We chatted with Dr. Simba Wiltz, president of the Central Florida Animal Reserve, to see what it takes to move this great organization to Osceola, and what the CFAR does to help the cats who reside there.
OW: How does the CFAR educate the public on the big cat and wildlife housed there?
SW: People are key to our education efforts. Each cat is a story with large, powerful personalities, wrapped up in a furry package. Our role is to act as active ambassadors–telling their story both through the work we do and the people we interface with.
In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to tour the new facility in Osceola County that will boast large open-air barn facilities. There will be a pond out there that will present an assortment of wildlife, plus there will most likely be a Florida Panther Call because of the location of the new facility in Osceola. We are excited for this phenomenon for the researchers, residents, and visitors.
OW: Why do these big cats end up at the CFAR? Your web-site says they would otherwise not have a home – why is that?
SW: There is no safety net for big cats–which means that when their caretakers fall on hard times, or can no longer care for them, there are very few options. Returning big cats to an ever-shrinking wild is not possible, nor can they simply be put up for adoption to any willing individual. Government agencies without options for the long-term management of big cats may have no choice but to euthanize big cats. Without state or federal funding, smaller, private entities cannot sustain additional cats. CFAR is an end-stop facility that has the experience to address the needs of big cats, as an option that does not require the death of these endangered species.
OW: What will the CFAR bring to Osceola County?
SW: CFAR will be a key addition to Osceola’s already legendary eco-tourism attractions. At the outset, CFAR will provide a point of interest that can allow people to gain perspective and appreciation for big cats. Students of all levels will be able to engage in educational opportunities through the unique prism of big cats in an outdoor learning environment. Our long-term plan sees improvements that will provide job opportunities from entry-level through professionals. And as the largest big cat site in the area–we will be a unique draw that will extend stays in the county and surrounding regions to the benefit of the local economy.
OW: How can residents get involved?
SW: Our organization is dependent on the financial and physical support of the community. We need individual and businesses most generous donations to maintain our existing facility and complete the new one. This spring is a great time to become a Member, which will give you access to see our residents at our next Member day May 22nd, 2016 and learn more about our future plans. At this time, all our volunteers, including myself are not paid. All of our funds raised go into the care of the large cats, food, health checks, and care and the facility.
Read more, at www.cflar.org