As a little girl I dreamed of being an Animal Behaviorist when I grew up. I planned to study and protect big cats. My bedroom was plastered with posters of tigers and leopards. I snuggled up with plush lions and cougars when I went to sleep. I read books about endangered species and watched wildlife specials whenever they were on one of the few television channels we had.
So after all of these years, I finally have a tiger to love and she lives in a beautiful sanctuary in Pennsylvania. T & D’s Cats of the World is a wonderfully compassionate non-profit sanctuary for animals rescued from abuse and exploitation.
Upon arrival you are met with signs reminding visitors that animals do not exist for human entertainment or to pose for pictures. Many of the tigers are rescues from “photo baby” situations where tiger cubs are exploited so that tourists can pose for photos with them. Once they reach 5 months old they are killed and replaced with another baby whom will meet the same horrific fate. People are sick.
Although in most places these animals do not have rights, at T&D’s they have the right to feel safe, cultivate relationships and live in peace without humans exploiting them.
Animal enclosures have indoor and outdoor areas with enrichment such as these climbing areas. The configuration is changed regularly to keep the animals engaged and stimulated.
I was impressed by this unexpected educational exhibit.
The grounds are very expansive and took over two hours to meander through. Along the way we met many knowledgeable volunteers. Each smiled widely as they shared their enthusiasm for the great work being done here and their affection for the animals. The energy here is relaxed and warm. You can see it in the animals eyes that they feel safe and valued as individuals with thoughts and feelings, just like us.
This gorgeous Siberian Tiger stole everyone’s heart as he soaked in his kiddie pool. I love his enclosure which is designed for the comfort of he and his companion not for the convenience of gawking humans. Plant life grows freely providing cozy hiding spots and keeps the soil cool for summer naps.
In addition to the numerous tiger enclosures, there is also a three acre exercise acre where they take turns romping.
I could have visited with these charming and captivating characters all day. Birds are highly intelligent and aware beings. Sadly they are one of the most exploited and abused animal groups.
Not to be upstaged, the native Black Vultures exhibit their intelligence daily. Many years ago these brilliant creatures observed the tigers burying their food. With no fear of the big cats they began feasting on the leftovers. Word got out and other black vultures took up residence as well. I find this so fascinating and wish I could interview members of each species to get their perspectives. The photo above reminds me of the scene in Disney’s Jungle Book, a beloved childhood favorite of mine. I suppose the irony would be lost on the Vultures.
The grounds have a thick natural forest with a shady tree canopy. It is difficult to demonstrate in photos how spread out enclosures are. Each species has a buffer zone from the next. This provides a more organic low-stress environment for the animals. Granted the plant life is not what the exotic animals would interact with in their native land but it is one of many demonstrations of the caretakers’ dedication to creating a place where these animals can simply be animals.
T & D’s Cats of the World
Penns Creek, PA 17862
>>>SPONSOR AN ANIMAL<<<
For as little as $50 to $100 you can join me in sponsoring an animal at T & D’s for an entire year. With the holiday season just around the corner, sponsorship is a unique gift. The recipient will receive photos, a bio on their animal, free admission tickets to visit and updates throughout the year. A vegan-friendly, eco-friendly, minimalism-friendly gift with an educational component.
(Some Photos by Carrie-Ann Moss & Nancy Andrews)