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 Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora