A place for lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
As I frequently do whenever I travel, I go into Google Maps, zoom in on where I’ll be, and type in “animal sanctuary.” Safe Haven Rescue Zoo popped up an hour south of where we’d be. I called the number and set up a tour for Sunday. The great thing about animal sanctuaries is they can’t really have a day off or the animals would die.
Make sure you ask for directions because apparently GPS isn’t quite sure where it is. The directions were basically get off the highway, turn left, go about 8 miles until you see an abandoned cement building, then get ready because it’ll be on your right. They claim there is a sign, which there is, but it is tiny and set way back from the road. In fact, the sign you actually notice is a large blue sign in the shape of Nevada with information on it about Star City.
They tell you the passcode for the gate and you drive to visitor parking. You go inside a mobile home looking office and meet the tour guides and the two giant parrots who are mean and hate people. You have to fill out some forms saying you’ll do this and that and not that or this and then it’s tour time.
We had to stay back away from the enclosures but the animals come right up to the fences. We were never more than 15 feet away.
The enclosures are actually quite large and there are all sorts of play structures and hidey-holes. They have tigers, lions, bears, serval cats, coyotes, and mountain lions. We couldn’t take pictures of the bears or lions because they were still involved in the court system. Most of these animals are from the exotic pet trade or from backyard zoos and circuses. Their teeth have been filed down and they’ve been declawed in most cases.
They feed them by training them to go into these little cages. First the workers put in the meat and close the gate, then they open the door between the cages, and the animals go in. They lock them in there when they clean so everyone stays safe. Those little cages on wheels are also how they do vet visits and evacuations.
I expected a massacre when she fed Clarence, the white tiger. He was chuffing and making all kinds of noise because he was so excited for his food. But he was so gentle when he got in there, delicately picking up the chunks of meat and even licking the floor clean. He didn’t want any to go to waste.
I didn’t know this but apparently tigers like to be alone so the Safe Haven Rescue Zoo can only take in so many until they expand. They build all the enclosures themselves and it takes time to make sure they are secure.
The servals and coyotes were shy and I couldn’t get a good picture. The mountain lion was sleeping in her house and couldn’t be bothered with us. Apparently she’s kind of a biotch.
They answered all of our questions and then some and it was a very informative tour. I learned that if I come across a bear with cubs I’m basically dead and there is nothing I can do about it. So that’s nice knowing.
I’d still recommend the Red Wolf Sanctuary if you’re looking to see some animals but even they don’t have tigers so if that’s what you really want to see, I’d recommend this place. It was clean, the animals were well cared for, and the people were incredibly knowledgeable. I imagine it would be nice to volunteer there for a week building enclosures, listening to the coyotes howl and the tigers chuffing, while a hot breeze tickles your neck.