No More Summer Camp
Changes in the Education Department
As of 2015, Big Cat Rescue no longer operates a kids summer camp.
We have had a wonderful Education Department for many years thanks to people like Willow, Beth, Kathryn and others who ran it and helped in so many ways. There have been many children educated and thrilled with the free to low cost tours and summer camp has been hugely popular with children and their parents. It’s been a great program and I appreciate everyone who has been involved in making it so.
Willow has announced that she is moving away and rather than just hiring someone to continue the program, I took some time to think about what our core mission is here and how we can change the Education Program to achieve our primary goal of ending the trade in captive exotic cats.
The new Education Department will focus on raising awareness about the plight of captive big cats and how breeding, handling and privately owning them harms conservation efforts. The Education Department will have achieved its purpose if the majority of the listeners then take action to end the trade, such as through calling their member of Congress or contacting them in an effective and educated manner.
To devote time and energy to educating those who can influence decision makers means we have to scale back on other areas of our previous Education Program that are time consuming, resource intensive and lack immediate impact on the abuses that cause so much big cat suffering.
Summer Camp requires two employees, several interns, and a plethora of volunteers to keep the attending children safe and entertained all day for several weeks of the year when we are already overwhelmed with the daily operations of providing care to 100+ aging exotic animals. The children in our camps won’t be voters for many more years. By that time some species of big cats may have already died out in the wild because of the smokescreen caused by the legal trade in big cats as pets and pay to play props.
Big Cat Rescue will focus our attention on ending the trade in wild cats before it is too late. We will no longer be offering Summer Camp at the sanctuary and will dramatically scale back the number of free and low cost tours that we provide to young children. We know how important it is to educate youngsters and especially those at risk, and will continue to do so, but will focus our efforts on reaching a broader audience than we can accommodate onsite. With the technology available today, there are many ways we can do that without tying up staff and volunteers to manage busloads of children.
We have hired a new Director of Outreach and her name is Jennifer Leon. She will be handling group tours and field trips that have already been scheduled and will be responding to requests but her area of focus will be in educating and inspiring an adult audience who can make a difference NOW for the cats.
Please know that we appreciate all that you and your family may have done in supporting our Education Program and bear with us as we evolve to be more effective. - Carole Baskin, CEO
Have One Wild Time on Your Summer Vacation!!!
AN ADVENTURE TO REMEMBER! (For ages 8 to 15)
Children 8 to 15 years old are invited to explore the great outdoors with 100+ big cats of every size, color and purrsonality. While participating in educational activities campers enjoy meeting lions, tigers, leopards and many other felines. Join us for outdoor exploration on our 55 acre campus while learning about animal habitats, diets, adaptations and conservation. Interactive learning opportunities include diet preparation, scavenger hunts and keeper demonstrations of feedings and behavioral training with the cats.
Class size is limited to ensure a quality experience for each camper, so don’t miss out! Each class is staffed by two or more adults.
To register for Summer Camp, please read the following:
Summer campers between the ages of 8 and 15 are invited to share their vacation with 100+ big cats of every size, color and personality. While participating in educational activities the campers will enjoy meeting lions, tigers, leopards and many other felines. Learning about animal habitats, diets, adaptations and conservation issues will be an adventure to remember! Campers will enjoy outdoor exploration on the 55 acre campus at Big Cat Rescue. Interactive learning opportunities will include diet preparation, scavenger hunts, and keeper demonstrations of feedings and behavioral training with the cats.
Your child will learn about the animals’ lives in the wild and in captivity, the challenges they face, and what we can do to save them from extinction. Activities include arts and crafts, games, movies, guest speakers, and plenty of outdoor exploration.
Important Things You Need to Know
Time: Camps start promptly at 9:00 a.m. and end promptly at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Please drop your child off between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. If an emergency arises that prevents timely drop off and pick up please call 813-393-6066 to let us know. Unfortunately, traffic is a common occurrence in Tampa, so please anticipate and plan accordingly.
What to Bring: Campers need to wear closed-toe shoes (like tennis shoes, no sandals) and clothes that can get dirty. They are required to wear their camp T-shirt each day. One T is included in your tuition. Extras are $10 apiece. Campers need to bring sunscreen lotion, bug repellent, a rain poncho, drinking water, a snack and a lunch.
Camp Rules & Regulations- In order to maintain a safe, fun and favorable learning environment for all, campers who repeatedly cause disruptions or do not follow rules are subject to dismissal from camp without a refund.
- Campers must stay with the group; for no reason should you walk away from the group. If you need to be excused please talk to the teacher or her assistants and get permission. You will be escorted.
- Remain at least 4 feet away from all cages at all times.
- Listen and follow directions.
- Walk to all destinations. There is no horseplay, no running or shouting allowed. Many of our cats came from abuse situations and we do not want to scare or excite them.
- Respect adults, fellow campers, the animals and their environment. Do not chase or touch any of the birds including the peacocks, ducks, etc.
- We are not responsible for any lost or stolen items. Please leave personal items such as toys and video games at home.
- CELL PHONES ARE NOT PERMITTED AT CAMP. Please leave them at home. Your child may bring a camera to take photos only. Teachers or the Director of Outreach will contact parents in case of emergency.
- Watch out for fire ant hills; make sure not to stand where antsare active.
- If you don’t feel well, or need water please let us know!!!
- Have Fun!!!!
I have read all of the rules and regulations for Big Cat Rescue's summer camp, I agree to abide by these rules, and I want to:
Big Cat Camp FAQ
1. Hey! Things are different from 2012!
A: You’re right! We added Fridays to each week of camp, and we made the days a little longer—9 am to 4 pm. This way we can accommodate campers with working parents a little better. Please drop your child off and pick them up at our main entrance, which is 12802 Easy Street, Tampa, FL 33625
2. Will my child be petting the cats?
A: NO. We are a non-contact facility, and even our volunteers and staff do not touch the cats. Your child will not have any physical contact with cats at any time. The campers will remain behind a fence 3-5 feet off the side of the cages at all times.
3. Can my child bring their cell phone to use for taking photos?
A: No. Your child may bring a camera to take photos during camp, and we highly encourage them to do so. Please leave cell phones at home, as they are a huge distraction from camp activities and can become a safety hazard.
4. Can parents observe or participate in any camp activities?
A: Parents are welcome to remain for about 30 minutes on the first day of camp, to meet their child’s teachers and Big Cat staff, and to receive an introduction to camp schedule and activities. Parents are also welcome to ask the staff any questions they have before or after the camp day, or to call or email with any questions. However, parents are not allowed to observe or participate in any camp activities during the camp day—those are for campers only.
5. What kind of experience with kids do Big Cat camp staff members have?
A: Big Cat Rescue staff, interns and volunteers have many combined years of giving kids’ tours of the sanctuary, babysitting, working at other children’s camps, working towards degrees in Education, and running Big Cat Camp since 2006. We also have two certified teachers from the Tampa Bay area who are the summer camp counselors.
6. If my child has to miss a day of camp because of our vacation, do I get a refund for that day?
A: No refunds are issued after 14 days prior to camp except in case of medical emergency.
7. Is my child safe at Big Cat Rescue? You have a lot of safety rules.
A: Absolutely. Your child is supervised by two or more adults at all times. The campers are behind a fence at all times which goes around the outside of every cage. When they are in the classroom at the back of the property, the younger children are separated from the cats in the sanctuary by a locked gate. Our cats’ enclosures are extremely secure, and the staff is very well trained in emergency procedures, including first aid, CPR, and use of the AED machine. Our safety protocols are in place to make sure all guests on the property are safe from the cats.
Past Year's Summer Camp was a Roaring Success!
What Our Campers and Parents Said...
"Katie loves your camps. This is her 3rd year. I am grateful for the opportunity for her to learn about the wonderful animals in your care."
"Cassie truly loved the experience. Thank you so much . . . !"
"My daughter loved every minute of it and has learned so much."
"My child was extremely happy at this camp. Thank you!"
"Consistent quality. She loved it! Has for 6 years."
"Getting to see, [make diets], learn, and be around the cats . . . was a fun experience."
"I liked seeing the cats play with the big enrichment while I was watching them."
"I wish the camp was a week longer."
"I have never seen anything that has excited him more than Big Cat Rescue Camp. He woke up every morning this week asking if it was time to go. He loved evry minute. Will be back next year!"