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Published June 20, 2013

Community Corner: Lions and Tigers and Bobcats, Oh My!

Deep in Burlington, North Carolina, there stands a sanctuary where the back roads seldom cross. This sanctuary is home to a small menagerie of lemurs, bintarongs, servals, and nearly thirty lions and tigers.

Some arrived because they needed to recover from injury or abuse in a past left forgotten. Others were taken in because their exotic nature proved too difficult to handle as pets. And still others came naturally with little warning. No matter how the animals arrived, each one was warmly welcomed by the keepers and staff of the Conservator’s Center.

Photo of Gryffindor the Lion by Dave Cohen.
Photo of Gryffindor the Lion by Dave Cohen.

The Conservator’s Center is a privately run non-profit organization dedicated to conserving endangered species, rescuing and providing a home for exotic animals that are temperamental, disabled, elderly, or just can’t be reintroduced to the wild. The Center cares for them while educating visitors on the importance of preserving specific species, biodiversity, and ecosystems.

It’s actually for the benefit of the animals that the Conservator’s Center is tucked away in a cozy spot of farmland, far enough from major roads and highways. Walking among the enclosures is just as serene an experience for the animals as it is for visitors, and happy, content animals tend to come out of hiding to show off a little.

Being close enough to see big cats nuzzle affectionately is one major boon the conservator’s center has over traditional zoos.

The proximity is enough to see the personality of each animal, and sometimes their relationships to one another. It’s a humbling reminder of why the staff works so hard to protect endangered species.

Reno the Bobcat. Image via the Conservator's Center.
Reno the Bobcat. Image via the Conservator’s Center.

Not all of the residents hail from savannahs and jungles of distant continents. Some are more local, like Bobcats, Foxes, and Wolves. Though not typical inclusions, these animals are often part of the Center’s rescue efforts. One of their Bobcats, a grey female named Reno, was hit by a car in Wendell, North Carolina. Thinking she was an ordinary tabby, a good samaritan put the unconscious Reno in the back seat with her children and drove to the vet. It was only then Reno was identified as a Bobcat. Her behavior indicated she was not wild, so the Conservator’s Center took her in and gave her a place to call home.

Conservation and rescue are uphill battles without education to strengthen their efforts.

The guided tours are filled with stories like Reno’s, as well as information on natural habitats, behavior, and conservation breeding. There are a variety of tours available, including public tours for groups, private tours for more detailed experiences, photography tours for those interested in wildlife photography, night tours featuring the more nocturnal animals, and enrichment tours that take place during feeding and play times. Each of these tours has something new to teach.

Tours are the Conservator Center’s primary source of income, and keeping the facility running depends on public support. Tickets are available by reservation, and are very reasonably priced. If you can’t make the drive but still want to help Reno and her friends, check out their online store, or purchase Sanctuary Supplies directly from a wish list. Have a look around their web site for more information, and if you decide to stop by, tell them Candid Slice recommended it. I’m sure they’ll be thankful!

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  • Greg Trombley

    Greg

  • I'm an RDU-based novelist and passionate champion of scientific progression. Nature and science live side-by-side in my heart. I clean dinosaur bones in my spare time, and love reading about local history. All my articles.

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