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When Todd called me up on day and told me that a friend suggested to him that we visit this place, I had to admit, I was skeptical. This was NOT like us to do something like this.
However it is like us to do something like this. Here we both are...kissing a camel. On the lips..For real.
First of all, Nature Adventures isn't about "zoo's", however it is about wildlife and nature. We aren't used to going to film wildlife in captivity. We are used to going out on an adventure and having to look for things to film.
GW Animal Park, like pretty much every zoo, sanctuary, or exotic pet owner, has come under fire by a couple of animal rights groups. It goes along with their job.
We juggled the idea around and gathered some thoughts.
First of all, we feel no one should judge another until they have walked a day in their shoes.
Second, We don't believe everything we read, or see on TV. Anyone can post anything they want online and doing so DOES NOT make it factual. We know that the best way to truly learn is through experience. Which is why we not only show people nature, but also encourage others to get out there and see for themselves each week.
Third, We had questions....and we wanted answers. The best way to find them was to follow our own advice and go see for ourselves. I can't imagine anyone would disagree if I said 'reading about something is not as effective as experiencing it firsthand'.
This was a first hand experience unlike any other.
The only way to find out more on this issue, was to go and see for ourselves. It seemed logical. Practical. Doable. Most of all...Fair.
With open minds, and short
notice leaving us only a couple of days to pack and prepare ourselves for the mission, we got in
the ol' natureadventuremobile and headed south to Oklahoma.
We, of course, stopped over at the Clubhouse in Topeka for some sleep before heading the rest of the way. Nothing makes Todd madder than toll roads. And why must they stick them smack dab in the middle of where we are traveling?
We rummaged up enough change to pay our tolls and arrived at the Park. We were welcomed by the friendly staff. We spent the better part of 3 days working side by side with the staff. We were given full access of the entire grounds, from the trailers, to the buildings, the animals, and the main house. They also shared experiences, stories and let us be part of their every day activities.
And it seemed the Tigers WANTED to be part of what we were doing......
There were 11 week old tigers in the house that helped me shower each morning, and bit my ankles as I did my hair. Todd tried to occupy them, but they seemed to just want ME. When I got home the backs of my legs were bruised from their playful bites. It looked worse than it felt, really. I bruise easily, so I had some cool battle wounds and walked around proudly the next couple of weeks displaying my tiger bites and telling about them any chance I got! Everyone was jealous. :)
The park itself was amazing. The tigers were all very 'frisky'. There was much hanky panky going on and the sound of their roars carried.
The more time we spent at the park, the more we fell in love with it. We learned so much in those 3 short days. It was a gamut of emotion. There was anxiety at first, which led to relief when we took our first walk-through, turning to excitement as I entered the tiger cage to remove the cubs, turning to love when I held them. When the trailer of rescued tigers from Wisconsin arrived, I felt relief, sadness, sympathy, but most importantly, gratitude. The team worked so hard to bring these tigers there and continues to work hard every day to improve the lives of these creatures. They deserve it.
Team work is essential to getting the rescue tigers to their new homes... and then the real work begins...getting them back to being healthy and happy!
Let me jump up on my soapbox a minute...
Tigers have evolved and survived through the course of millions of years. Yet, today they struggle for their survival...because of HUMAN-INDUCED factors, like poaching and habitat loss. The ice age didn't kill the tigers off, but the era of MAN clearly is. That is messed up, people. In the wild, these creatures would be hunted to extinction. That is a FACT that no one can deny. We must save this species. Joe and his team are doing their part. Their survival is really what's most important. Do your research. Study what's happening to these creatures in the wild. I dare you. It will sicken you. You will surely earn a strong respect for people like Joe.
Off the soapbox....
We stayed in a cabin in the woods near the park. The last night there, I found a scorpion on the floor near the bed. Creepy! I made a point to not get up during the night to use the bathroom, in fear of stepping on one in the dark! I know it's part of nature, and it was actually cool to see. Just not beside my bed.
Outside of the cabin are several friendly Emu's. They were very curious and loved me...they like shiny things and I had plenty of those. They are such bizarre creatures, really.
Although filming this episode meant stepping outside of our comfort zones a bit, I am so glad we decided to go check it out for ourselves. Not only was it a life-changing experience for us, it was also a life lesson.
We hope you enjoy and learn from our amazing and positive experience.