Celebrating 40 Years of Saving Lives!
Book Excerpt #4
[By the late 1990s, word was getting out about the Sanctuary even though it was not open to the public.] Nonetheless, occasionally people would call ahead to ask if they could stop by and look at the animals. Some would not even bother to call; they would simply show up, having heard about this amazing place on the prairie that was home to big cats and bears…
Even with a small number of visitors straggling over the Sanctuary’s doorstep, Pat Craig could tell that the animals were uncomfortable. They would tense up, wary of seeing strangers invading their territories, and would steal away to their favorite hiding places until the invaders were gone. Their uneasiness deepened Pat’s conviction that his instincts were right; there was no room for the public at the Sanctuary.
Yet, members of the Sanctuary Board of Directors, volunteers, visitors, and even some friends would repeatedly tell him what a special place the Sanctuary was – and one that should be shared with others…Pat would have none of it. He had long argued three points: The Sanctuary was built for the animals; visitors stressed out the animals; therefore, there was no way he was going to encourage more visitors to come to the Sanctuary. Period. The problem was visitors had not gotten the memo on this one. They just kept showing up.
Pat hit upon the solution that would be ideal for his animal residents, and, as it turned out, for visitors, too. He agreed to open the Sanctuary to the public – but only if visitors would be confined to observation areas elevated well above the habitats…
Even some of those who had been advocating for a more public role considered the idea odd if not outrageous; others could not quite figure out why an elevated walkway was even necessary. That is because none of them, save Pat, had been there some twenty years before when it was time to put a roof on a storage shed at the [wild animal compound on his] family farm…one morning he had to work on the metal roof and was concerned about how the animals were going to react to the whine of a circular saw and the constant banging of a hammer on steel. He remembers thinking, “How do I do this with those guys right there?” Without any viable alternative, he took his first tentative steps toward an experiment that would later change the course of the Sanctuary – and of his life.
So, I got up on the roof. They didn’t care that I got on the roof. I started banging and watching them just to see their reactions, and nothing. I thought, really? I ran a power saw, and nothing. Somebody looking my way might continue looking, but they never went, whoa, what’s that? Or get up and move over in their cage. I thought, this is really weird. This would scare most people. The horses would run away. But the carnivores were not showing any sign that the noise had any impact.
Indeed, it was clear that the animals were unaffected by the presence of a human directly above them nor did they seem to care that the human was making a lot of noise. They clearly had no fear of people walking and working over their heads. In fact, they did not even have any interest in people walking and working over their heads…
[Pat realized] that large carnivore territory was planted firmly on the ground. The sky was inconsequential to how they perceived their world and how they established personal boundaries. Filed away as one more step along the large-carnivore learning curve, these experiences ultimately planted the seed of an idea that would sprout and become the Mile into the Wild Walkway.
It was the beginning of a new era in large carnivore education for The Wild Animal Sanctuary…Visitors would become part of the sky. The land-based territories of the big cats and bears would be undisturbed. The animals would still come first.
Jake the Kodiak grizzly bear always draws a crowd on the elevated walkway.
At close to 2,000 pounds, he is the Sanctuary’s largest resident.
Book available at Aerio
The authors are very generously donating most of the royalties back to the Sanctuary’s animals, and each book sale also provides a return to the animals as well, so you and the animals can’t lose when you make a purchase.
Order extra copies today for yourself and for the animal lovers in your life!
Forever Wild, Forever Home invites readers to discover the magic of The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, the premier large carnivore sanctuary in the world.
In 1980, Pat Craig rescued a baby jaguar he christened Freckles and took his first bold steps on a forty-year journey to combat the growing crisis of exotic animal captivity, abuse, and trafficking - one rescue at a time. Today more than 200 bears, 60 African lions, and 70 tigers, as well as jaguars, leopards, mountain lions, wolves, and other exotic animals, both large and small, enjoy peace, comfort, and contentment in enormous habitats on thousands of acres of The Wild Animal Sanctuary's prairie and canyonlands. Rescued from mostly horrific situations, they are survivors, with much to teach us about courage, resilience, and hope. Their lives resonate with our own.
With over 100 color photos, this absorbing, thoughtful, and timely narrative offers an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at what it is really like to care for wild carnivores. Both heartwarming and humorous, Forever Wild, Forever Home honors the nobility and wellbeing of the animals who call the Sanctuary home, and the heroic and gratifying labors of those who care for them.
Join Sanctuary teams on rescues of giant Alaskan Kodiak bears languishing in the Florida tropics, a lion held captive by a fortune teller in a tiny Mexican town, two big cats marooned and starving on a typhoon-ravaged island in the Pacific Ocean, and thirty-nine tigers owned by Joe Exotic, the "Tiger King" of Netflix fame. Meet Colo Colo, an angry African lion from Bolivia; Tasha Joy, a tiger who didn't know she was a tiger; the ever-busy grizzly bears, Tiny who tips the scales at 1,000 pounds and his friend Natasha; Diego, a white tiger; Jumanji, a black leopard; Lambert, a lion who finally learns to roar - and many more. Learn how the Mile into the Wild Walkway, the longest elevated pedestrian footbridge in the world, enables sky-high visitors to see wild animals in vast habitats; how staff and volunteers create cozy houses and unique playgrounds for the Sanctuary's (mostly) furry residents; and what happens when it's time for a large carnivore to visit the doctor or dentist.
At The Wild Animal Sanctuary, tigers chuff in greeting, bears bask under brilliantly blue skies, mountain lions purr with joy, and African lions roar in winter. The Sanctuary is often seen as the last hope for the animals who are rescued and brought here to their forever home. But the thousands of people who visit, support, work, and volunteer here know that this is the place where hope begins.