News / USA

Love of Big Cats Sparks Conservation Project

Dale Anderson keeps 27 exotic animals at California property

Dale Anderson with Morato, a jaguar he keeps in captivity at Cat Haven.
Dale Anderson with Morato, a jaguar he keeps in captivity at Cat Haven.

Multimedia

Audio
Jan Sluizer

Dale Anderson’s love affair with big cats goes back to junior high school in Santa Rosa, California, when a mountain lion cub was brought to his seventh grade classroom.

“And ever since then I’ve had a desire to do something with cats," he says. "I don’t know why. Maybe it was God-given in some ways because I don’t explain it any other way.”

In his early thirties, after working for two years at an exotic cat breeding center and several years of visiting big cat sanctuaries around the world, Anderson felt qualified to launch his own grassroots conservation project. Today, at 51, his property in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains is home to 27 wild cats - big and small.

“This is not a traditional job," he says. "I can blaze my own trail because there’s not anything out there saying this is how you get there.”

Animal ambassadors

It began in 1992, when Anderson bought 37 hectares of California woodland, with dense stands of hardy shrubs and natural springs, and began seeking permits to own exotic and endangered wild animals.

Six years later, he opened Cat Haven, which is now home to eleven cat species, including lions, tigers, several types of leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, jaguarundis, bobcats, lynx and an African serval.

Anderson sees his animals as ambassadors for all wild cats. He believes if people can see them up close and in person at Cat Haven, they’ll fall in love as he did, and be inspired to take action to help them. Anderson launched Project Survival to coordinate that aid.

“The objective is to get the message across and then channel the money away from here to projects that need to get done," he says. "What I want to do is make it so when people come up here they walk away and go, ‘Jeez, I want to help in conservation. I want to do something to help save animals in the wild and I have a way to be able to do that. I can work through Project Survival to make that happen.’"

A lion named Cuzy relaxes in an animal enclosure at Cat Haven.
A lion named Cuzy relaxes in an animal enclosure at Cat Haven.

The animals at Cat Haven are caged, but have lots of space to roam and exercise. Each enclosure is tailored to the needs of the cat.

Leopards like to climb, so their tall cages are built around trees. Lions have large open areas with fenced runs. There's a pond in the tigers’ enclosure, since they are one of the few cats which like water.

All have shelter from the elements. Anderson says his cats are happy in their homes. If they weren’t, he adds, they’d show it.

When Anderson walks into one of his big cats’ compounds, they greet him by jumping up, and putting their paws on his shoulders. When he sits down, they try to crawl in his lap.

Anderson reflects on recent publicity surrounding an Ohio man who released 56 exotic animals - including lions, tigers and bears - which he had kept in captivity. Authorities shot and killed 48 of the animals.

"It's a sad situation for all parties involved. Obviously, the cats and bears had to be killed but it's unfortunate," he says. "I look at this as an oddball situation which doesn't have any bearing in the sense of the bigger pictures of animals in captivity. It's a weird thing. People should not use this to make a statement that people shouldn't have exotic animals."

Show time

Some of Anderson's cats, which were born in captivity, go out with him for publicity, education and fundraising.

Tango, a five-year-old cheetah, can earn up to $8,000 a day for appearing in television commercials.
Tango, a five-year-old cheetah, can earn up to $8,000 a day for appearing in television commercials.

Anderson had his five-year-old cheetah, Tango, with him, at a recent joint fundraiser for Cat Haven and the Animal Ark wildlife sanctuary and bear rehabilitation center near Reno, Nevada. Tango has also appeared in a number of TV commercials.

“Usually when he goes out and does a shoot, it usually ends being about $7,000 or $8,000 for a day," Anderson says. "He’s recognized around as probably one of the best working cheetahs to come out and do public things like this because he is really good.”

It costs about $225,000 a year to operate Cat Haven. Anderson donates any money beyond that to wild cat conservancies around the world, including $20,000 to Rebecca Klein's Cheetah Conservation Botswana. The group works to reduce conflicts over grasslands used by both ranchers and cheetahs. Klein calls Anderson a fantastic person.

“I don’t really agree with having healthy animals in cages, but I think it’s really important what he does in utilizing the presence of those animals to raise awareness for their conservation to inspire people about these incredible species, and, also, to raise funds for in-the-field projects such as Cheetah Conservation Botswana," Klein says. "And I think he’s a very passionate, energetic, inspiring person that definitely encourages people to take action.”

Spreading the word

While he feels he is helping make positive changes in the wild cat world, Anderson says there is still much work to be done.

Keeping in mind how he reacted to a big cat as a small boy, he and Tango visit about 50 schools each year and he often welcomes groups of schoolchildren to Cat Haven.

“I look for the next Dale to come up behind me. You know, I go out and do school programs, do things like that, I’m hoping, ‘Jeez, maybe we’re inspiring the next group of people that’s going to come up and actually effect more change than what we’ve done.’ It’s a legacy thing," he says. "Let’s make sure the cats continue to be in the wild and people can still see them for generations to come.”

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid