January 23, 2010

Lions and Tigers and More, Oh My!

Last weekend, Neal and I went for a tour of a nearby wildlife sanctuary, Serenity Springs. This facility houses over 120 rescued cats and other wildlife. Some of the creatures came from naive people who thought they would make good house pets; some came from Hollywood and Vegas trainers who "retired" them to the sanctuary, and some came from other sanctuaries and zoos.

The above photo of a Barbary lion is the only one you will see without the obstruction of a fence. Neal took that photo at the end of the tour by getting a little closer to the fence than we were supposed to and by cropping, but isn't it a great photo?

The cast of characters we saw on our tour included:

Tigers...
including this beautiful white Bengal who once belonged to Mike Tyson. Apparently, Mike didn't have the appropriate licensing to own such a pet and the day she held him down with his head in her mouth for over two hours, the word got out. As the story goes, she wasn't trying to hurt him; she was putting him in his place like she would a cub because Mike was trying to spar with her and she had had enough!

and this guy who was part of a magic act in Vegas...


Cougars...

Caracals...
Coutimundis...


and spotted leopards... This guy was a family pet who bit off someone's finger when it was stuck too close to his face. I don't blame him....I don't like fingers in my face either!

This interesting fellow below is called a binturong. It's difficult to see what he really looks like, but he was so cute. He reminded me of a little old man with the hair growing out of his ears! Binturongs come from southeast Asia and are referred to as bear cats, but they are neither bear nor cat. One bit of trivia about them is that they eat the fruits of a certain fig tree. Through the process of digestion, the tough outer coverings of the seeds are sloughed off, making them ready for planting once dispersed from the animal!

I enjoyed seeing all the animals and learning about their histories and personalities, but I think my most favorite was this guy. This is Buggsy, a 29-year-old bobcat who has spent the majority of his life in sanctuaries. Yes, you read that right...29 years old! Buggsy is also a favorite of the staff. Our tour guide said they are so thrilled every day that they come out and find him alive, that they tend to spoil him a bit, evident by his slightly rotund shape! On this day, Buggsy was really enjoying lounging on his deck in the sun.

When it comes to wildlife sanctuaries such as Serenity Springs, I have mixed emotions. I am very thankful that there are safe places where these creatures can go when there is a need, but I can't help but feel a twinge of sadness that there wouldn't be a need if humans hadn't taken them out of the wild to begin with.

10 comments:

jasperlilith said...

i worked as a volunteer for a brief time at a big cat sanctuary and it was fascinating! it was a long drive so i didn't last but a couple of months... i loved it while i did it though and was sorry to leave... you know what i liked the most? the smell of the big cats - the jaguar in particular had this dense musky aroma that you could smell yards away from his enclosure... and for some reason, that musky sharp scent was precious to me... however, i know what you mean about having mixed feelings - the stories of how many of those cats came to be at the sanctuary was heartbreaking...

Susie said...

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos. We have a santuary north of us as well. It is quite beautiful to see all of these creatures, but sad as well. The santuary we have been to, has huge open spaces that they rotate the cats into. It was so wonderful to see a big cat roaming in this huge space if only for a little while. Thanks for sharing.

Lilla said...

Daune...I bet your experience was fascinating. Interesting about the musky smell. I don't remember any particular smells during our tour, but we did see a few cats spraying, which they told us to watch out for!

Susie...glad you like the photos. I didn't realize there was another big cat sanctuary so close. Serenity Springs has plans to build a large enrichment area with a water fall and pond, where they can rotate the cats in and out to give them more variety in their enviroment. They are in the fundraising stages right now.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

Thanks for the interesting post and great photos. We have a zoo not too far from home, but I've never been. I don't like seeing wild animals caged, eventhough I know that it is sometimes necessary.

Lilla said...

SVB...I know exactly how you feel. On one hand, I can see the educational benefit of zoos and sanctuaries, but on the other hand, I feel sad that the animals are caged and not allowed to live wild and free.

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

They are all so beautiful! Wow - a 29 year old Bobcat is amazing!! Buggsy certainly looks comfortable in those pictures. I had never heard of a binturong - so I clicked on the link you provided. They really are cute little things! I agree with you - I find caged animals depressing, but there really is a need for wildlife sanctuaries. Serenity Springs sounds like a nice one and it's cool they're raising money to make the place even nicer for the residence.

Lilla said...

Penny...yep, 29 years old! He was so cute, I just wanted to squeeze him. I had never heard of a binturong either...interesting critters, aren't they? I just hope the sanctuary can raise the $40K needed to build the enrichment area they want to build.

Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

What great photos! Glad you hopped on over to our blog - thanks for leaving such a nice comment. Hope you come back and visit soon.
-Staci

AJ-OAKS said...

Buggsy is amazing. 29 years old!! He looks nice and healthy. The pics are great.

Lilla said...

Thanks Cobble Hill and AJ-Oaks!