Up close and personal, baby! One of our recent adventures was at the Wildlife Survival Sanctuary in Springhill, Florida. What a fabulous place! This is not your Disney, perfect, a bit manufactured, experience with lions and tigers and bears, oh my! No, this was a walk on the slightly wild side, while these beautiful creatures were eating their dinner one balmy Florida evening.
The Wildlife Survival Sanctuary is a legal, non-profit specializing in big cats that need rescuing from abuse, displacement, or just no longer wanted in the throwaway society we now live in. They allowed us onto their 10 acres by appointment only, and charged no exorbitant fee just asked for a donation for a highly educational, informative tour that lasted almost 2 hours.
Before we headed south, we checked out their website www.WildlifeSurvival.com and took them some bleach, some vinyl gloves, a Home Depot gift card and other things they said they'd like as donations. They rely totally on public support and giving us a tour is a way for them to earn the money it takes to keep these majestic creatures alive and comfortable. Two very competent volunteers, dressed like they'd been working hard all day, took us around on foot while they handed out huge bowls of raw chicken, eggs and vitamins to their charges.
Make no mistake, this is hard work, and it shows. The volunteers obviously love what they do, and the animals look content. Their enclosures are made of cage material, but they are very, very large and these cats have a lot of room to roam around, and lots of toys to stave off boredom. We all got close up and personal, but no-one, including the volunteers, ever, ever get inside the enclosure with the animal. These are WILD animals and they earn a healthy respect.
What was fascinating to me? The story behind each animal. They told us about a baby leopard that slept with it's owner, a wealthy woman in South Florida, until she no longer wanted him. We met a 600 lb tiger that had been kept inside a home, yes inside a regular home, until he got too big for that standard home and had to be sent away. We met a huge, black, pot-bellied pig that was sold in a pet store as a teacup (read "cute") piglet. Obviously, someone lied because the piglet grew and grew, until the Mummy and Daddy didn't want him anymore. And we met bobcats, lemurs, emus and a massive tortoise. Each with a sad story behind how they ended up at the Wildlife Survival Sanctuary.
So do yourself a favor. Eschew the circus and the zoo and give your money and your attention to the Wildlife Survival Sanctuary, who are kind to their animals, do no breeding, provide no tricks or training, simply give them a comfortable place to live out the rest of their days, with adequate food and water, attention and companionship from other animals. You'll be glad you did. Tell Conan the cougar we sent you.