On Thursday, May 9, we traveled about an hour from our school to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. This was an unbelievable trip!
When we first arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Driving up to the parking lot, we saw bears, tigers, and wolves in fences right next to the driveway! Our orientation began with one of the many volunteers sharing some history and facts about the sanctuary. After that, we were able to start our self-guided tour.
Did you know that the illegal wildlife trade is a multi-million dollar business? Wild animals are sold to circuses, unlicensed zoos, private pet owners, and even as displays to bring in customers. One example – some of the tigers at the Wild Animal Sanctuary were rescued from cages at a truck stop. The owners of the truck stop thought that people would visit just to see the tigers. The tigers lived in small cages!
In many zoos around the world, especially unlicensed zoos, wild animals are on display in cages that are too small for them. They don’t get enough food or even the proper type of nutrition. Some of them suffer joint damage because they never get to leave their tiny cages. Sometimes, the enclosures are not properly maintained, and the animals escape into the public! Have you ever heard of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio? 48 animals had to be killed by local authorities because of this type of wildlife ownership.
We were surprised to learn how many people buy wild animals as pets. In many cases, they buy the “pets” to show off to their friends or because they’re really cute when they’re little. These people do not know how to properly care for a wild animal. These animals can be very dangerous to the public when an owner doesn’t know how to take care of it.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary rescues these wild animals. They are brought to a place where they can live in a more natural environment, free to roam, and they never have to worry about eating again.
At the Wild Animal Sanctuary, visitors don’t get to walk along the grounds at eye-level of the animals. It makes the animals nervous, and some of them would even become anxious or aggressive. Even though there are two sets of fences, the animals’ well-being is too important. The people who built the sanctuary created an elevated walkway and observation decks that allow you to move over several viewing areas – all outside – to view the animals in their “habitats.” This ensures that the animals can move around freely in their areas, instead of being trapped into a display area for viewers. They call it “Mile Into The Wild Walkway.”
We decided we would walk all the way to the end of the walkway right away. This led us to the Bolivian Lion Pavilion. We spent a lot of time observing the lions and learning about how they were brought to the sanctuary. Lions live in prides, and family groups are kept together in the sanctuary. There are over 400 acres just for lions!
On our way back from the lion pavilion, we also saw tigers, many different types of bears, arctic and timber wolves, porcupines, bobcats, and even more lions– all in their own living areas. We had time to just stand and observe these animals as they began moving around for the day. Some of them were starting to eat. We especially enjoyed watching some of the tigers and bears eat! It looked like “meatsicles,” different pieces of meat and other food all frozen together.
As we continued observing from the walkway, different volunteers would come to tell us the stories of the different animals at the sanctuary. Every animal has a name! We learned that every “enclosure” is a different size, depending upon the need of the animals in it. We wondered how the animals stayed safe during rainstorms or snow. One of the volunteers pointed out to us that each enclosure has several “den” areas: cement tunnels that are an opening and lead back about 50 feet into the ground. The temperature inside stays around 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit all year. He said that the animals are pretty acclimated to the weather in Keenesburg, but they sometimes head inside when the weather becomes severe.
We really enjoyed learning about all the beautiful animals that have been rescued by the Wild Animal Sanctuary, and we wanted to help, too. Each student in our class wrote a blog post about our experience, and we are currently working on a Public Service Announcement to help raise awareness about the illegal animal trade! (We’ll update our blog here when we post it!)
We hope that you will choose to get involved, too! Ways to help
Here are a few photos Mrs. Baldwin took during our trip. Because the enclosures are so huge, it’s difficult to get a close-up photo with an iPhone.
Notice: there’s a lioness named Tabitha who is the leader of her pride. This is very unusual, as most prides are a male lion leader with several females and younger male lions around him. You can see Tabitha sitting with the males in one of our photos.