People are the prettiest when they talk about something they really love and you can see the passion in their eyes.
I thought I could give a quick update on the work I’ve been doing with the Wild Felid Advocacy Center. For those of you who don’t know yet, I am doing my internship/volunteer hours needed to graduate through a wild cat sanctuary up in Shelton, WA.
To simply put it, I have the BEST set up in the world right now. I am doing what I have dreamed of since I was little, working along side tigers, cougars, bobcats, leopards and many more wild cats. I constantly tell people what I am doing with these cats because it’s too dang cool to not tell people about, and it’s safe to say I haven’t been this happy all the time in a long time. Let me give you a run down of what I’ve been doing for the past month.
It has to be the most fun, rewarding job I have ever done. No, I do not just walk in each day getting to play with these wild cats (I wish, but the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, now is it?) My usual day consists of food prep for all 59 cats (13 different species), cleaning of enclosures, gardening, and enrichment for the cats. Enrichment may include giving a cat a box filled with straw and catnip or other spices to roll around and play in. Perks of the job are definitely being able to see such beautiful cats, like Turbo (pictured above), up close and getting to observe them closely.
On any given day, I may also give tours to visitors that come through. Tours are one of my favorite things to do up at the sanctuary. I love to see how much these people marvel our cats and how much visitors can learn and take away from the tour and them. I also love informing people about different species of cats that are endangered. I try to explain that not all species that are endangered in the world are the ones you see constantly, like tigers and cheetahs and leopards. Yes, those cats need saving but there are more out there Cats such as the Gordon’s Cat need to be known because they are critically endangered and just as wild as tigers are. By seeing some of these lesser known species in real life, it puts a face to the cause we are working towards: conservation.
Last Thursday, I had a pretty large tour. It totaled with 6 adults and 9 kids. The kiddos ranged from ages 5 years to 13 years old. Kids can sometimes be a handful because sometimes parents pay more attention to the cats than the kids, and they end up wandering off a bit. Not a great idea in a wild cat sanctuary! This tour, however, left me with the biggest smile on my face. When a tour of mine has kids on it, I usually try to cater to the kids and make them interact as much as possible. These kids were so involved, constantly asking questions about each cat we saw. We aren’t talking about simple questions like “What’s the tiger’s name?”. No, they were asking really good questions, like “How big do tigers get in the wild?”, “How often do cougars hunt?”, “What do you feed these cats?”. I was so pleased/impressed because I actually felt like I was actually teaching these kids. I think I surprised myself because I honestly didn’t think I had that in me HAHA. About half way through the tour, I decided to test my theory and asked if anyone could tell me a fact about any of the cats we have already seen. EVERY SINGLE ONE of the kids said a fact, including the 5 year old little boy who added, “Cougars can purr like my kitty at home!!!” I can’t tell you how good it felt to get such a response from those kids like that. At the end of the tour, a couple parents came up to me and commented on how good I was with the kids. But they also pointed out something I hadn’t thought of really; these kids were going to take these facts with them for years to come. They will look back in 20 years and see a cougar somewhere and look at their kids and tell them that cougars can kill something up to 10x their size. It’s weird but so satisfying to think I had made such an impact on not one, but 9 kids by just spending an hour and a half in the sanctuary.
Knowledge is going to be the ignition of conservation in the future. It was an indescribable feeling to leave the sanctuary on Thursday and feel like I had made such difference on people’s lives. However, it’s not only making a difference on visitor’s lives. I leave every single day feeling like I have made a positive impact on the cat’s lives. Whether it’s feeding them, or planting new grass, poop scooping (less glamorous, I know), or giving the cats toys to play with, I leave with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. 🙂 Working for these cats includes all of the things I just listed, including the tours. If people are not educated about the cats and their situations, who will fight for their survival since they do not have a voice of their own?
All in all, life is great right now at the sanctuary. I love what I am doing more than I thought I would. I encourage everyone in the Seattle-Tacoma greater area to come check WFAC out, it is well worth your time!