Today I had the pleasure of spending time with human and elephant friends at the Wild Things jungle park in Salinas.
This park-like zoo is home to many wild birds and exotic animals who are used for film, television, live productions, and educational programs. Wild Things also offers sanctuary to animals who can no longer participate in the entertainment world or would otherwise not have a home or family.
Sheila Gale invited me to join her and Cindy Bittner for an afternoon walking tour of the park, where we visited and learned about a number of extraordinary animals. Most of the species on display were from Africa, however a few of the animals we met were from other parts of the world.
There were several large cats in residence, including four bengal tigers. Two were young females who had been born in July, yet had already grown to be at least 160lbs. One was particularly playful and curious, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the park staff could provide enough stimulation and physical space for these animals to thrive.
Bengal tigers are the most numerous of the tiger subspecies. Yet, like all of the large cats in the wild, they are an endangered species with less than 2500 individuals living outside of captivity.
My favorite feline at the park was an Iberian Lynx, a medium-sized wildcat whose beautfully articulated eyes and flirtatious spirit captivated our attention. I particularly loved her long whiskers and the tufts of black hair on the tips of her ears. Under her neck, she had a furry ruff with black bars that resembled a bow tie. Lynx’s have a short tail and large, soft-looking padded paws for walking on snow.
This resident female was described as a ‘princess’, as she evidently likes to be carried like a house cat part way through her daily walks. While she looks like a sweet kitty, at 60 lbs, she is no ordinary house cat!
The highlight of our tour was the opportunity to meet and feed a large and hungry male elephant. Of the four hopeful elephants who congregated at the feeding area, only the dominant male received our carrot treats. Evidently it is futile for the smaller male and the females to attempt to be fed in this way.
Wild Things is home to a program called Elephants of Africa Rescue Society. E.A.R.S. is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting projects aimed at securing a safe habitat for wild African animals. They also provide a sanctuary for captive elephants once they reach retirement age. There are currently 5 happy, elderly elephants living at Wild Things.
Thank you to Sheila for introducing me to these wild and beautiful animals who live just down the road!