Op-Ed: Tourist defends putting bison in SUV after social media shaming

Posted Jun 3, 2016 by Karen Graham
Two Canadian tourists who were shamed on social media for putting a bison calf in their SUV while on a visit to Yellowstone National Park last month because they thought it needed their help have finally spoken out.
File photo: Bison near a hot spring in Yellowstone.
File photo: Bison near a hot spring in Yellowstone.
Daniel Mayer
The bison calf had to be euthanized by park officials after Shamash Kassam of Quebec, Canada, and his son, Shakeel Kassam, handled the animal on May 9 reports CTV News Canada.
Shamash Kassam was fined $235 and ordered to pay $500 to the Yellowstone Park Foundation Wildlife Protection Fund on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to intentionally disturbing wildlife. The son, Shakeel Kassam, was interviewed on ABC News’ “Good Morning America" on Friday, according to the Huffington Post, and said he was “shocked“ at the national outrage he and his father encountered over the incident.
“It was the way it was presented,” Shakeel’s father, Shamash Kassam, said. “It was like we didn’t know what we were doing. We picked up the bison because it was shivering. That was not the reason why. We picked up the bison because it was abandoned by the herd.”
The father and son say they came upon the calf "soaking wet and huddling next to a car in the parking lot." They drove away but decided to go back and help the animal. The calf was apparently a newborn because it still had its umbilical cord attached.
The Kassam's say in the belief they were helping the calf, they put it in the back of their SUV. "We didn't have the heart to kind of just leave it there and let it suffer, you know, as the darkness descended," Mr. Kassam said, adding, "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. We had no idea it was going to turn out so bad like that."
Shamash Kassam is shocked at the media coverage and social media outrage directed at them, especially the accusations that they were kidnapping the animal or picked it up because they thought it was cold. He insists the animal was abandoned, and he thought the park had a place they kept abandoned wildlife until they could be reunited with their herd members like they do in his native Tanzania.
"It's the way they are in Yellowstone Park. They don't want to interfere with nature," he said. This writer checked on the Tanzania National Parks website, and interestingly enough, they also do not allow tourists to touch or come near the animals under their care.
Do not interfere with wildlife in nature
While not singling out anyone, tourist or anyone else, our National Parks have regulations that not only protect the environment and all the life that lives within its boundaries, but also protects the visitors to that environment.
Remember not long ago when some Canadian tourists decided to go off the path into Yellowstone National Park’s iconic Grand Prismatic Spring. There, they stomped around and took selfies. The three men are now facing federal charges. What they did was idiotic, and they apologized for their actions.
But the fact that they did what they did, as well as the Kassams' error in judgment, and all the other stupid things people do in our national parks, is a reflection of a disregard for rules, which by the way, are posted in clear view. So maybe if the park service starts being more aggressive in prosecuting people for destroying or tampering with our wild places, we would be better off.