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Wild Ones
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

Maverick. Photo Brad Allison.

I fed Maverick, a quite handsome Bengal tiger at Lions, Tigers and Bears, a rescue sanctuary on 93 acres outside of Alpine at the edge of the Cleveland National Forest. There are other choices: over 60 resident animals have been sprung from various facilities across the country where they had been neglected and/or abused.

I joined a group, the “Feed with a Keeper” option, guided by a volunteer. Our “keeper” toured us around to, yup, bears, tigers and lions, the stars, as well as a sly leopard, a bobcat or two and other smaller animals. The animals we saw on the tour were in place behind double barriers, chain link fences and bars, some in spaces with condo-like housing retreats where they could spend the night, others in larger high fenced fields. Our keeper prepped a long handled fork with peanut and jelly sandwiches for the bears and chunks of raw meat for the big cats. At my turn to feed the tiger I was allowed in front of the bars but still behind the fence. I slipped my meat filled fork through the fence to a waiting Maverick, a rescue tiger, mellow and happy in his ample territory that includes a swim pond.

Founder/Director/Vice President Bobbi Brink has been working with and advocating for captive big cats, bears and other exotic animals since the early ‘90s. She and her husband Mark established Lions, Tigers and Bears after learning about and witnessing the abuses and neglect endured by animals caught up in the exotic animal trade. The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, right up there with illegal drug, weapon and sex trafficking according to the Humane Society of the United States. Breeders and dealers sell animals on the black market via the Internet or through trade magazines. The very young cubs, perfect for photo ops at various entertainments or as a unique cute pet, grow up. These big animals are tough to care for and most are illegal to own. They are sold off to to circuses or roadside zoos or linger in cramped dingy cages.

The organization offers a home to resident rescued animals who live with a support staff and a dedicated army of volunteers and also provides safe transport for big cats, bears, and other four-legged animals to reputable sanctuaries across the United States.

In time, after our invading virus has subsided, you too can visit as a “Member for a Day” or upgrade to various choices such as “Exclusive Behind the Scenes Experience” to feed all of the animals you meet, or have a sleepover or a wedding. Lionstigersandbears.org.

 

 

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