Sunday, April 24, 2011

Keepers of the Wild

Maurice Sendak wrote a wonderful children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, and Spike Jonze turned it into a movie. That has nothing to do with today's story. Just thought I'd throw it in.

Keepers of the Wild is a not-for-profit adventure in rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals. Many of their animals started as pets for chidlren (can you imagine a 5-year old rolling around on the floor with a 100-pound young tiger, just beginning to revert to his wild animal state?). There's a leopard that used to star in TV commercials. Monkeys who reverted to their nature and attacked their people. Coyote pets who, upon growing up, began nipping all the neighbor chidren.

The 175 acre sanctuary includes more than 20 tigers, a lion, wolves, leopards, two jaguars, coyotes, deer, an assortment of monkeys, ostriches, exotic birds, a tortoise, and a few livestock animals including a cow, duck, chicken, and a few pot-bellied pigs. Many started out living life in a miserable manner; all are now safe in as natural a habitat as the Keepers can provide. As new animals are offered to them, they will accept as many as they can find space for, and current plans call for expansion of the preserve. No animals will be accepted unless Jonathan Kraft and his crew can properly provide for them.

Suzy greets Snickers, who greets everybody.
We took a guided tour of the place, not only for the excellent photo opportunities (albeit through fences). but also to learn more about the place and their program. First, here are some pictures.

Sultan, the black-maned African Lion

Hercules, one of several Bengal Tigers.

We have lots of tiger pictures because we walked around a little bit before the tour. Hercules walked the fence line with us, stopped when we did, moved on when we did. One of the staff told us he likes to walk with people!

Our tour, the 3:30pm tour, coincided with the main feeding time for most of the animals. In fact, the fellow doing the feeding went along with our busload, and we stopped to watch the action.
Most of the food trays had chains and clasps. They had learned early on that food trays for the big cats, especially Sultan, the black maned lion who ran the place, would be immediately grabbed and hauled away if not chained. The trays could not be recovered for several days. The staff, even well trained animal handlers, do not enter the habitats with the larger animals. Although one staff member did find himself treed by an ostrich! Wish we had seen that!

When it came time for the ostriches to be fed, we saw one big bird running along, flapping its useless-for-flying wings. It reminded us of Walt Disney's wonderful animated film "Fantasia."

Don't recognize these guys? They are coatimundi!
The assistant director of the refuge met with us before the tour.
She explained clearly that this is not a zoo. It is a refuge for exploited and abused animals who deserve more from us than cages and hoopla. She said that this entire facility depends totally on volunteers and caring visitors like ourselves. There are no government grants (although cat and dog shelters all over the country get government support). Our visits, plus our purchases in their gift shop, support the place. They pay for the $12,000 monthly food bill and the veterinarian visits (one black jaguar was currently sleeping off his annual vet visit).

We learned about fads and fantasies, including those about white tigers (currently in vogue, but in danger because of inbreeding which leads to physical malformities.). We'd love to tell you more, but there's no room. For more infomration about Keepers of the Wild, try this website.

From us to you, we hope you've had a wonderful Easter, if you are a resurrection person. Our day has been a splendor in ... Our Life on Wheels!


  1. Isn't it sad that these places are neccesary?

  2. Rescue places like that are a work of dedicated people. If they can't take the animals they will be put down.

  3. Very informative and interesting blog...thanks for sharing the story of the abused and endangered animals...

  4. What a wonderful place! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  5. I generally don't care to see wild animals in cages but this place seems to be a necessity for at least keeping them alive.

  6. Great info -- thanks for allowing us to come along on your tour!


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