When I first started out in the “zoo business” I was director of the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, Fla. This was not a major zoo by any means, and keeping it going was tough. Not a lot of funding and not many employees or volunteers meant I would regularly take baby animals home to care for them during the night. My wife, Suzi, and I hand-raised many animals that needed ‘round-the-clock care, including a lion, tiger, leopard and bear cubs, chimpanzee babies, and more. Getting up several times a night for feeding made it tough to be an alert zoo director the next morning, but I endured it because of my love for animals. The same is true for Suzi, and all my daughters, who took part in caring for any creature I’d bring home.
As someone who has dedicated his life to animals and conservation, who do you “look up to” that works with wildlife? – Tammy W.
Great question! That’s a pretty easy one, really. I’m amazed that there are so many people, worldwide, who have dedicated their lives to operating animal orphanages and sanctuaries.
These are people who have taken on the tasks themselves and only exist by virtue or volunteer help and donations. You find them in all parts of the world, literally. Even in societies that treat animals differently than we do, I still find people who reach out to helpless animals in need of assistance.
Funding is what it is all about, and when working for a major zoo like I have in Columbus we received good income from gate revenue and county-wide levies. So, taking care of the animal collection at the zoo was much easier. We had enough money to provide spacious habitats, proper food and great healthcare for all the animals.
But small orphanages aren’t as fortunate – they make do with very little and most do a fantastic job at caring for animals of all kinds – injured, orphaned and abused. Their jobs are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And even though the facility might be full, they never turn down an animal in need. Fortunately, some of these organizations have developed quite a following, their funding has increased, and their sanctuaries are in excellent condition.
Again, my hat goes off to all of these people! A few that I’ve worked with that do excellent work are:
• The Sheldrick Foundation, Kenya (Daphne Sheldrick cares for orphaned African elephants and returns them to the wild.)
• Chipangali Animal Orphanage, Zimbabwe (The Wilson family runs this sanctuary for all types of animals.)
• Jambeli Animal Orphanage, and Condor Huasi, Ecuador (Ecuadorian species, Andean condors.)
• Millcreek Horse Retirement Center, Florida (former research & race horses.)
• Aviarios del Caribe, Costa Rica (sloths.)
• American Eagle Foundation, Tennessee (bald eagles.)
• Great Ape Trust Research Center, Democratic Republic of Congo (bonobos—a relative of the chimpanzee.)
This list goes on and on, from small grassroots organizations to more successful sanctuaries. There are several right here in Montana! The people all have something in common, and that is they’ve put the goal of saving individual animals at the top of their agendas!
As my television series, Jack Hanna’s “Into the Wild” is beginning production and I’ll be traveling most of the time, I’d like to say it has been a wonderful experience chatting with my Montana friends in the “Flathead Beacon.” So long!
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