HEAR ME ROAR! Central Florida Animal Reserve Relocates Big Cats From Brevard To St. Cloud

By  //  September 25, 2017

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Tigers, Lions, Cougars, Leopards Relocate

SIBERIAN TIGER MICHAEL relaxes in a culvert den at his new digs at the Central Florida Animal Reserve, or CFAR, which relocated 21 tigers, two lions, two cougars and one black leopard from the animals’ former digs in Canaveral Groves to their new home 57 miles away at Forever Florida in St. Cloud.

Anyone who has had to pack a household knows how much of a hassle moving can be, but that stressful experience pales in comparison with the move that Melbourne dentists Drs. Effie and Thomas Blue recently finished.

In July, the Blues and other volunteers from the Central Florida Animal Reserve, or CFAR, relocated 21 tigers, two lions, two cougars and one black leopard from the animals’ former digs in Canaveral Groves to their new home 57 miles away at Forever Florida in St. Cloud.

The understandably cranky big kitties were moved four or five at a time in a special air-conditioned trailer to the tune of $15,000. Effie Blue rode in the back of the trailer with the cats to help them keep calm.

“The cats know us and trust us,” said Dr. Thomas Blue, president of the all-volunteer Central Florida Animal Reserve.

The change of domicile for the cats was precipitated by the inadequacy of their former location, where the animals, programmed by nature to roam over vast expanses, lived in 15×20 enclosures.

When the opportunity to move the base of operations to Forever Florida presented itself, the grassroots organization jumped at the chance to give the cats more elbow room.

“The (human) population was starting to grow around our Canaveral Groves location and the county preferred it if we left,” said Blue.

“THE CATS KNOW US and trust us,” said Dr. Thomas Blue, president of the all-volunteer Central Florida Animal Reserve, above left, with Dr. Effie Blue.

MISSION TO PRESERVE

With a motto of “compassion, conservation, commitment,” CFAR is on a mission to preserve the magnificent big cats, to act as stewards for their care and wellbeing and to raise awareness of the issues threatening their survival.

“Everyone involved with the organization is a naturalist and environmentalist,” said Blue.
“We believe in protecting the animals.”

None of the kitties at CFAR were wild-born and they are much too familiar with humans for CFAR to ever consider releasing them into the wild.

Some belonged to roadside zoos, while others were “pets” people thoughtlessly purchased as cubs…until the animals turned from cute and adorable to 500 pounds of unpredictable claws and fangs.

While Florida does not permit individuals to add big cats to their homes, that is not the case in many other states, where it is perfectly legal to buy a tiger or lion as a pet.

When the owner doesn’t want them or can’t control them, the fortunate ones end up in sanctuaries such as CFAR’s. Others are euthanized, or worse yet, could well become the subject of a canned hunt.

DR. K. SIMBA WILTZ, CEO and SVP for Central Florida Animal Reserve.

FUTURE REMAINS DIM

The overall future of the big cats remains dim. At the turn of the 20th century, 100,000 tigers roamed the wild.

Today, less than 4,000 remain and every one of them has a price on their head, given the demand for tiger “products” such as tiger rugs and tiger bone wine. In China, almost everything from a tiger, from whiskers to eyes, is used to treat maladies that range from boils to baldness.

Tiger bone wine supposedly imparts the animal’s strength and stamina to the imbiber, so the ultra-expensive elixir is popular with the Chinese elite. Of course, none of these remedies work, but changing long established mindsets is difficult and poaching continues.

Poaching, together with habitat destruction, remains the biggest threats facing these magnificent beasts.

“The big cats in the wild are being persecuted,” said Blue.

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Caring for the creatures is a big burden that the CFAR volunteers have happily assumed. Government and foundation funding is non-existent and the nonprofit must compete with many, many other charities for individual donations.

The cats are fortunate to have friends such as the Blues, who freely give of their time, talent and treasure to keep them alive and thriving.

Preparing the cats’ new facility at Forever Florida cost $1.3 million, raised through individual donations. The volunteers, who already give countless hours cleaning cages and preparing the animals’ food, also dig deep into their pockets to pay for their care.

Anyone who shares their home with a dog or cat knows that pet food costs can be significant. Consider then, that a big cat can eat its way through more than $6,000 worth of meat per year. Multiply that by 27.

The 11-acre site at Forever Florida offers the CFAR cats quarters that are three times as large as what they had before.

To convert the raw land into a secure sanctuary, the buildout required beyond the enclosures, the installation of plumbing, electricity, sewage, roads, boardwalk and considerable freezer space to hold the meat the cats love to consume.

Just as important as the extra space is the opportunity the new complex gives CFAR to engage the public and raise awareness of the cats’ plight.

The Canaveral Groves facility could not be opened to the public, but the new home at Forever Florida will welcome visitors several times a week through formal tours beginning October.

WHITE BENGAL TIGER Iyotaka Tatonka is moved into the transport vehicle at the new compound.  Pictured above, left to right, are Volunteer Luke Tyler, Board President Tom Blue and Volunteer Bill Stallins.

FORM OF MINISTRY

The world could keep on spinning after all the lions, tigers and their brethren are extinct, but it would be a very different world, for the big cats play an important role in the web of life and remind us of just how awesome Mother Nature can be.

Blue acknowledges that for him and the other CFAR volunteers, caring for the big cats is a form of ministry.

“If not us, who then will help the big cats?” he asked.

Without volunteers, the Central Florida Animal Reserve could not operate and more willing hands are always welcome. Duties vary from administrative tasks to ensuring the safety of the animals and anything in between.

Consider giving of your time, talent and treasure to the CFAR. For more information, visit CFLAR.org

CENTRAL FLORIDA ANIMAL RESERVE relocated 21 tigers, two lions, two cougars and one black leopard from the animals’ former digs in Canaveral Groves to their new home 57 miles away at Forever Florida in St. Cloud.

CENTRAL FLORIDA ANIMAL RESERVE relocated 21 tigers, two lions, two cougars and one black leopard from the animals’ former digs in Canaveral Groves to their new home 57 miles away at Forever Florida in St. Cloud.

Board President Tom Blue stands with White Bengal Tiger Icamna as they prepare to load for the move.

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