The first thing my relatives and I saw was a sign asking us to drive away from the premises if we were unwilling to learn. The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, right outside Denver, Colorado prides itself in saving large carnivores from captivity and abuse. Among the animals roaming around, you will find wolves, tigers, lions and bears.
According to the sanctuary’s website, they take in small animals such as raccoon, yet focus on the larger ones, those whose lives are at greater risk: at the face of greater living expenses, amounting up to eight thousand dollars a year, animals like bears are among the first in line to be euthanized.
The sanctuary opened its doors to the public and started selling merchandise in order to survive, yet its real passion is the care for these animals and the education of the public on these animals and their salvation.
This is not the place to fulfill fantasies of cuddling with lions and bears. You will not see them jumping for enthusiastic audience applause.
Visitors get one, very clear walkaway above ground, and one terrace. They are recommended to bring binoculars or a large-zoomed cameras if they are interested in getting the full experience. The animals have wide spaces to run around, they have pools and games for their entertainment. They even have spaces hidden from the crowds, hidden from the cold, hidden from heat. They are welcome to go there any time they please.
An employee told us that not one animal has attempted to escape since the sanctuary’s foundation, because the animals know they are cared for.
As we entered the walkway, we saw a gravestone for Freckles, the first carnivore the sanctuary saved. I’m not sure whether this jaguar, who died in 2004, is actually buried there, yet the homage felt like a symbol to the place’s care for its animals.
At first, we saw animals via bars, as if a reminder that the animals are still captive and might never know to handle the wild enough to stay alive outside.
Each animal has its own spaces, yet others from their species can come in for a visit through holes that were created by the sanctuary for the sake of animal connection.
Pretty soon, the above-the-ground walkaway turned out to be great for viewing and photography.
We came mid-day, after lunch at the airport as I flew in that morning from Boston, and therefore found many animals snoozing.
Like humans, they dream in more than one position.
Some were awake, whether just waking up, on their way to sleep or off wandering around.
One tiger was either licking a red stone or eating meat.
When we looked back at the sleeping tigers, we discovered that the holes of connection were no fairy tale: two tigers lay together where before there was only one.
Birds flew up in a group close to where a wolf looked at me in silence.
Lions spent the time mostly in the shade, mostly together.
And what about the bears, you ask? Bears, my central reason for coming, were the most challenging to capture in lens. They wandered as far and wide as they could, and these are the best shots I got while using my 30X zoom to its greatest capacity.
Today, only a few months after our visit, a longer stretch of the walkway is open to the public, enhancing your wildlife viewing chances. It is probably best to come in the morning, when animals might not be as sleepy and won’t seek a hideaway from the sun.
Have you ever been to a wild animal sanctuary?