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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid