Carnivore Preservation Trust

-> I've never had a blog! I figure it will be cool if I document my internship, so we're gonna give it a whirl....

I have just begun my internship with Carnivore Preservation Trust. Located in Pittsboro, NC, CPT is a sanctuary to big and small exotic cats and carnivores. We house tigers; servals; caracals; ocelots; binturongs; and kinkajous. My responsibilities include feeding and maintaining all the animals on the 55 acre compound in addition to providing animal enrichment, participating in veterinary procedures, and completing various projects. My first day was last week. I started the morning early by cutting and chopping the fruit for the binturongs and kinkajous. After gathering five gallons of fruits, we prepared the binturong "mush": a concoction of dry dog food, water, and almost-rotten bananas. The resulting mush actually smells quite good (although I'm not testing that theory). Distributing the food throughout the compound takes almost two hours. Chicken quarters are given to the small cats and the binturongs receive their mush, fruit, and some raw chicken as well. The cats at CPT are fasted one and two days a week to mimic their diets in the wild, so I didn't learn the fine art of chicken throwing until yesterday. On the days where everyone is fed, we distribute two and three chickens to each tiger, and not only are my arms sore, but I have a greater appreciation for the invention of the refrigerator (two hours and almost one hundred raw chickens in the hot sun smell really wonderful).

Feeding is usually accompanied by a lot of growling, pacing, jumping, chuffling and eagerness at CPT. The 'chuffle' is a greeting done by tigers when they are happy to see you. However, not everyone is happy to see us. Yesterday, Connor Tiger wasn't too happy when a chicken was caught at the top of the 20-foot chain link fence. As we tried to maneuver the fence to get the bird down, Connor, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, growled and snarled at us the whole time. I was not expecting the sudden ROAR as Connor had enough of us, and I must admit that the sound reaches deep into your chest and serves as a healthy reminder that these guys are wild and THEY WILL KILL YOU.

Emerson is another tiger on the compound. His cage buddy, Fenimore (pictured), is becoming one of my favorite tigers because of his teddy bear face and shy tendency to hide in the grass as you come to visit. Once you get to his fence, however, all he wants is some lovin'. Emerson has been sick recently and is on meds, but yesterday as I was waiting by the fence to see if he would take his chicken he suddenly turned and launched himself onto the fence at me. One can't take a grumpy tiger's antics personally, however. CPT has a strict no-touch policy, so although none of the animals are ever touched, most of them are very social. At this point I will stress that exotic animals DO NOT MAKE GOOD PETS! These animals are not domesticated, nor will they ever be. Fenimore may be sweet, but he could easily kill me. Wild animals can sometimes be "tamed," but domestication takes thousands of years. "Tamed" wild animals still pose the heavy risk of causing harm to humans if kept as pets... and they often do. Ok. I'm off the soapbox. But if I find out that any of you are keeping a tiger in the bathtub, I will find you. Or, what's left of you probably. Anywho....

Isabella is our epileptic tiger and the biggest sweetheart. She gets medicine each day for seizure prevention, and she genuinly enjoys the visits and showers we give her.

The keepers are really helpful and always willing to answer my many questions. I'm definitely going to love learning and working with these kids.

Among the small cats I am responsible for, my initial favorites include Petee (pictured), a hyperactive ocelot, and the Wobbly Sisters Scylla and Nenya, two caracals with cerebral hypoplasia (the underdeveloped cerebellum causes poor balance). I am excited to begin my enrichment projects with these animals. I'm brainstorming....I'm planning to change the design of their enclosures and build new obstacles for climbing and jumping. In addition, I'm also collecting kiddie pools to use for the small cats and fill them with fish. We're also planning to make paper mache zebras and deer to fill with treats for the tigers to play with.

I'm also mastering the chuffle so I can properly greet the cats.

So excited! This is basically my future... I want to be a big cat vet. I'm going to Africa and I'm saving the cheetahs. Watch Out, Jeff Corwin!