Wild Things

One of my favorite past adventures was in Columbus, Ohio shortly before we moved to Tennessee.

One of the curious things about living in a place the vast majority of one’s life is the propensity to take it for granted.  For me, making friends with someone who was more connected to the Columbus scene introduced us to some experiences we would have missed completely.

These images are from one such experience.  Our friend learned of a behind-the-scenes tour available at the Columbus Zoo and organized a group of people to divide up the fee.  Even better, much of the money went to a Cheetah rescue program.

The animals we met were the animals who travel with Jack Hannah when he appears on television.  Jack himself was off at his Montana home, so we didn’t get to meet him.  I don’t think any of us felt like the experience was diminished by his absence; after all, it’s the animals who are the stars.

What was so cool about the experience is that these are animals who are used to educate people about endangered species and who have been handled enough to be touchable.  How often do you get to go to the zoo and pet a Lemur or cradle a baby Wallaby?

There are two things about the program I particularly like.  First, they are very serious about trying to save the extremely endangered Cheetah.  Not only do they operate a breeding program, but they also use the funds raised to donate Anatolian Shepherds to farmers where Cheetahs are still wild.  The Anatolian Shepherds protect the farmers’ flocks from the Cheetahs and, inversely, protect the Cheetahs from being shot by the farmers.  It’s a novel approach to solving a root cause that’s win-win.

At the Columbus Zoo, you can buy a children’s book about an Anatolian Shepherd raised with a Cheetah and those funds go to help save the Cheetahs too.  This is a somewhat ironic twist on the plot.  At the Columbus Zoo, instead of scaring the Cheetahs, the dogs provide comfort and confidence to otherwise skittish cats.  I don’t recall the story of what made them decide to raise the first cheetah-dog pair, but the result was a happier cheetah, so they have been raising puppies with the captive cheetahs ever since.

The puppy friend we met along with the cheetah babies there that day was a frisky yellow lab who didn’t seem to quite understand his place in the food chain next to his best friends.

The second part of the program I particularly liked was the number of rescues who were part of it.  The tortoise, the puppy, and the Python were all rescued critters.  In the case of the tortoise and the python, the Humane Society wasn’t equipped to deal with them.  The python had been released in a Columbus Metro Park and was at risk of freezing to death when it was rescued.  What a beautiful snake it is!

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