Fourth-graders from Wellington Christian School received an experience of a lifetime when they recently visited Panther Ridge Sanctuary, a safe and healthy haven for exotic cats. The residents include Tristan, a 550-pound Bengal tiger, Charlie, a 200-pound cougar, and Macho, an energetic 6-month old ocelot.
Panther Ridge Sanctuary owner Judy Berens gave the children, teachers and parents a tour around the facility, spoke about each animal and politely answered questions.
The highlight of the visit was when Berens brought out Macho (on a leash) and allowed everyone to briefly pet him and take photos with him, causing children and adults to ooh and ahh over the cat’s soft fur and playful nature.
“It’s important to educate everyone about the plight of these beautiful, endangered cats,” said Berens, who reminds her guests that these animals are not pets.
“Hosting these educational tours is an important part of what we do. They don’t get to see a tiger up close or pet an ocelot. Hopefully, this will impact them in a positive way.”
Many of the animals at Panther Ridge Sanctuary have been rescued from neglect, abuse or abandonment, often after the state seizes them from individuals.
Although very challenging to maintain, Panther Ridge Sanctuary provides a safe, lifetime shelter with first-class veterinary care and food for the exotic cats. There are also educational tours that spotlight the plight of these beautiful cats and their prospects for survival in the wild.
In addition to Tristan, Charlie and Macho, exotic cats living at Panther Ridge Sanctuary include Amos, a black leopard, Duma, an African serval, Monte and Cody, a pair of 7-year-old male ocelots, cougars C.J. and Coco, and Eros and China, rare clouded leopards from Southeast Asia.
Panther Ridge Sanctuary, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation registered with the state of Florida.
Visit the sanctuary’s Web site at www.pantherridgesanctuary.org for more information.