On New Year’s Eve we were lucky enough to ring in the New Year with quite the crowd: Lions, tigers, and bears. I had no, and I mean, zero, idea that there was a huge cat sanctuary a mere 20 minutes from my house until my friend Star told us all about it. The name of the sanctuary is, appropriately enough, Lions Tigers and Bears. The biology major/ wildlife lover in me knew we had to make a visit, and stat.
There are more exotic cats living in captivity than there are in the wild- estimates put the number in the US at 10,000. Raise your hand if you know of a private owner with a tiger who’s doing a good job of it. Anyone? Bueller? Thought so.
When these animals are neglected, abandoned, and confiscated from the fools who purchased them on a lark, they end up in sanctuaries like these.
This is one of the three lions giving my son the “Come closer, boy…cloooooser…….” look. When he realized we weren’t falling for it, he turned around and sprayed us. I thought my cat smelled bad when he did that- try a lion who can get a 4 foot trajectory….Holy cow. I’ve never seen my 4 year old run so fast in his whole life. I realized this is exactly what I need for those door to door solicitors- a barrel of cat urine that sprays on command.
In order to be approved by the USDA, there are very strict limits on how many of each kind of animal you can have, and how you take care of them. As you can see, the enclosures are double fenced: visitors on the outside, and workers can go up to the inner fence to poke pieces of chicken through on long barbecue forks.
The closest enclosure is covered on top, due to the resident leopard reputation as a fierce climber. The fence further away is the large play area where the lions and the tigers spend part of the day.
LTB has 4 resident tigers, each with a distinct personality.
They definitely look forward to the ladies with the barbecue forks. That always portends something good.
My favorite of the tigers was the momma tiger, Natasha, who was unable to eat without making a delightful loud “NOMNOMNOMNOM” growl while chewing. She does it every time she eats. That is how I am with brownies. We are kindred spirits.
Conga is a beautiful leopard who was abandoned at the teensy age of 5 weeks. She has mastered the art of simultaneously crawling up chain link while grabbing treats to gnaw down.
It would be too long to type “Lions and Tigers and Servals and Bobcats and Chickens and Horses and Goats and Tomcats and Alpacas and Peacocks and Macaws and Bears” but I saw all of them at the sanctuary. I loved the macaw, you could tell he was a total character:
“Slowly I turn, step by step…”
“And then the pirate leapt to the starboard bow…”
“And I fended the scalliwag off with me talons!”
Tom the cat wins the award for most fearless feline of them all. Seriously, he strolled along the cages like a lilliputian king, ignoring the hungry rumbles and hoping for a wayward chicken bone to fly his way.
I love Bakari because he lies the exact same way Brody does. He’s obviously very comfortable in his surroundings. It’s good to be king.
I can’t wait to go back! I want to learn more about these guys and maybe if I’m really nice I can get to hold the barbecue fork.