“Compassion. Conservation. Commitment.” This is the philosophy of the Central Florida Animal Reserve (CFAR), now located on the east side of Osceola County near Forever Florida. This wildlife sanctuary and reserve is currently home to 22 big cats, including tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars. When you arrive at the 11-acre facility, the first thing you notice will be the spacious enclosures and you might even be lucky enough to be greeted by a “chuff”-the noise tigers make when they want to say “hello”. Their tiger population consists of Bengals, Siberians, and White Bengals, which have the capability of living to be 20 years old in captivity. Each enclosure was built to be able to withstand a hurricane and is equipped with private dining areas, so even if there are two animals inhabiting the same enclosure they each have their own place to eat.
Each of the animals at CFAR have an individual story. Gypsy, the Melanistic Asian Leopard, began her life as a pet. At the time it was completely legal for her to be a pet, but when the laws changed her owners had to get rid of her. KiKi, the Western Cougar, began her life as evidence after being discovered at the Port of Miami in an attempt to be smuggled out of the country. Michelob, the White Bengal Tiger, was born in captivity to a breeder in Oregon but could not be sold, due to the fact his eyes are slightly crossed. CFAR exists to give all these animals a home, because it is not possible for them to be returned to the wild.
The Central Florida Animal Reserve organization has been in formation since 1996. It is a non-profit organization and is ran entirely by volunteers. Every donation they receive goes directly into the cats, food, and facility. They currently have the smallest population they have had since 2004, but now that they have relocated they have the space to take in more cats. Dr. Simba Wiltz, the CEO of CFAR, became interested and began his research on big cats in 1994 during a distemper outbreak in Kenya. He has been handling big cats since 2001, was elected as an inaugural board member of the Central Florida Animal Reserve in 2007, and became the Chief Executive Officer in 2009. CFAR’s vision for the future includes establishing a welcome center at the facility, building an on-site veterinary center, adding more volunteers to their roster, and rescuing more animals.
The location of the Central Florida Animal Reserve makes it perfect for having a day full of adventure. You could go shoot at the Triple N Ranch, take a tour of CFAR and meet all the animals, and finish your day out next door at Forever Florida. You must book your tour at CFAR ahead of time, and currently tours are limited to Saturday and Sunday from 8-4, with hours being extended during the summertime. You may schedule your tour at www.cflar.org. The organization also is on Facebook and Instagram and has an email list you can sign up for.
Central Florida Animal Reserve is located at 500 Broussard Road in St. Cloud. For more information visit their website, Facebook page or call 321-637-0110.
Big Cat Fun Facts:
-As tigers get older their noses become more pigmented.
-Cougars can leap 40 feet in two steps and can jump 16 feet.
-The animals at CFAR participate in species-specific enrichment activities, including bubble baths, painting, and playing with pumpkins for Halloween.
-Tigers have striped skin.
-Lions dig but tigers do not.
-Lions are naturally social, tigers are not.
-The Indian government captured the last wild shite tiger in the 1950’s.