We just got back from a Thanksgiving trip to Broomfield Colorado to visit Tyson’s family. Although travel there and back was a little rough, we had a great time on our visit, highlighted by a trip to The Wild Animals Sanctuary, located about an hour north of Broomfield.
As I visited the center, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Shelley Powers’ commitment to animal welfare. Of course, it’s one thing to read about the problem with exotic pets, but it’s something quite different to observe the results first hand. I was shocked by the number of exotic pets that the sanctuary was caring for, almost as shocked as when a caretaker stated that there were as many Tigers in Texas as in the wild, a statement backed up by Care2 Causes:
They also believe that there are currently more tigers living in captivity in Texas than in the wild, where their population is estimated to be around 3,000. It’s also believed that there are between 10,000 to 20,000 privately owned big cats including tigers, lions and cougars currently living in captivity in the U.S., but the exact number is unknown due to insufficient record keeping.
Those numbers were shocking to me. When I think about people with exotic pets, which isn’t very often, I think of them owning parrots, gators, or, God forbid, boa constrictors, not lions, tigers, and bears, oh my, oh my! Anybody stupid enough to believe a lion, tiger, or bear would make a good “pet” is just plain too stupid to be trusted to keep them from posing a threat to the rest of us. Heck, I remember how outraged I was when I found out that a neighbor was raising a Wolf-hybrid and letting it run loose in the park across the street where I took Skye for his daily walk. After it confronted Skye and I on our front porch, I told him the next time it was on my porch it would be a dead hybrid-wolf. (Though, in retrospect, I would have been more apt to put a bullet in the owner than in the poor wolf-hybrid.) At least owners could argue that such breeds are closer to dogs than wolves, though the sanctuary had a pack of wolf-hybrids that looked remarkably like the mascot of my favorite school.
The refuge showed a number of informative (and heart-warming, of course) documentary videos about their rescue efforts. Most of them can also be seen on their website: http://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/ The booklet they hand out with admission identifies each sanctuary animal and tells its story. Each story is either heart-breaking or heart-warming, depending on your perspective. I suspect I feel the same ambivalence towards the shelter itself. All the animals are certainly better off than they were before, but I don’t think wild animals belong in caged areas, and I found it hard to believe a Colorado winter is the ideal place for a tiger or lion, though this tiger seemed to fit in quite well with the icy pond and tall grass,
and, if you didn’t know that it was about to drop to 18°, this lion might look like it was in its natural habitat searching for natural prey instead of heading toward a frozen turkey.
At least it was comforting to know that in case of harsh weather all the animals had man-made dens where temperatures were a steady 60°.
Amusingly, what I really noticed at the Sanctuary was the huge number of rabbits. I mean there was rabbits everywhere. I asked one of the volunteers if the tigers or lions ever tried to catch them. He said that they were pretty much ignored by the big lions and tigers,
though the cougars did occasionally chase them since they were a natural prey.
Unfortunately, the cougars I saw were either asleep or dozing.
His explanation made perfect sense, though. What tiger would prefer a scrawny rabbit to a plump turkey for a Thanksgiving meal?
Despite my ambivalence about caged animals, I’d like to visit in the summer to see the animals in warmer temperatures and playing in the pools throughout the refuge.