Tiger World owner planning summer opening
Fri, Jan 18, 2008
By Paris Goodnight
Lea Jaunakais says her plans for “Tiger World” won’t be affected by Metrolina Wildlife Park owner Steve Macaluso’s fines for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
She said Macaluso is packing up his items from the place once known as the Charlotte Metro Zoo at the end of Cook Road, off N.C. 152, so she can take over Feb. 1.
“His business was his business, and his problems were his. It didn’t have anything to do with me,” Jaunakais said Thursday from South Carolina, where she helps run a water quality testing business.
Jaunakais said she was aware of the problems that the the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited through her earlier trips to the zoo on weekends when she would help clean exhibits and prepare food.
But she said such things as animals lacking proper shelter and not getting quality veterinarian care will be addressed quickly and will be evident when the public is allowed back in. That could be this summer if weather holds out on new construction, which will include improved living quarters for the animals and things like angled fencing to make sure none of the big cats can get out.
She said the veterinarian who will care for the animals, Dr. Eric Setzer of the Lesslie Animal Hospital, is the vice president on her board. She plans to apply for nonprofit status for Tiger World, which should make a key difference in how it is operated.
“A lot of zoos rely on income from visitors. I’m fortunate enough in financial ability” that the number of visitors won’t make or break Tiger World, she said. “All the money we generate as a nonprofit foundation will go back into exhibits and things like importing plant life. It’s going to be a totally different situation.”
Jaunakais said Tiger World will use the same 21 acres Macaluso did, with another nine acres as part of the property not involved with the zoo.
She said tigers, which can live 20 years in captivity, should enjoy much better lifestyles with their new facilities. She plans a round of spaying and neutering for some, but not all, of the cats.
She noted that the animals raised under Macaluso’s care still perk up when he arrives, and that he will continue seeing them occasionally.
“I invited him to come by weekly,” she said. “When they see Steve, the animal comes running. I don’t want to deprive the animals of that. He loves animals. He’s always had a passion for animals since he was a kid. But he’s said, ‘I’m done.’ ”
Attempts to reach Macaluso for comment were unsuccessful.
Jaunakais is looking for volunteers to help get Tiger World up and running. Visit www.tigerworld.us
for more information on helping out.
For The Tiger
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