Last week in my post about West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Island in Florida I mentioned why we had flown to Florida (see post 18th February.) We stayed four days and enjoyed varied scenery and attractions. I had heard about the McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary and since my husband had spent a career in wildlife and environmental management I thought that this would be something he might like to see. The sanctuary is located on a quiet road in West Palm Beach.
We ran the doorbell
and a young lady came to greet us. She told us her name was Aneth.
She escorted us into the sanctuary.
She gave us a quick background on the sanctuary. Mark McCarthy has worked with animals since 1972 – with a venom research lab and later with exotic cats. He purchased five acres in 1990 in West Palm Beach and built the McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary. There he receives animals from wildlife officers, animals that were sick, injured or orphans. He has also adopted hundreds of exotic animals which were unwanted, abandoned or illegally possessed. Some have become permanent residents. Some have been returned to the wild. The sanctuary is a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation facility licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the US Dept of Agriculture.
Below is a postcard showing the longest living resident at the sanctuary – a White-tailed Hawk named Vader. He came to the sanctuary as an adult in 1980. (I took his picture but it was blurred so I bought this postcard.)
Aneth told us that she came from Tanzania 5 years ago at the same time as a baby Siberian tiger, named Sabi. She said she hand fed her until Sabi became too big and started to play rough. Siberian tigers can weigh from 350 to 600 pounds or more and eat 10 to 15 pounds of food a day - a combination of meat and other special food.
I found a picture on the net showing how big a Siberian tiger is. (Photographed by Wesley.)
We saw a smaller and then a larger turtle quite close
Click on photographs to enlarge themThe Bengal Tiger can live up to 10 years in the wild, but 20 years in captivity. Here is one –
Aneth explained that many of the animals had been unwanted pets. For example some large cats, I believe it was the panther and the lion, were abandoned at a Motel Six in Orlando, Florida. Another cat, a Siberian tiger, was kept as a pet in Minnesota and was lead on a leash as a cub, but abandoned when it became too large and ate too much.
Here is Aslan the lion. He is 5 years old and weighs 450 pounds. Aneth says he is a big baby – I’ll take her word for it.
His roar was magnificent; the roar of a lion can be heard to a distance of 5 miles.
Aslan’s usual playmate is Lola the other Siberian Tiger –
We continued walking along the animal pens and saw more big cats including a leopard, another tiger and Sandy and George, the Florida panthers (also called Mountain Lions or Pumas or Cougars.)
Postcard purchased at the sanctuary (Photo by Karen Lindquist.)Aneth took Snowball, the 12 years old 40 pounds Albino Burmese python, and placed it around my neck (it felt heavy and cold.) But I did not care to hold the tarantula – I preferred to have Aneth hold it while I took its picture.
So it was time to leave the reptile area and the main sanctuary too.
There are over ninety permanent resident animals at the sanctuary. Here are just a few others.
It is quite an expense to house these lovely creatures. The large cats, twenty-two of them, are carnivores and consume one thousand pounds of meat each week. The compound is very clean and well taken care of, no odors. Many of these animals would not have survived if it had not been for this sanctuary and many others across the country. A mixed Australian dingo and chow dog looks like he can keep the area secure.
We really enjoyed our visit and felt that we had been able to come quite close to the animals. Another couple had joined us after a while and the four of us were the only visitors. It certainly was a great relaxing experience. Later on we went to eat in a small Cuban restaurant and I finished the evening reading about what we would do next.
Additional Note: For a long time there has been a growing trade in captive wild animals for pets. The sale of wild and exotic animals is thriving in the illegal world market and this needs to be stopped. More monitoring of traders should be done and smuggling wild animals needs to be severely dealt with. I read that the Captive Wildlife Safety Act bans interstate commerce of big cat but it does not restrict ownership of these animals. It does not cover other wild animals though. Georgia and several other states, 29 so far, prohibit keeping dangerous wildlife as pets. Every state should prohibit residents from possessing wild animals as pets. The Big Cat Rescue site lists the laws in each state regarding the keeping of exotic cats, click here to see what your state is doing to protect these animals. There are several organization protecting animals, one of them is Born Free, USA. You can check their site here for details. Additional information can be found at the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries: click here.