I lived in Tampa for over 10 years before I discovered that an amazing big cat sanctuary was tucked away in the woods in the Citrus Park area. The second that I heard about Big Cat Rescue I knew that I HAD to visit. My first visit was when I was writing for The Examiner (you can see my Big Cat Rescue articles for The Examiner here) several years ago. Well, my Dad and Stepmother are in town right now and I decided that the Big Cat Rescue would definitely be the most memorable place to take them....and I was right.
Big Cat Rescue is the largest accredited sanctuary in the world dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned big cats. The tours at Big Cat Rescue are all guided and there are rules to follow. Visiting this sanctuary is not like visiting a zoo. You do not observe the animals from afar on a raised concrete platform. At the Big Cat Rescue you are practically walking THROUGH the animals homes. Your tour is on a path through the woods that is surrounded by wire enclosures that are only a few feet from you.
I'm going to be honest with you...I normally hate tour guides. A lot of the times they spout off boring facts and keep you from moving on to the next attraction. Big Cat Rescue is the only place I have ever been where I actually like listening to the tour guides. You learn SO much. Did you know that if male lions are neutered they lose their manes? Did you know that all white tigers are inbreed and that most of them are cross-eyed and defective? You really do learn a lot and while the stories are often tragic, they are enlightening.
Here are some pictures from my visit yesterday (11/04/12):
|I love this picture! The cat was just staring out at the lake watching nature...very picturesque.|
|This little girl was a sweetie. She was playing and putting on a show for us!|
|This poor little guy does not have a nose. It was removed due to cancer and his nasal passages are exposed.|
Those are just a few of the cats that we were able to see. Another cool thing about this tour is that it is different every time you take it. The tour guides try to focus on the cats that are up and about. Some of the cats are attention hogs and put on shows for you or rub up against the fences, others are sleeping while you are there or in the distance farther back in their cages. Their cages are cool because they are "tiered" and designed to where the workers can move the cats, clean or change the things in the cages, feed the cats, etc. without ever touching the animals. The enclosures are big and well designed. You can also see platforms and balls and other "enrichment" items in all the cages. It is obvious that these cats are very well cared for.
Big Cat Rescue survives solely on donations of both time and money. If you are looking for a cause to donate to, this is a great one. If you don't have money but still want to help, you can click here daily to help feed a big cat with just a click. The sanctuary is ran primary by interns and volunteers. If you live close by, it would be an amazing place to volunteer. I wish it was closer to where I live.
They have several different tours including a feeding tour and a keeper tour. We went on the regular tour (90 mins) for $29 donation per adult. It is definitely worth it. If you come to Tampa or Orlando, Florida; make sure you visit.
If you want more information about the cats, learn about the different tours or to donate, visit http://bigcatrescue.org/
Disclaimer: I did not receive anything in exchange for this post, I just wanted to share this amazing sanctuary with my fans. All opinions are my own.