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Jack Hanna Films Show at Big Cat Rescue

Jack HannaThank you every one who made the Jack Hanna show a success. He loved the placeand said he will keep coming back to help support what we are all about. He said no where has he ever seen a place where the cats had so much room and such thoughtful planning for the cat’s natural behaviors. He couldn’t get over the soft gloss of their coats, the abundance of things for them to do and how content they all seem. He was amazed that you are all volunteers and how you come from such diversified walks of life.


They may come back for more film footage before the final product is aired. The show called Jack Hanna’s Wild Adventures aired on Sat. morning at 8:00 am (11:30 some places) on NBC April 29 and  May 6, 2000.  If you missed the program you can order it for $10.35 at and ask for Show #2165 Big Cat Rescue.  Jack’s promotional description reads:  “In Tampa, more than 200 unwanted, abused or abandoned animals, most of them exotic cats, have it made for the rest of their lives at the sanctuary on Easy Street.  Jack finds out from the founder of Big Cat Rescue that caring for 23 species of cats, including Bengal Tigers, Barbary Lions, Leopards, Lynx, Ocelots and Caracals is a labor of love.”  Thanks again for making this a huge success!


We did lots of every day things the day Jack Hanna came to Big Cat Rescue.   We rescued a pair of cougars who were homeless as the result of a divorce. Big Cat Rescuers were on the road three days to pick them up and deliver them safely to Big Cat Rescue.  Here they are being unloaded by Jack Hanna, and Volunteers Jon McKinney, & Scott Lope while Carole Baskin looks on.


Jack HannaHere he is with Volunteers, Scott Lope, Daniel Capiro, Victor Alonso,   Jon McKinney, Veterinarian Dr. Stacie Wadsworth and Carole Baskin releasing the rescued cougars, Cody and Missouri into their new Cat-A-Tats at Big Cat Rescue.







Big Cat Rescue does not allow contact with the big cats between guest or volunteers any longer.



Jack HannaAt right, Jack Hanna participates in the Feeding Frenzy and hand feeds Sarabi the lioness, while Judah, the Barbary Lion awaits his turn in the background.  Jack Hanna has raised 18 lions in the past.








Jack HannaAt left, Jack Hanna joins a school group on tour which is being led Big Cat Rescue’s Educational Director.  They are stopped in front of Jumanji the black leopard.  Education is the key to Saving Cats in the Wild and our survival.


We also filmed a successful opossum release but don’t have still photos available.  Jack Hanna was really smitten with our rare White Servals but they were being shy and we didn’t get any film of him with these exceptional cats.   Jack Hanna was kind enough to sign autographs for all the Volunteers and to answer all of our questions.  We feel privileged to have had him spend this beautiful day with us and hope he will revisit whenever he’s in town.

Here he is seen with Mocha the Bearcat, Might Joe the Ringtailed Lemur and Makia the Brown Lemur.On January 21, 2000 Jack Hanna visited Big Cat Rescue and filmed an episode for his Saturday morning show called Jack Hanna’s Wild Adventures.Jack Hanna
Big Cat Rescue President, Jamie Veronica and Jack Hanna at Big Cat Rescue during film shoot.Jack Hanna and Jamie Veronica
Jack Hanna and Founder,  Carole Baskin break for a photo opportunity as the camera man tries to retrieve all of his equipment from the lemur and bearcat enclosure behind them.JH10.jpg (50076 bytes)

Note:  We no longer allow contact with the cats here and haven’t for a very long time.

Show transcript:



00:00:23Hi I’m Jack Hanna, here at my Base Camp, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.
00:00:27Welcome to Animal Adventures.
00:00:28At the end of a shade-covered dirt road in Florida named Easy Street more than 200 unwanted, abused or abandoned animals, most of them exotic cats, have it made.
00:00:42Leopards, tigers, lynx, cougars, cervals, fishing cats…
00:00:45and a host of other animals… all living out their days with no wants or worries.
00:00:49What else would you expect if you lived on Easy Street?
00:00:51So join me now in Tampa for a visit with the “Wildlife on Easy Street.” Easy Street is a long, dirt road that dead-ends at a locked-gate.
00:01:05For the animals in residence here, this is no dead-end at all.
00:01:09It’s more like a new beginning.
00:01:12Jack: that’s pretty good.
00:01:18Jack: Whoo! that’ll wake the animals up!
00:01:24Wildlife on Easy Street was founded in 1992 by Don and Carol Lewis.
00:01:32Jack: Carol?
00:01:33Carol: Yes. jack: jack hanna.
00:01:34Carol: Welcome to wildlife on easy street.
00:01:36Jack: Yeah, it looks neat back here.
00:01:39Jack: What is wildlife on easy street?
00:01:40Carol: We’re a sanctuary to two hundred unwanted, abandoned, and abused animals.
00:01:48Animals like “Hercules”, the Snow Leopard.
00:01:51An ocelot retired from a circus clown act.
00:01:54A Bengal Tiger that grew too big and too strong to remain a pet.
00:02:00An African Serval that also proved to be an unsuitable pet.
00:02:04Jack: Now how’d that cat get here?
00:02:05Carol: there’s twofo of them in here.
00:02:07They’re two sisters, and they decided after having them about a year, that they couldn’t stand the peeing in the house, and chasing their other domestic animals, and that sort of thing, so they dumped them here.
00:02:17Jack: ‘Cuz that animal, the odor from the urine, people don’t realize, and they mark everything.
00:02:22Carol: everything that they like, they mark, and that includes you, and your friends, and all of your clothing, and everything.
00:02:28Jack: Well, it’s nice that they found a home here.
00:02:31Jack: Oh, that cat’s way up in the tree!
00:02:34Carol: We like to be able to provide them with trees, so that they can exercise all of their natural behaviors.
00:02:39Jack: ‘Cuz the clouded leopard lives about 90 percent of it’s time in a tree.
00:02:43The tail of a clouded leopard can grow to three feet in length.
00:02:47It gives this tree dweller balance.
00:02:50In the wild, the rare and endangered clouded leopard is found only in the remote areas of Southeast Asia, Nepal and India.
00:02:57Carol: These cats have the largest canines of any of the cats.
00:03:00They’re probably the closest living relative to the saber tooth tiger.
00:03:04In his case, he was de-fanged.
00:03:07This particular cat was retired from a zoo.
00:03:12To the animal’s benefit, the 40 acre compound makes use of natural Florida vegetation like oak, cypress, pine and palmettos.
00:03:19Unfortunately, fence construction at Wildlife on Easy Street knows no end.
00:03:26It seems there’s always a new arrival on the way.
00:03:28Carol: These cats were pets that we just rescued from North Carolina.
00:03:32A lot of people buy these cats when they’re cute little cubs, but by the time they’re a year old, they’re a hundred pounds, and tearing their homes apart.
00:03:40Jack: Well, I’ll help unload.
00:03:41At the end of their long ride from North Carolina to Florida, two cougars wi be joining the compounds’ ever expanding cat population.
00:03:51Jack: This reminds me of my old days on my animal place in Tennessee.
00:03:54He’s heavier than this one…
00:03:56Awaiting the new arrivals, a three thousand square foot compound.
00:04:01For the four-year old female, it was time to explore her new home.
00:04:08After being cooped-up in the animal carrier, the second cougar, a male, wasted no time stepping in to the bigger surroundings.
00:04:15For two cougars from North Carolina, this is the start of a new life.
00:04:20The other cougars in the neighborhood seemed rather curious about all the commotion.
00:04:27Their individual histories are different, yet these cats all seem to share something in common.
00:04:33They are un-wanted.
00:04:34Carol: Yeah, that happens a lot, especially with cougars.
00:04:37They could be the poster child for unwanted cats.
00:04:39It’s just too easy for people to get these animals, and then they don’t realize what bad house pets they make, and then they end up being dumped.
00:04:46A lot of them end up in a whole lot worse situations – they’re sent out to canned hunts, where they’re shot.
00:04:51Jack: So this cat doesn’t even realize it, he’s got like three thousand square feet here.
00:04:54He thinks he’s still at, at some small cage, back in North Carolina, or wherever he came from.
00:04:59Carol: Most of these animals are kept in cages so small, that they can just get up and turn around in, and…
00:05:04Jack: You can see from his pattern right now, that’s what he’s doing.
00:05:07Carol: Yeah.
00:05:07Jack: Now, he’ll settle down here in a minute, he’s going to be right at home, you know it?
00:05:11Carol: I hope you’re right.
00:05:18Teaching children about wildlife is part of an on-going educational program.
00:05:22As we approached this group of kids, Judy Watson was telling them about a black Asian leopard.
00:05:28Judy: Do you know that a spotted leopard can actually have babies that are solid black, and spotted in the same litter.
00:05:36Leopards are found throughout Asia, and most of Africa.
00:05:38This solitary animal, which has been heavily hunted for its pelt, also ranges from the Middle East to Malaysia.
00:05:46As they prowl the night, leopards can see in the dark six times better than a human.
00:05:53Jack: Make sure you don’t become cat food.
00:05:56Our next stop, a Siberian Lynx.
00:05:58This animal, and 55 others like it, gave Wildlife on Easy Street its start.
00:06:05Jack: Boy, that cat’s bigger than what i thought.
00:06:07Carol: They can get to be about 75 pounds.
00:06:08It’s a Siberian Lynx.
00:06:12Jack: Wow, this is what’s used for coats?
00:06:13Carol: we rescued fifty-six of them from one fur farm.
00:06:17Unfortunately, when they slaughter ‘em, they only use that little piece of belly fur, so it takes more than twenty cats just to make one coat.
00:06:25Jack: So this is not a case of somebody having it as a pet.
00:06:27This is a case of you having a love for animals, that you did not want to see ‘em made into coats.
00:06:32Carol: We couldn’t leave anybody there to be slaughtered for their fur.
00:06:35These are just too magnificent an animal for that.
00:06:38And so a rescued Lynx takes it easy on Easy Street.
00:06:46When Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures continues.
00:06:47. .
00:06:48does this big guy carry the genes of a lion extinct in the wild? Find out next.
00:09:05Wildlife on Easy Street is home to more than 200 unwanted or abused animals, most of them exotic cats.
00:09:14The founder of this sanctuary, on 40 acres of natural Florida habitat, is Carole Lewis.
00:09:21Jack: Wow, look at this, it’s like india.
00:09:22Carol: Yeah, they can come down here and swim, and they’ve got lots of room to run, it’s a big, natural marsh-type habitat like they would have…
00:09:31Jack: Boy, they’re beautiful, oh!
00:09:34Now, why are those tigers, how’d they get here?
00:09:37Carol: Well the big one here, shir khan, was being, they were breeding him, trying to get the white tigers, you know they can make a lot of money off the white tigers.
00:09:44But what happens, is they produce hundreds and hundreds of unwanted golden cubs, and these cats also end up in canned hunts, even thought it’s illegal.
00:09:52Or they end up in refuges…
00:09:55China doll here was a pet, and her owner discovered that he was terminally ill, the same time that his wife was pregnant with a child, and they just couldn’t take care of the cat, so they asked if she could come here.
00:10:06And he’s been neutered, so we don’t have any trouble with unwanted kittens.
00:10:10Jack: they can swim, and do whatever they want to in there, huh?
00:10:14Carol: Yeah, they spend a lot of time out in the water, they play with those big balls.
00:10:20You can hold that beer keg under water and just launch it like a rocket.
00:10:27Jack: You’ve got to be very proud to have a home here that these animals can spend the rest of their life.
00:10:33‘Cuz if not, you know, they’d have to be put to sleep.
00:10:35Carol: The bad thing is that we’re just making a very small dent in the problem.
00:10:39There’s so many more animals that need to be rescued that we can’t take in.
00:10:43Jack: I mean, how much a year do you spend on taking care of these tigers?
00:10:46Carol: Last year we spent three hundred and ninety eight thousand dollars taking care of the animals here, and of that, two-hundred and twenty two thousand had to come from my real estate business, because there’s no grants, there aren’t any government fundings.
00:10:57You know, a lot of people think that there’s all kinds of programs that take care of this, and it’s just not the case.
00:11:05Laurie: So these are caracals?
00:11:09To raise extra cash for animal care, Wildlife on Easy Street has developed fund-raising programs of its own, including a “photo safari.” Scott:..
00:11:20Laurie is an amateur photographer. Her guide is volunteer Scott Lope.
00:11:26Found on scrubby, arid terrain from Africa to India, the caracal hunts prey as large as a young antelope.
00:11:33Without a doubt, the caracal’s most distinctive features are those black ear tufts.
00:11:40In a savanna, the ears provide the animal with camouflage because they blend in with the tips of the grasses.
00:11:47Laurie: Bye, elijah.
00:11:48Scott: Thanks, elijah, you were a good boy.
00:11:51Across the pond, Carole led the way to another compound.
00:11:55Jack: Where are we going now?
00:11:57Carol: We’re going to go see the lions.
00:11:59Jack: Now, where did they come from?
00:12:00Carol: One was rescued from an auction, and the other was being raised with a pack of wolves.
00:12:05Carol: It’s about feeding time.
00:12:06Jack: They’re not gonna eat jack, I can tell you that.
00:12:09Jack: Boy, it looks like feeding time!
00:12:11Keeper: It sure is, jack, and you’re the guest of honor, so have a seat, and we’re gonna let you feed Judah.
00:12:16Jack: I used to raise lions.
00:12:18Keeper: Did you?
00:12:19Jack: Yeah, I had eighteen of ‘em.
00:12:20“Judah” and a female named “Sarabi” are no ordinary lions.
00:12:24It’s believed that both cats carry the physical traits and genes of the Barbary Lion, which has been classified as extinct in the wild since 1922.
00:12:34Barbary Lions were native to North Africa and lived in the Atlas Mountains.
00:12:38Their immense size and weight dwarfs other African and Asian lions.
00:12:45With that huge dark mane, “Judah” definitely had the look….
00:12:52Jack: judah, I’m gonna go over and feed your buddy…
00:12:56…if you don’t come here. Okay, here I go.
00:12:57Come here, come on, come here.
00:13:04Alright, come, come here, ce he.
00:13:07Jack: always wants to eat first.
00:13:13Ladies first, come over here.
00:13:14When you’re this close to an African lion, you can appreciate the value of something like Wildlife on Easy Street.
00:13:21Because these animals are the king of beasts.
00:13:22The most powerful cat in the world.
00:13:24And when you’re this close, and you hear that, and you feel that power, you can see what can happen to you if you had one of these as a pet.
00:13:31Who knows? It’s possible these once unwanted cats could someday be part of a Barbary Lion captive-breeding program.
00:13:39Lion keeper Susan Arnoff.
00:13:41Susan: Once the dna proves that they are in fact Barbary lions, their offspring will become part of the release in the breeding program.
00:13:46Their children will go to strengthen the blood-lines and some will go to be released back into the wild.
00:13:55And talk about releasing animals back into the wild, Judy Watson’s education class, the group we met earlier at the leopard, had a real-life conservation lesson of it’s own.
00:14:07…. An injured possum, patched-up and in good health…
00:14:14…was on his way back home.
00:14:22When Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures continues…
00:14:25a hobby that just seems to click.
00:14:49that’s me!
00:14:52Can I tell you what a difference phillips’ colon health has made?
00:14:55It’s the probiotics.the good bacteria.
00:14:58That gets your colon back in balance.
00:14:59I’m good to go!
00:15:01Phillips’ colon health.
00:16:38Carol: Jack, these are a couple of our jungle cats, right here.
00:16:41In Tampa, Florida, Carole Lewis runs a sanctuary for unwanted animals.
00:16:46It’s called Wildlife on Easy Street.
00:16:48Carol: We try to give them as much room as we possibly can.
00:16:51Most of our cages are over 1,200 square feet.
00:16:54Jack: Those snow leopards are pretty.
00:16:56Carol: he’s about two years old.
00:16:59Jack: Hey herc’!
00:17:01Most of the animals here are exotic cats.
00:17:03Among the 200 residents, a female leopard named “Armani.” Jack: Boy what a beautiful cat.
00:17:10Carol: This is armani. she’s an african leopard.
00:17:13Jack: Look how the coat matches the grass.
00:17:15Carol: You can walk right past ‘em and never even see ‘em if they’re laying still.
00:17:19In Africa, seeing a leopard in the wild is one of the most special of moments.
00:17:24Not only are the cats beautiful, but, out here in the bush, you can see how their distinctive markings make them so deceptive….
00:17:31when it really counts.
00:17:33With their camouflage, keen eye sight, excellent hearing and silent movement, a powerful leopard is a feared predator.
00:17:41Especially among medium-sized antelopes, small mammals, birds and baboons.
00:17:47Learning the skills needed for ambush begins when leopards are young cubs.
00:17:55Here at Wildlife on Easy Street volunteers play a big part in animal care.
00:18:00Volunteer Daniel Caprio spends most of his time with the leopard “Armani.” Operating an animal sanctuary is not something Carole Lewis ever dreamed of.
00:18:10But now that it’s here, she’s trying to make the best of it.
00:18:13Carole: It’s our goal to educate people to let them know what the problems are out there, and to teach everybody that we need to take responsibility for every single animal, from the time it’s born, until the time it dies.
00:18:25It’s my ultimate goal that places like Easy Street don’t need to exist.
00:18:30Though cats are the most prominent house guests here, there are a few others.
00:18:35And I just had to stop by and say hello.
00:18:38Jack: Right now I have a binterong up here, it’s a bear cat, this thing smells like popcorn.
00:18:43A ring-tailed lemur from Madagascar, this looks like a brown lemur, from Madagascar.
00:18:49Lemur’s are very, very endangered.
00:18:51I’ve never seen animals have so much fun!
00:18:53Not only has Carole Lewis filled a need by taking care of so many unwanted or abused animals, she’s passed along her love for wildlife to her daughter, Jamie.
00:19:06Besides helping care for the animals, Jamie’s hobby is taking pictures of the animals.
00:19:12It’s something that just seems to click.
00:19:16Jaime: I really like to take pictures of the cats here.
00:19:19One because we have so many rare cats, that you just can’t find anywhere else.
00:19:26They really work well with me, too.
00:19:28They, most of them know me very well, so I can take advantage of that, and get really good pictures of them, in their natural habitat.
00:19:34Jamie uses her pictures for the newsletter, brochures and website.
00:19:44Jamie uses her pictures for the newsletter, brochures and website.
00:19:46Jaime: It makes me feel really good helping the cats, and knowing that everything that you do is helping to protect these animals in the wild, and in captivity.
00:19:55It’s a, it’s just a really good feeling.
00:19:59Carole: We rescue all that we can, but just last year alone we had to turn away fifty-one cats that needed a home, because we didn’t have the funding, or the space for them.
00:20:10For the lucky animals living at the dead end on Easy Street, It’s a new beginning.
00:20:15Jack: Say goodbye to the animals!
00:20:17Carole: See ya, jack.
00:20:20Not only does feeding and caring for the animals at “Wildlife on Easy Street” cost an enormous amount of money, it requires a lot of people power.
00:20:27Carole Lewis told me she is deeply gratified by the more than 200 volunteers from the Tampa Bay area who show support with their time and energy.

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