This has been an incredibly busy year at the sanctuary! We took in a record number – 10 – orphaned or injured native Florida wild bobcats, rescued many new cats and brought them to their forever home, started the process to rescue former circus tigers in Guatemala, began construction on two more enclosures for our rehab bobcats and even survived Hurricane Irma (all the cats are fine). As always, I feel blessed to have such amazing donors, including you, whose support allows us to continue to rescue exotic cats in need around the country and even internationally.
Since last summer we have rescued eight amazing permanent residents. Savannah cats Beacher, Loki and Simba were rescued separately in November, December and June. Sadly, all were kept as pets until their owners finally realized hybrid cats are still wild and should not be pets.
Also in December we took in elderly cougar Maya after her owner surrendered her to authorities. At 18, Maya is over 100 in human years. Elderly big cats rarely have the opportunity for a new life at an accredited sanctuary. Maya is such a sweetheart – we feel like we’re the lucky ones to have her here!
December was so busy it also marked the arrival of Manny jaguar and extremely rare Amur leopard Natalia! An AZA-accredited zoo in Nebraska was revamping their big cat exhibit areas and would no longer have the cats on display. The zoo wanted to ensure both cats “retired” to an accredited sanctuary and reached out to us; we immediately said yes! When gorgeous Manny stepped out of his transport cage, our volunteers, interns and staff instantly fell in love. He has settled in quickly and likes to bring his balls and toys into his den with him each night.
Natalia leopard was very shy when she first arrived and kept to the back of her large enclosure. But she rapidly relaxed and now really enjoys enrichment and lounging front and center on her largest platform to watch tours go by!
We also added two older cats who were former pets. Hutch, a serval, arrived in February and has settled in great and Frankie, an inquisitive bobcat, just arrived in June. Cute story: We give our cats bloodsicles – the blood runoff from red meat mixed with water and frozen – as treats and as extra hydration for our older cats. Frankie received his first bloodsicle shortly after arriving at Big Cat Rescue and had a look of pure joy on his face! His little tongue couldn’t lick it fast enough.
Your generous donations make it possible for us to open our doors and hearts to these big cats.
Since last summer’s letter we have been BUSY rescuing a record 10 native Florida wild bobcats into our rehabilitation and release program! Seven orphaned kittens (Shamrock, Clover, Lucky, Bravo, Tango and very recently Echo and Foxtrot) and three young adult bobcats: Teuci was found in a chicken coop, Noel had been hit by a car and suffered broken legs, and Aphrodite was dropped off at a rehabber.
Thanks to you, we’ve started construction on the fifth and sixth enclosures for our rehab bobcats and it’s none too soon – we’re bursting with bobcats! When tiny kittens arrive, we slowly introduce them to others their age so they can grow up and learn to hunt together. Look how cute Lucky, Shamrock and Clover are cuddled up together on their platform! As I’ve said before, our happiest days at the sanctuary are the days we release the grown and healed bobcats back into the wild, to live and thrive as they were meant to do. Cooper, Teuci and Noel were rehabilitated and released this year.
Rescuing exotic cats is not for the faint of heart. Within minutes, we fall in love and they become family. We care for them, treat them with respect, cheer them on and feel heart wrenching pain when they let us know it’s time to go. We know you feel the same as you follow their lives via our cameras and social media sites.
This year we cried many tears for the cats who touched our hearts and left us with cherished memories. Among them was Sabre leopard, who left us at the ancient age of 25. Ironically he came here at three years old for a short visit, but his owner never returned. And our beloved gentle soul Zeus tiger passed at age 21. Zeus had a heartbreaking start in life, nearly starved and blind when we rescued him in 2014. We feel blessed to have been able to make his last four years his best.
We had to say goodbye to Mickey cougar too. If you received our 2015 annual letter, you’ll recall Mickey’s struggle to walk with two torn ACLs. He had the most indomitable spirit despite his debilitating pain. Our amazing vets performed two surgeries to help his twisted legs. But at age 14 (young for our cats), his body just wore out. I like to picture him now running full speed, finally free.
Our iconic lion Joseph passed at age 19, the last of his pride. He was a stubborn guy who melted hearts around the world. His roar was magnificent. We were blessed that he was ours for a while, now he belongs to the ages. Run free with your girl Sasha.
We share these stories so you realize how many cats your gifts have saved! We often rescue elderly cats like Maya and cats with special medical needs like Mickey and Zeus. It takes more time and costs more money to care for these cats, but they are so worth it. We are so grateful for your donations, which allow us to say YES when we are asked to rescue exotic cats in desperate need!
Your donations will help us make big improvements to our Windsong Memorial Hospital including a new roof and awning, dental software, blood machine and upgrade to our ultrasound machine. We also need a new forklift to maintain the sanctuary. Total cost is about $90,000. Can we count on your help?
The SHARE Foundation is once again matching dollar for dollar the first $25,000 in donations, so your gift will go twice as far. And 100% of your donation will be used to care for our cats. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our annual letter. Thank you for everything you do to support our cats and sanctuary!
For the cats,
Carole Baskin Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue