the way they are in Yellowstone Park. They don't want to interfere with nature."
Kassam told a park ranger that he waited 20 minutes for an adult bison to come for the baby before finally putting the calf in his vehicle, the Casper Star Tribune reported
The National Park Service said its mission does not include rescuing animals,
"Our goal is to maintain the ecological processes of Yellowstone,” the NPS said in a statement, according to the Star Tribune. “Even though humans were involved in this case, it is not uncommon for bison, especially young mothers, to lose or abandon their calves. Those animals typically die of starvation or predation."
Visitors are urged to stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other wildlife.
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