Wesa-A-Geh-Ya tiger transport aided by Wildcat Safety Net Fund
September 11, 2008
When Julie Walker, Assistant Director of operations for the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, a Colorado rescue facility, contacted the Feline Conservation Federation for a grant from the Wildcat Safety Net Fund for the relocation of 15 tigers from the Wesa-A-Geh-Ya sanctuary in Missouri to Serenity Springs, Colorado, the board of directors were already aware of this dire situation.
In early August a terrible tragedy at this troubled facility left a new volunteer crippled when a tiger escaped its enclosure and grabbed the man by his leg. He is recovering from the attack. Surgeons amputated his leg at the knee.
Just one day later, Missouri was rocked by a second misfortune at Predator World when a young employee put himself in harm's way by entering a tiger enclosure to take photos for a visitor. He has spent the past month in intensive care at the local hospital.
Both of these accidents could have been prevented if recognized industry standard guidelines for the safe caging and husbandry of big cats were followed.
The Feline Conservation Federation members are leaders in feline husbandry. The FCF teaches the highly acclaimed Wild Feline Husbandry course in locations around the county.
The FCF is also a leader in feline welfare issues and grants financial assistance to felines in need of emergency relocation through its Wildcat Safety Net Fund.
President Lynn Culver says, "The emergency transport of these tigers is kind of crisis the Wildcat Safety Net Fund was created to aid."
Julie Walker told FCF president Culver that she and Serenity Springs Wildlife Center founder Nick Sculac will leave Thursday to pick up ten of the tigers and to disassemble as many of the sanctuary's enclosures as possible over the weekend, then return to Colorado with materials and the tigers on Sunday.
When asked how they were able to take in so many big cats so quickly, Julie explained that they made preparations for the tigers by moving a few of their own tigers that were compatible into shared enclosures, and a few felines have been moved off site temporarily to another facility.
Nick contacted the Colorado Division of Wildlife for import permits and after two onsite inspections to satisfy the state, all systems are now ready so that these tigers can be moved out of Missouri where the county officials' threat of euthanasia hangs over their heads.
The ten tigers being relocated this weekend are all spayed females that have cohabitated at various times. Five enclosures are awaiting their arrival; each measures an average of 60 feet by 100 feet and is fenced at least 14 feet tall. Lock down caging allows workers to safely clean and perform maintenance of the habitat yards.
When Nick was first contacted to take in these tigers he didn't think the wildlife center had enough spare room.
Fortunately, Julie reports, they are now accessing new food resources that will save tremendously on the cost of operating the center. With this new resource secured, Nick Sculac agreed to take in the tigers. Nick sums it up with, "That's why we opened the place, so you really can't turn them down when they need help."
Julie joined the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center 18 months ago and lives onsite. She is no stranger to animal welfare, having run a thoroughbred horse rescue before joining the center. She says she is just as passionate about the big cats.
Serenity Springs Wildlife Center presently houses 115 wild felines, with nearly half being tigers. Additionally, another five non-feline species live at the wildlife center.
Founded as Big Cats of Serenity Springs, this sanctuary has been an important member of the FCF since 1995. FCF membership consists of breeders, educators, zoos sanctuaries and private conservationists committed to the preservation of wild felines. When Karen Sculac passed away unexpectedly of pneumonia August 12, 2006, FCF and its members donated over $6,000 to help Nick through this crisis and assist in meeting operating expenses while he dealt with the sudden loss of his wife and the sanctuary's co-founder.
Julie explained the reason behind the name change. "The facility has evolved into more than just a sanctuary, it has a strong focus on education", says Julie, adding, "The wildlife center fills an important need for wildlife conservation education. Increasingly, human activities destroy habitat and threaten the survival of many species."
Julie believes people need to learn to co-exist with nature's creatures that share the landscape. The center is open to the public and volunteers conduct guided educational tours of the center's residents that include cougars, tigers, leopards, African lions, including the rare Barbary lions, a subspecies of lion extinct in the wild, and several species of small felines as well.
Julie and Nick also conduct outreach programs on living in harmony with native wildlife and bring one of the center's ambassador cougars to help illustrate their message.
The Wildcat Safety Net Fund has awarded $1000 towards these expenses. All donations to the FCF Wildcat Safety Net Fund are tax-deductible. Use the convenient PayPal on the FCF donation page, or mail a check, or call in a credit card number to our treasurer. Mail to FCF, 141 Polk Road 664, Mena, AR 71953, or call 479-394-5235 for credit card donations.
You can also support the Safety Net by shopping at the FCF Online Store. All profits from your purchase of feline note cards, or DVD's and books are earmarked for the Wildcat Safety Net Fund.