Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 51 – Carolina Tiger Rescue

Carolina Tiger Rescue is the only federally accredited and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries accredited in North Carolina. They are currently home to 50 animals including 17 tigers. Many of their animals have come from private owners when they became too dangerous, roadside zoos, or failing facilities. One of their tigers, Rajah, was found on the road outside of Charlotte, NC when he was 6 months old with another cub, back in 2005. He is just one of their many incredible and unbelievable animals they have rescued.


Website: https://carolinatigerrescue.org/
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https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaTigerRescue/Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the Week Podcast, featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

The Carolina Tiger Rescue is a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wildcats in captivity and in the wild. This rescue is accredited federally and also by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries in North Carolina. They’re currently the home to 50 animals, which includes 17 tigers. Many of their animals have come from private owners, when they have become too dangerous, roadside zoos, or failing facilities.

Hi, Katie. Welcome to the show. Hi, thank you. So you are definitely different than our usual guests on our podcast. You’re the Education Director at the Carolina Tiger Rescue in North Carolina., is that correct? That is correct. Awesome. I’m definitely interested in jumping right in. What exactly do you guys do over there? And how are you guys different than the normal, everyday rescues that we hear about. We rescue cats like, probably a lot of the shelters and rescues you talk about, but we rescue the big wild ones. So we’re home to 49 animals currently, 16 of which are tigers. We have lions, we’ve cougars, we have an ocelot, which is a cat from Central and South America, servals and caracals, which are native to Africa, a leopard and bobcats. And so primarily where we rescue animals from our private owners, roadside zoos that have either closed down on their own or the government and shut down or failing sanctuaries from all over the country. You’re right on that, you definitely rescue cats. But you get the big kitties. We get the big guys. Yes. That is so cool that you you’re able to do that.

Clearly the number one thing that pops in my head is you said that from failed sanctuaries—and that’s how you kind of get these animals. But where do you put them—essentially? So when we decided or been called in on a rescue and decided that we can take that animal, we have a quarantine building here on site and once our animals are rescued, they come to us. They stay with us for the rest of their lives. So we are situated on 67 acres in Pittsboro, North Carolina, which is about 40-ish minutes outside of Rally, about Southwest of Rally, just a titch towards Asheboro, which is where the North Carolina Zoo is. And they’re in large enclosures out here and they stay here for the rest of their lives. That is really interesting.

For us who aren’t in North Carolina, kind of, paint me a picture a little bit. Is it kind of when you’re walking through there? Is it like a zoo feeling where you have, like, the different enclosures where the tigers and other animals are in? Or I’m just trying to kind of picture. We’re unlike a zoo in that you can’t just walk around. So our primary goal, aside from rescuing, is education. So a lot of people don’t know or have any idea that we have a tiger problem here in the United States, which seems silly, we know there’s a tiger problem in the wild, and that’s that tigers are endangered and have the potential to go extinct in the next decade. But the problem is here in the United States is that there is no national laws against owning tigers. And then North Carolina is one of four states where there’s no state laws against owning exotic species.

So what we want when people come out is yes, to see our animals and to be able to understand the species’ information. But what is important to us even more is that people understand why we exists. We exists to re-home these massive creatures, because people have decided that they had wanted it as a pet, and they realized eventually it wasn’t a good pet. Or that we have tigers who were using cub petting where they were taken from their mothers as soon as they’re born for people to take pictures with. Then when they get to a certain age, which is about 12 weeks of age or three months, they are no longer useful and then often destroyed. Oh wow. And so part of what is so important to us is we want you to leave here with a sense of understanding of why we exist, how amazing these creatures are, and then also how you can help.

So we think that zoos are great and serve their purpose. But you can go to a zoo and decide that you’re not gonna learn anything, which is fair, you know, sometimes you just want to go look at the animals, and that’s totally fine. But here we want to make sure that education is at the forefront of everything that we do to help people understand. Because I think probably what you found and what we find is nonprofits are here to serve a purpose in what we would love is to put ourselves out of business. We would love to not have to exist, and part of that means we have to help people understand there is a huge tiger problem here in the United States, and there is a huge problem with people earning these exotic cats and trying to make them pets. And so if they leave here and go, “okay, I’m not going to go get a tiger, which seems extreme, but we’re not going to go get a serval or I’m not gonna go get a hybrid or that I’m not gonna go take a picture with that cub.” Then we have done our job.

Yeah, absolutely. And I love that you kind of explained the difference between you guys and a zoo because ultimately, I think “okay, a zoo, we’re gonna go look at some animals,” and yeah, they got the stuff posted about education. But ultimately, to your point is, people don’t know about the problems about tigers. I mean, to me, I looked at a tiger, and I’m like, “it’s such a beautiful creature, but I’m not gonna bring that in my home like, where am I gonna put it?” You know? So I think it’s great that you guys are trying to educate people and you’re trying to get them to understand.

So kind of share with me. What type of educational programs do you guys offer to your community? We do things like tours. So we have tours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. And so again, that’s the only way to see our animals. We have a summer camp here where kids come and spend—a day camp, they don’t spend the night—a week with us, and they learned about of course, species’ information. We’re gonna tell you tigers are the largest of the cats, and lions’ roars could be heard up to five miles away. But also we want to know that teaching the kids and the future generations are how these problems that we see are going to be solved. Ringling Brothers is out of business for a reason, and part of that was parents decided, “I don’t want to take him to the circus anymore,” but also part of it is that we saw was the kids are saying “I’m not okay with animals being treated this way.” We go into schools. We Skype with classes all over the country. I’ve talked to students in New York and Arizona and Georgia. We go out into the community and do presentations all without our animals. Our animals never leave our property. And we, you know, as much as possible try to get our message out. Whether that’s talking to different news outlets when we have something going on or just in general or tigers are fun, and they are something that people want to know more off. So we have at least a little bit of an in there. Yeah, you’re absolutely right about the kids knowing stuff and everything like that. That’s pretty cool for me.

So what is the community like in your area? Because I know you said. You guys sit on 67 acres of land. So are you guys in, like, a rural area or what does that really look like? We just celebrated our 45th year here, and we didn’t start out as what we are now. But the community around us has been here just as long as we have. It has kind of grown up with us as well. So we have neighbors just across the street who know us and hear our animals every night. And then we have people across town who have never heard of us. So Pittsboro is this cute little town in what used to be rural North Carolina. It’s definitely building up now as Research Triangle Park expands and areas around Durham and Chapel Hill expand and Rally and Apex. So it’s definitely becoming a little more busy with people. But it’s got a small town feel. So there’s the courthouse and literally in the middle of the traffic circle in the town and shop owners who have been here their entire lives. There’s a restaurant in downtown Pittsboro, that is family-owned, and several of them are family-owned and they been here and started it. And so I think what they see in us is a draw to their little talent and what we see in them is community and that’s—we’re safe here.

We do house wild and dangerous animals and not in some aspects. If we weren’t doing what we do and how we do it, could be a problem. But everybody in town knows how well we care for our animals and how safe we are about our animals. We’re not naive to know that we have a 487 pound tiger out there who is built to kill, but we take safety as a number one priority. So we work with our local law enforcement and fire department and all that to let them know how we’re going to keep them safe and how we keep our animals safe, and the community safe. And that to us is really important that we’re not this walled off entity in the town were part of it. And that’s what I love about this podcast too, is because you guys have already thought about things that we, you know, essentially wouldn’t like. I just thought, you know “hey, that’s cool.” But I didn’t think of “okay, you know, if we’re over there and I have children there, what’s gonna happen? If you know something happens and these tigers, get out.” So I think it’s cool that you’re able to work with the police department. Also, just ensure and make sure that the people of your community are feeling safe and they’re comfortable with it. Exactly.

So it sounds like you guys have a ton of support over there. We do, we do, and it’s fantastic and it grows and grows. And it’s something that we would not be able to survive without our town. And we’ve seen other facilities that don’t do as well because they may be further out. And they may have a harder time getting established in that, and so I think that we’re the best of all those worlds and that we are in a small community. But we’re one that is growing up around us and knows us. And they’re always welcome to stop by if they have questions. So they know that we’re here and we’re happy to answer what they got. I think that’s a good thing to kind of keep in mind within where you guys are at, and the people that are around you.

So I definitely want to talk about the animals that you guys take in because you know, you guys wouldn’t be there unless you guys were helping them, right? Right. Right. So do you guys work with other organizations or other people to kind of, you know, cause I’m assuming that you guys just don’t go out and say, “oh, my gosh, they have a tiger problem. Let’s help them.” You know, do you have people that you work with that kind of communicate with you and say, “hey, we have this tiger that needs a home.” What does that look like? Every rescue is different. We have a tiger here, who was a pair of tigers when they were six months old, were found on the side of the road outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, just wandering out on the side of the road. So sometimes we do just happen upon him. Luckily, an off duty police officer found them and was able to stop traffic both ways and get animal control out there. And at that time, this was 15 years ago, and luckily, people knew of us here in Pittsboro. And so we were able to get him a good home here, and they’ve been here ever since. And the male is still with us. The female has passed away. So sometimes, yeah, we do just kind of happen upon them. Other times it’s a big ordeal, and a big production of trying to get these animals here.

So we just had a rescue from British Columbia, where 13 servals were found in a backyard in RVs where they were being bred for the kittens to be taken and sold as pets. And they were in RVs that had no ventilation and no natural lights, and they were standing in their own feces. And so, luckily, the authorities stepped in and the SPCA of British Columbia was able to take them and then found them homes in accredited sanctuaries here in the United States. And we took seven of those 13. We’ve worked with IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare, who does work with wild animals but also animals in captivity all over the world. We’ve worked with the State of Mississippi to get some animals here. So it’s just a matter of who needs us and when. And sometimes we know months or a year ahead of time. And sometimes we are getting in the car within a couple hours of the call to go pick up an animal that needs us. This is what makes what you guys do so beneficial and so important is because people don’t realize that that is going on in the world as sick as it sounds. Exactly.

So you had mentioned that you guys sometimes get in the car and go and pick up these animals. How do you go about picking up a big cat like that? So it depends on where they’re coming from. We have transport crates that are specially built for us. And we’re in the process of building a couple more that are aluminum and they will hold the tigers. There are padlocks to go on either side so that that animal doesn’t get out. And then they’re loaded into the back of sometimes specialized trailers. And sometimes we’re able to work with transport. There are companies out there that transport animals, and we work with them and primarily will work with domestics. Whether it’s trying to get dogs and cats out of, uh, after a hurricane or before a hurricane comes through here in North Carolina, we deal with more with hurricanes than anything else primarily. But they also have big enough trailers that if we have crates and we have tigers that need to get moved, that they can put those guys in the back of their trailers.

If it’s a smaller cat, we use larger crates that you would use for your dog or cat. When we went and got Beau, who is our cougar, we rescued a year ago. He was six months old. He was actually wild board and orphaned. We’re not sure what happened to Mom, but he had—the officer who saved him was named Officer Beau Soleil. So Beau was named after him as an ode to him as a thank you, and they built a special wooden crate for him and put him on that was okay to go on the plane He went in the belly of a plane from Seattle to Minneapolis. And then he got off the plane and Minneapolis was driven from Minneapolis to Indianapolis. And then we drove up from here to Indianapolis and back with him in the back of the SUV that we had. So it could be pretty crazy. But it’s pretty amazing to be able to help these guys. It’s, you know, I think I would guess in you talking with other rescues, just being able to give those dogs and cats new homes is awesome and be able to help him.

But I have to say what you’ve got a tiger who steps on a grass for the first time in their life or gives ‘chuffles’, which is a social tiger greeting. Or Beau who had never been around people before we played NPR Forum in quarantine just so he got used to human voices and now his favorite game, about a year and 1/2 old, is to place stock and hide. He stocks, we outs in that kind of thing, so it’s pretty impressive and it’s pretty amazing. I should point out as we are hands off, so we never put her hands on our animals. We never go in with them, so that’s how we create such a safe environment is because they are wild and they’re dangerous and we never lose sight of that. So stock and hide with Beau the cougar is he’s in his large enclosure, and we’re on the outside of that, hiding behind trees and that kind of thing. So it’s never with them or we would not be who we are. We wouldn’t be where we are. We certainly wouldn’t have the animals that we have. So thank you for pointing that out, because that is an important thing to know, and I feel like that was news to me. So I think it’s news to the listeners, which is awesome.

I guess that leads me into my next question is to how you guys go about enrichment programs for all the animals that you take in? I know that you had mentioned you do the stock and hide? Yeah. How do you keep a tiger occupied? So it’s going to depend on the individual animal. We have, you know, with our lions and the wild lions sleep an average of 20 hours a day, so enriching a lion is going to be a lot different than enriching one of our small cats, the serval, who in the wild would eat up to 12 rodents a day. So we do do daily enrichment with our animals. It comes in a variety of ways, so sometimes it’s food enrichment. In the summer we’re gonna give them chicken juice popsicles. We give them watermelons that have holes drilled in and meat inside. Our guys are very sense-oriented. So we’ll give them things with different perfume sprayed on it. Our ocelot loves axe body spray. We joked that he loves the smell like teenage boy. Our tigers are a huge fan of Calvin Klein’s obsession. We have a leopard who loves the lemon extract.

So how would you say that, you know, that they love them? Do they roll around with it? Exactly, yes. So they’ll rub on it. They’ll roll around on it. They’ll go nuts for it. So we keep a log for each animal and each type of enrichment to say, “oh, that was a hit” or “no, that didn’t go well.” And each animal reacts to it differently. So one of our tigers used to love clove extracts whereas another was like “No” and turn their nose up to it. And so we just kind of make note of that. And of course, it’s one of those things with enrichment. You never want to give them the same thing all the time or it’s not fun anymore. You know, ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sounds amazing, but if that’s all you had, you’ll get tired of it. So we’re cognizant of that.

We do visual enrichment. We do, you know, we’ll walk around with—we’ll send our interns around in the giant inflatable T-Rex costume, and that gets a lot of them up and going. We’ve done the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as well. We walked and carry around a mirror and so that they can see something else that looks like them and see how they react. And some of our guys, you know, just like your cat at home will go nuts over and some are like “meh, try harder next time.” And then we also part of the enrichment, as we don’t do tours every day. So we always want to make sure that we give our animals a break and that they don’t have to see large groups people every day. And we’ve seen that that helps in a in a variety of ways in that if Raja who’s one of our more social tigers, he’ll come up to the fence when a tour group comes up. But if we were to have a tour group go past him every hour, every day of the week, he’d get tired of it. But it also allows the guests to get a closer view if he decides to come up. So it works both ways, which is fantastic.

Oh, Christmas trees. We have gotten an influx of Christmas trees here after Christmas, and some of them don’t care at all about the Christmas trees. And others just think they’re the best thing since, since their meal that day. So they’ll rub on it. They love the texture they love. The scents. They will hide meat inside of them. We move them around when we clean that kind of thing. So we’ll take pumpkins in the fall. So it’s anything and everything we could think of and we’re always coming up, trying to come up with new ways. We work with others around the country who do stuff like we do or sanctuaries like us and go “okay, what’s worked for you recently?” or “try this or this,” so.

Those enrichment programs are really seems like you guys are in tune with the animals that you guys take in, which is awesome. That’s, you know, part of it, right? Yeah. But I think that it’s great that you guys do have all those different types of enrichment programs. I mean, who would have thought of putting meat into a watermelon and giving that, you know, to them? But I think that’s awesome. So a quick question that kind of popped in my head was, do you guys have any animals that are like in the same enclosure? Or like, do they get the enrichment of being around other, like if a tiger was in an enclosure, do they ever get that interaction with another tiger? Or is it just strictly there in their enclosure?

It’s all dependent on how they come in to us primarily. So it so happens that lions are the only social cats that—they’re the only ones that in the wild, live in family groups. And of course, the family group of lions is called a pride. So we have a pair of lions and we had a trio of lions, a separate pride who unfortunately, they have all since passed away. It was clear that they enjoyed each other’s company, and it is ingrained in them that they’re social creatures. Tigers are different. It’s not that they don’t necessarily enjoy being together, but you don’t see it the way you see it with lions. So we have a trio of tigers Caprichio, Indiana, Carolina who have been together since they were cubs, and they live together currently, but it could come one day that they go, “oh, I’m all done with you.” And we would have to separate him. We hope not. We certainly have had tigers that have lived together their whole lives and just find we’ve also had tigers who one day decided “no, 12 years with you is enough and I prefer not to see you anymore.” And so then we do have to separate them, so we’re always very, very cognizant of that.

We’ve had small cats to do the same thing. They’ve lived together their entire lives, but again, they instinctually are solitary except for those lines. So we are very aware of that, and we keep a close eye on them. We also provide them with very spacious enclosures so that they do have space to be on their own or walk away from the other one if they’re being obnoxious, that kind of thing. To actually into your question, we do you have solitary ones. We do have ones that do live in groups as well. So it’s just a matter of if they came together, we’re going to keep them together as long as they get along. If they came solitary primarily will leave them by themselves. And they don’t seem to mind.

You guys’—the staff members, how does that differ than an ordinary rescue? Do you guys have volunteers? Or I’m assuming if you did that, they would have to be trained, of course. But is it just paid staff, or do you have people that come in? I know that you mentioned interns also. Yeah, so we have a staff of 21 right now. I don’t know how many of those are part time. Most of us are full time. Some of us work the usual Monday through Friday, but we also—the animals don’t take a weekend, so some people have to work weekends. So we have people who work Tuesday through Thursday schedules. We have people who worked Saturday through Wednesday or Friday through Tuesday, so there’s always somebody here. But we do have volunteers. We definitely could not do what we do without our volunteers. We have about 200 volunteers right now, which is fabulous. Wow. And they do a variety of things.

We have four main areas in which people can volunteer. The one that people gravitate towards the most is animal care, for obvious reasons. But that is also the one that has the highest turnover rate because it is so demanding. You know, we’re in the south, so it gets really hot in the summer, and although it doesn’t get as cold as some places in the country in the winter, it is cold for us. It was 23 degrees here yesterday morning and we were all dying in a circle. So they have to be prepared to be out in all kinds of weather. They have to lift and change waters every day. They have to help with feeding and cleaning, and so it is physically demanding and it’s also we require them to be here for a four hour shift each week. There’s enough changing in the animal care world that if they miss a week, they can miss a lot of stuff. So it is important to us that they stay and are with us every week for at least four hours to just keep up with everything. So it is time consuming, and it is physically demanding, but it’s also extremely rewarding. They get to know the animals on a different level than our tour guides.

So another area in which people volunteers tour guiding the stories of the animals and species information. And they’re the ones that are taking our groups of tours out our group of guests out on the weekends to do the hour and a half to two hour tour. We have gift shop volunteers. You come in and help our gift shop manager just keep things stocked and getting tricked in and this and that. And then we also have construction volunteers, and those guys are awesome. They’re also working in all kinds of weather, but they get to use the power tools typically, which is why they probably gravitate towards that.

You said that it gets cold there, so that kind of led me on this little path of do you guys have like climate controls or if it’s cold, the cats are out in the cold, too? So all of our cats live outside, but we do have animals here—so tigers grow in an undercoat, just like dogs and cats will. And so they are all big and fluffy right now. And then in the spring, they’ll shed that there’s tiger fur flying everywhere. Our smaller guys that are native to warmer climates, we have heated den boxes for them, and then everybody’s den box, regardless of size, is filled with straw. So it is—which is a good insulator. But they do live outside, that last week, I think, was like 75 degrees. So these cold days, thankfully, don’t last long. don’t get too bad. It’s just more of the shock of like, “oh yeah, No. it’s 75 degrees, and now it’s 40.” We also are very specific on the types of animals that we’ll take. We won’t take snow leopards because our climate is too warm for them. We would have to literally build them giant refrigerators then that’s just not fair to them. We won’t rescue lynx for the same reason, but we have sister sanctuaries around the country. There’s one up in Minnesota that can house those kinds of animals because they have that kind of climate.

What do you guys find is your biggest challenge over there? I mean, clearly this is a total different rescue. You guys deal with totally different animals. So I’m curious as to what you guys struggling with? I think it’s for a 501(c)3. We’re a nonprofit and I think that I would suspect that you primarily talk to nonprofits as well. And I think that the common struggle that a lot of us have is just making sure that we can fund ourselves. We don’t get any state or federal funding in that lends itself to pros and cons, of course, but we raise all of her own money and we do that in a variety of ways. Are chewers count for 25% of our revenue in our gift shop, about another 5%. But it’s one of those that we could take in more animals than we do. But what we have to make sure is we’ve seen other sanctuaries go under because they’re just taking in all the animals, all the animals, all the animals. And what we make a promise to our animals are when they command is we’re going to care for you for the rest of your life, no matter what comes up. So we have animals that have been healthy their entire lives and then get sick. Treating a tiger can cost a lot of money, depending on what is going on. Even if it’s something small, you know, you have to any kind of medication. Think about it for your dog or cat and then multiply it by 400 pound animal. So that’s kind of always always, keeping in mind that we cannot get bigger than what we can fund.

But I think the other thing is, it’s just trying to get the word out there of why laws are necessary. North Carolina is one of four states without laws on exotic pet ownership, and we tell people that they’re like, “what?” And we go, “right?” It seems silly that there’s no laws of North Carolina regarding pet ownership, so in North Carolina you can not own a box turtle because they’re native. You cannot own a squirrel, but there are no state laws against owning a tiger, and just helping people understand that and leave here wanting to do something is at the top of our priority list. So I think those are probably the biggest things, and it’s just getting the mission out there and helping to educate people and helping people understand why we’re here and why we do what we do, and why it’s so important you don’t want, at least I don’t think most people want, a tiger living next door to them. You know, it seems cool in theory, but we help people understand of what if, for nobody else, first responders deserve to know what’s going on when they’re responding to an emergency. They deserve to know that there’s a tiger in that guy’s backyard. Or there’s a serval which has the fastest foster of all the cats in somebody’s house. If you don’t care about anybody else, certainly you should care about those guys who are putting their life on the line every day. Let’s make their job just a titch easier if possible.

But I feel like a lot of people like you, said, you guys are trying to educate all of us because we don’t know that—.  We don’t see it—we don’t see it as anybody’s fault because it just seems like it makes sense that no, you shouldn’t be able to own a tiger. Yeah. And so it’s the helping people understand that yes it is an issue, you know. In 2016 we rescued 16 animals from a roadside zoo in Colorado and eight of them were tigers, and one was our leopard and we had to have more paperwork to get the two Bobcats into the state that we rescued from there. Than we did the eight tigers and the one leopard, and we’re okay with it. But it took a lot of paperwork to get the Bobcats in here. And we’re definitely not saying that that should be any easier, but it also should be harder to get eight tigers into the state.

It’s just I think what also we run into is the fact that people just don’t know and again through no fault of their own, that it is estimated that there’s 5,000, on low end, 5,000 tigers in the United States, with 95-96% of them being in the hands of private owners, roadside zoos, and the entertainment industry. That’s not counting the tigers here at Carolina Tiger Rescue. That’s not counting the tigers at your credited zoo. That’s not counting the ones that you see at San Diego Zoo or St. Louis Zoo or anywhere like that. That to us is a huge problem, and these tigers are being exploited and they’re not being treated properly. And then once they serve their purpose of making those people money when they’re in the entertainment industry or roadside zoos or being used for cub petting, they’re destroyed and they never had a choice in this. That, to us, is also a problem.

Yeah, definitely. And that’s why it’s important for you guys to do what you do and just keep on educating people. Because, you know, I found everything that you said valuable, and it’s all news to me. And now I know all of this and that’s great. Yeah. And you know, like you said, it is kind of scary. I mean, what if my neighbor next door had a tiger in their yard, and I’m just like, “oh, okay,” you know, I don’t know about it because they’ve got these big fences up, but these are things that I think people really don’t think about. So the fact that you guys are thinking about them and you guys are doing something about it to let people know that’s what’s important. And that’s what’s making you know what you guys do, aside from obviously carrying and giving these animals a loving home and treating them right the way they should be treated, I think that you guys are just doing an awesome job over there and—. Oh, thank you.

And so, Katie, how long have you been in this industry? Like I know you said that you guys just celebrated your 45th year, but I’m assuming you haven’t been there 45 years? No. So I am coming up on five years as an employee here, as Education Director. I was a volunteer for about a year before that. I actually used to be a classroom teacher and then decided that I’d rather be out here teaching about tigers, than the classroom teaching about other stuff that I just didn’t find is interesting. That you may never use them in your life. That I may never use in my life. Exactly.

So I’m curious you’ve been in it for a handful of years. You volunteered, you know, a year before that. Do you have any type of memorable story that you can share with us that can, you know, I mean, you’ve already shared a ton as it is, but I kind of just want to see, you know, kind of what makes you tick about being in the industry you’re in? You know, I’ve been asked before, “do you have a favorite?” And then I had somebody go, “oh, you can’t have a favorite” and I go, “no, it’s it’s not like having children or being a teacher. You certainly can have a favorite.” Yes. And my favorite, unfortunately, she has since passed away. But her name was Kaela, and she was one of the two found on the side of the road back in 2005.

And I, I remember coming on a tour here before I was ever a volunteer and certainly before I was a staff member. And she was the first tiger that I had seen up close, obviously, with the fence between us and how I would always want to keep it in. I heard her story, and I just thought that was so ridiculous that there’s these tiger cubs found that were introduced to more and more animals, and I think what is amazing and what is so humbling is these are, these apex predators, you know, tigers the biggest of all the cats out in the wild. There’s nothing that takes down a tiger. And yet here in the United States, they needed our help. And that is to be able to be a voice, which sounds, you know, kind of cliche. But to be able to be a voice for this massive animal, who is known throughout the world as this majestic, powerful animal is humbling. And to be able to speak for them and say I need your help is pretty empowering as well that there’s this huge tiger who in theory shouldn’t need you, but does.

And I think being able to be a voice for, her name was Kaela, and to be a voice for her. And she was stubborn, and the way to her heart was through her stomach. We had both of those things in common. You know, you just gravitate towards them in different personalities, and when her health started to decline, we never really found out what happened to her. But her health started to declined, and it was nice that she still responded to me, and that’s because I had spent years feeding her. But they do. They get used to certain people and they appreciate the company of certain people and more so than others sometimes and sometimes keepers who called me out and say “hey, come see if you can get her up,” and I go out to call her name and she look up and shuffle and then eventually only on her terms always, always had to be her idea, would meander over and do, you know, take meds or eat or whatever it was. So to be able to again help this amazing creature is pretty incredible.

The fact that you’re right being here in the US, being on the side of the road I mean, anything could have happened to them. And let’s say they were to hurt somebody. They would probably get punished for that. But it’s like they don’t know any better. This is foreign. They’re doing only what they know to do. Exactly. So I find it amazing. And I’m so happy that you’re a part of this rescue and you know, I can definitely tell that you are enthusiastic about this. And you, you truly like your heart is in this. And that’s the greatest thing to hear, especially in the animal welfare industry. You know, you have to have the heart and the emotion in the backbone to do that. Oh yeah. So, you know, kudos to you. It seems like you’re super happy over there. I kind of wish now that I was in North Carolina, because I would totally go on a tour, I find it so interesting.

So what does the future look like for the Carolina Tiger Rescue? Wow. God, hitting me with the hard ones. Well, you never know, I mean you guys are doing such great work already. I mean, hey, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Well, essentially, that’s what we’re working towards is to continue what we’re doing. We, of course, want to rescue as many animals as we can and give them the best home that we feel that they can have without being in the wild because they can’t go to the wild. So my goal as far as the education program, is to grow it, and grow it, and grow it. And I feel like I’ve been able to do that in the last few years that I’ve been here. I’ve got campers this summer already of open camp registration last week, and I’ve got campers coming this year from New Mexico, and Illinois, and Maryland, and Virginia for a week camp. And that, to me is pretty awesome that somehow they’ve heard about us and they want to come hang with us and learn about what we do that to me is pretty incredible.

You know, I hope that I can get out into schools more and help those guys understand that they can make a difference with the choices that they make, whether it’s, you know, reducing palm oil consumption to help the wild ones. Or it’s you know, when they’re in a tourist town that they say “no, I don’t want to go to pictures with that tiger cub,” and being able to work with the different sanctuaries, there’s about 20 of us around the country who do what we do. And being able to work and connect with them is also pretty awesome. And I hope that we can continue with that because I don’t know if you find with dog and cat rescues, they’re certainly more of them. But I think when they’re able to work together for that common goal, things just get better. You’re able to bounce ideas off of each other or say “this works and this didn’t,” or you know, “what do you do?”

And sometimes it’s not even in the education aspect. We have an animal who’s unwilling to take medication. What have you used previously that will work potentially. So I think that being with like-minded people is also pretty awesome. And I feel sometimes it is hard because there’s nobody else in the state who does what we do and I’ll go to conferences and workshops, and it’s primarily with people who work in zoos, and it’s great to get ideas from them. But you kind of feel like you’re on an island sometimes. So being able to get our word out there and find out that there are plenty of like-minded people, it’s just a matter of helping them understand what we do and why we do it is pretty awesome. I definitely think that you nailed that.

You know if you can connect with people who are doing similar things or like things that you’re doing and bounce ideas off of each other. That’s awesome, that you guys are able to do that and understand that that’s what’s best for the animal. Like you said, if you can’t get this animal to take medicine. What are you doing? Because we ultimately want to help this animal and get them better. Right. Exactly. So in my opinion, you nailed that. You guys are willing to step out of the box and just do what it takes to help these animals. Because it doesn’t matter who you talk to as long as you guys can help each other out, that’s awesome. Right.

So, Katie, I have one main question for you, and that’s just overall, if somebody wants to go about getting in contact with you guys, whether it is for employment options or volunteers or to take a tour or anything of that nature, how can somebody go about getting in contact with you guys? So the best way would be to check out our website carolinatigerrescue.org. We have information on internships, which I had mentioned, volunteer opportunities and then how to purchase tickets. We do again do those Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays all year. That is the only way to see our animals come out on one of our tours. We could teach you about them, and there’s a lot of other stuff, even if you’re not in the area, and it may not be in the area.

You know, we’ve worked really hard on making an engaging website so that you can learn about what problems these guys face and where they came from. Every one of our animals has their own page up there so you can learn about Beau and where he came from, or one of our new servals and the problem with backyard breeders and even the guys. So we have animals on the tour pathway of animals off the tour path because the guys off the tour path have decided, “no, large groups of people are very scary.” And so you can learn about Yanaba, who prefers life in the back of the sanctuary. What her likes and dislikes are. To us, it’s important to be able to connect with these guys on that kind of level.

So definitely check out the website and follow us on social media, Facebook, Instagram, see all of our guys and what is going on. We do a lot of cool things. I think the new trend seems to be Tongue Out Tuesday and so we had Riley up there this past Tuesday with their tongue out and teaching you about, you know, cat’s tongue’s. These guys have the same tongue as your domestic cats. It’s just a lot bigger, but it has those barbs on there, that papillae. So it’s pretty cool to be able to go on there and see. “oh, this is similar to my guy at home. Oh, and that’s very different,” you know? So, yeah, that would be definitely the best way to learn more and so hopefully get involved. Yes, definitely. I’m gonna do a side note too, for our listeners because I’ve checked out your guys’ website. It’s awesome, like literally everything that you just said, plus some, is on there. Yes. I love that you guys have, like, the behavior of each specie, the shape and size, the life span. It’s awesome. I highly recommend it, you know, great job on your guys’ website. Thank you. I think it is awesome.

So anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? So I thought it was one of those I had looked for, hopefully people to chat with. And I thought being able to talk to a podcast that primarily deals with domestic dogs and cats, would be really cool because we do see that side of it, of these guys being in the hands of private owners. And so what I would ask is, you know, I have two cats of my own, and I love a good tortoiseshell cat because they are distinct looking and they’ve got their big personalities and all that. And so I think what is awesome about your listeners is they have a love of domestics, and it’s those are the ones that belong in houses. It’s your domestic dogs and cats that belong in the houses, not our animals here. And there are so many dogs and cats in shelters that are being picked up on the regular that need home. Let’s give those guys homes. Let’s not continue the breeding of servals in somebody’s backyard to take home.

There are so many awesome cats and dogs in the shelters and in fosters that always need adoption. If I could, I have moved myself out to 67 acres and just have a ton of domestic cats, personally. So I think the listeners can make a difference in just doing what they’re doing and going and rescuing those guys in the shelters and the ones that really need it versus going out getting something exotic, you know. Go find that exotic looking house cat that has that big personality and save these guys for us. We’ll take care of these guys. You guys go get your own little tigers. Yeah, I love that. I love that you pointed that out because, you know, ultimately, you don’t need a tiger as a pet. No. They don’t want to be your pet. You’re not capable to care for them the way they need to be cared for. Exactly. I love that you pointed that out. Go and get yourself a cute little, you know, feisty house cat. Name it ‘Tiger’. Yeah. There you go. Totally fine! All right, Katie well, I loved having you today. I’ve learned so much. I hope that our listeners have to. You definitely have the right vision. And I’m sure that all the staff there has the same vision you do. Yes. But thank you so much for joining us today and sharing everything. Yeah, thank you for having me. Of course. I appreciate it.

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