Sanctuary houses hurt, homeless, discarded

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Sanctuary houses hurt, homeless, discarded

June 28, 7:00 PM

Peafowl strut here and there as the roosters continually announce daybreak, even at 1 p.m. on a hot summer day.

A suspicious peacock peers at humans, to see whether their intents are worthy of a tailfeather display; alas, all tailfeathers are out and about. He preens, aware that he is being admired.

The macaques jump about, playing on a thick, long rope, pulling each other off the saucer-shaped seats

It’s life at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, a place where approximately 90 animals make their homes. And it’s a place where most will live out their lives, having been injured, rescued, survived being a laboratory subject, performed in the entertainment industry or been carelessly bred.

At the far end, Pouncer lounges on a wooden platform, basking in the sun. After lazily cleaning her paws, she strolls through a tunnel and finds a wading pool, where she slides in and splashes around, attracting the attention of her close friend, Misty, who has chosen to enjoy the shade on this baking Central Valley afternoon.

Misty is convinced the water is tempting, and joins in a wet romp with Pouncer.

They’re safe. They are fed. They are clean. They are thought of daily.

And for these two tigers, that’s as rare as they are.

The two arrived at Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary more than five years ago. They are cross breeds – Bengal and Siberian for Misty and Sumatran and Siberian for Pouncer – a genetic rarity given the geographic distance between the three habitats.

It was during a raid on a Southern California property that touted itself as Tiger Rescue for retired circus and entertainment animals in 2003 that the two were found, each just months old.

The abuse was clear: Misty was trapped in a 3 x 3 cage, starved and covered with mange; Pouncer was tied on a 4-foot tether, also starved and diseased.

And that’s not all: state officials found Tiger Rescue proprietors were hiding 9 tiger and 2 leopard cubs in the attic, 58 cub carcasses in a freezer, and 30 big cat corpses on the property. Two alligators were found in the bathtub while another 54 tigers, leopards and lions were found at a different site. Retirement plus research, they said.

“He was just indiscriminately breeding with whatever stock he had. Then he’d charge you $25 for a photo of a tiger cub in your lap. Then when they were too big, they got sent ‘outside,” Roberta Ratcliff, spokesperson for the zoo sanctuary, said in a previous interview. “He’d tie their paws together and starve them.”

As the nation watched, first horrified, then united, The Fund for Animals rehabilitated and relocated the animals. None could be released to the wild. For the capital region, that meant two new guests in February 2004: The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary is one of six nationwide to welcome these big cats.

Friends of the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, Inc. raised nearly $4,000 for the Tiger Tunnel to adapt and expand what had been Fisher the bear’s exhibit. One side has pools and lock-up dens, while the connecting one has a variety of wooden platforms for the big cats to climb around and lounge on. There’s pools, places to climb, toys to gnaw on, real dirt to tread on, and plenty of options for sun or shade.

And, despite their Southern California origins, the cats love to romp in their pools, even in the middle of a Central Valley winter.

Nancy Coffee, Friends president, says she remembers when the expansion opened to Misty and Pouncer.

“That’s when we knew we were on the right track,” she said, describing how they immediately began running back and forth and splashing and romping with each other. “It’s not perfect – we’d rather see these animals in the wild than in captivity, but this is much better than they had.”

The long-term goal is an expansion that carries a price tag of $140,000 to house the big cats.

The Folsom Zoo Sanctuary’s current goal is continuing construction of the Wild Canine Complex, which houses the wolf pack. Due to the hierarchical nature of a wolf pack, the animals often need to be separated to reduce the competition to be the “alpha.” Building one large structure that really divides the wolves into two areas will give them lots of room but the security they need to not endanger each other, according to zoo information.

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