Our "Mile Into The Wild" Walkway...
For the first 20 years of operation, The Wild Animal Sanctuary was closed to the public to protect the animals we rescued.
All animals are territorial. When strangers approach, they react instinctively with behavior known as “Fight or Flight.” This means they would normally attack a person or another animal that was not supposed to encroach on their territory... or they would choose to run away. Animals in captivity have neither option. They can’t fight, because in zoos and other facilities, fences or moats prevent animals from attacking. In most cases, they also can’t get away from the pressure of an intruder because they've been locked on exhibit and do not have a way to hide.
Being caught between the strangers on one side and a closed den door on the other stresses the animal, so it begins to pace back and forth or display other unnatural and fearful behavior which is generally referred to as "stereotypic behavior."
Here at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, we knew we would never open to the public unless we could find a way to avoid these stressors. Luckily, early on we discovered that large carnivores (and most other animals) do not consider air or sky to be territory, so if people are on elevated platforms or walkways they will not be considered a threat.
With this game-changing revelation, we knew the only way we could ever be open to the public for educational purposes would be through creating an elevated viewing system. However, as good as this idea was, it would not be easy - and it would be expensive.
It wasn't until 2002 that TWAS had the resources to build its initial observation system. Once the walkways and platforms were finished, we opened our doors to educate the public. Thankfully, the system was a monumental success. Each day, hundreds of people would see the animals sleeping, playing and enjoying their wide-open territories without a care in the world, despite having visitors walking above!
We have since expanded our elevated walkways and decks to stretch more than 1.5 miles over our habitats (which happens to be the world record holder). Our guests now have access to many of our large acreage habitats and can sense how the animals below do not feel pressured.
Today, nearly 170,000 visitors per year come to TWAS and witness first-hand how monumental the difference really is. Many visitors have even said, "I can never go back to a zoo again” after experiencing the calm and serenity that abounds.
Many visitors become so inspired, they immediately go to other institutions and demand they redesign their enclosures and observation systems for the benefit of the animals. We are truly witnessing the beginning of a new era, one that will change the way society sees, learns and understands animals both in the wild and in captivity!
We are very blessed to have such great supporters who believe in the work we do and who understand how critical our processes are. Come see them for yourself. You will be amazed by the obvious difference our elevated walkways make. It is our hope that you too will become energized and choose to spread the word so that others will change their systems for the benefit of all animals.
The video below helps demonstrate the way our Mile Into The Wild walkway works and the amazing learning experience that awaits you at TWAS!
Read a more in-depth story about the elevated walkway concept from our Executive Director Pat Craig - Here