Today I drove the longest continues section of Route 66 and possibly the US, ending up in Williams for the night. The highlight of the day was a stop at the Keepers of the Wild nature park in Valentine Arizona. This is a rescue park, meaning the take wild animals and give them a home when no one else wants them and keep them for the rest of their lives. They are a not for profit and their animals come from three sources. First family pets that the owners no longer want, second, show animals that are being retired and some zoos that have surplus. They currently have over 175 animals including lions, cougars, wolves, leopards, monkeys and tigers to mention a few. The staff is as warm and friendly to the guest as they are to the animals and if you are ever in the area you owe yourself a visit. To learn more about them or to make a contribution click the link above.
The Park entrance.
My personal guides. Shawn is the old hat at this and Karen is the guide in training, both of them were more than helpful in telling the story of each animal.
As you can see the animals are clean and well cared for. The most disturbing, at least to me, source of animals is what they called photo-op animals. The USDA allows wild animals, up to 6 months of age to be used as photo-ops props around the country. you've probably seen ads to get your child's picture with a lion or tiger. Once the animal reaches 6 months or 300 pounds they are no longer allowed to interact like that and thus become useless in providing revenue to the keepers, then they are dumped. This is where Keepers of the Wild comes in providing the rescue. They also rescue pets that were 'cute' until they grew up among other sources.
Every animal is named and seems to answer to their name, at least when the attendants have treats to pass out. Seeing all these animals sure made today a good day to enjoy the good life.