Located at 3320 Jack Teeple Road in Charlestown, Indiana is a small slice of heaven, filled with exotic and beautiful animals of all kinds, called Wildlife In Need. It is an exotic animal sanctuary owned and operated by Tim Stark, and every single person that works there is a volunteer. As one of our guides told our group today, “our salary is getting to spend time with all of these beautiful animals and knowing that we’re making a difference for them.” Wildlife In Need operates solely on contributions, donations and fund raisers, such as the one that I attended today – Wildlife Animal Encounter….and what an encounter it was!
My first trip to the sanctuary was a little over two years ago when I went to spend time with, and pet, tiger cubs. My heart was bursting with joy – and yes, I cried. Why? Because anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals, with tigers being at the top of my list, and it had been a life-long dream of mine to pet one of the most beautiful creatures in the world! So the tears I shed that day were ones of joy. It was an experience that I will never, ever forget. I walked out of there thinking, “I will never have another wonderful and heart-touching experience such as this.” And I didn’t. Until today.
Make no mistake, Wildlife In Need is NOT a zoo. It is a place where unwanted, uncared for exotic animals are taken in, nourished, loved and given a chance to live out their natural lives in the hands of those who KNOW how to take care of them, and that much is evident by seeing the healthy condition that ALL of their animals are in. For more information about the sanctuary, visit their website at: https://wildlifeinneed.wordpress.com.
I’ll do my best to guide you through what I experienced today, and hope that maybe you can see it all through my eyes. So, let’s get started!!
Gravel crunches under the car tires as we enter the parking area. My husband had barely turned off the ignition when I jumped out of the car, eager to see the lions and tigers that were on display in the front. Relax – they’re in large cages and the entire area is surrounded by a protective barrier with volunteers spread around the exhibits to ensure that no one tries to get closer than they should. These are some of the first beauties I saw:
King of the Jungle, a Lioness, and Leo says “PFFFT on you!” LOL
I have never in my life heard a lion roar, other than on television. But I did today – and trust me when I tell you…..it’s LOUD!!! He most certainly got our attention. I also had never seen a real hyena, but after my experience at the sanctuary, I can no longer say that. They are much bigger than I had imagined, and make the neatest sound. At one point while we were watching him, he made this sound, and me and my daughter, Candi, turned to each other and at the same time said, “it sounds like a cow!”
Now the BIG moment had arrived – it was time to go inside for our hands-on encounter with wildlife. The group made a large circle on the floor, anxiously awaiting to see which animal would appear first. Enter a volunteer carrying an armload of Spider Monkeys!! Placing them down, they all took off in different directions, running across our shoulders and laps (one even tried to steal my glasses!) They loved the attention – and they also liked sliding across the floor, the silly little clowns! They were so stinking adorable, if I’d had a purse with me I would have put them all in there and taken them home!! Not really, but you get my point. I didn’t get any good pictures of them because the little stinkers wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get one, but here’s what a spider monkey looks like:
Other animals that we had the pleasure of touching/petting:
Capybara (getting ready to jump over Candi’s feet)
Caracals (check out those laser eyes!!!) Two of them, while playing, jumped on Candi and knocked her backwards, but not to worry, she sat back up laughing!
Fennec Fox (their fur is so soft, it’s like touching a rabbit)
Kangaroo (also has very soft fur)
Other animals that we were introduced to, but were not allowed to touch:
Eurasian Eagle Owl
Two-Toed Sloth (with owner/operator Tim Stark)
Heroes don’t always wear a cape, or have huge muscles, or wear a giant red “S” on their chest – sometimes, they’re right under our noses. Every day, ordinary people – like Tim Stark. He is a hero in my eyes because he truly, truly loves these animals and has dedicated his life to saving them and providing them with a safe haven. Without him and his team of volunteers, their lives may not have been so fortunate.
Ending our encounter were animals that I have always loved and think are absolutely beautiful, and when our guide brought them into the room, I must have had a look on my face that verified that. Walking straight to me, she said, “Since you got so excited, you’re going to be the first to hold them.” And with that, she put two tiny ring-tailed lemurs in my arms, and all I could do was cuddle them – and yes, I cried again. I didn’t mean to, but I was so overcome with love and enjoyment that I couldn’t help it. They were just so doggone cute and loveable!
That’s an arm full of love right there!!!
Did I have a good day and a good time? You bet your pan of country cornbread I did!!! Even my husband let me know how much he enjoyed it and how neat it was to see all of these beautiful creatures up close and personal. And I made a new friend today. Say hi to Eli. He was celebrating his 8th birthday today and the animals must have known he was a birthday boy, because they kept coming back to him and curling up in his lap. I have always believed that animals have a keen sense of who they can trust, and I thoroughly believe they could feel the love pouring from this little boy.
Happy Birthday, Eli!!!
Hope you enjoy these pictures…
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Wildlife In Need, please do so. I promise you – you will NOT be disappointed!!!
Until next time….
Take care and God Bless!!