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

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More