In July, 2021, Safe Haven Wildlife Rescue lost a longtime resident lioness to cancer. Toward the end of her life Mona refused food but made it to the fence to visit her mate, Tangassi.
“It was heartbreaking watching them nuzzle each other, sharing these last days. “Mona was loved by all and we’re sorry to lose her,” said Lynda Sugasa, the director of the 360-acre sanctuary in Imlay. Other issues cut their grief short.
“We also struggled with meat shortages due to reduced donations because of Covid and supply issues,” she said. Big cats must have raw meat. There is no substitute.
In August, smoke from the California Caldor fire entered the Lake Tahoe basin, 50 miles from Reno. A heat wave and high winds ensued. The sanctuary solidified its evacuation plans.
“Last summer was horrendous with almost two months of high heat compounded by wildfire smoke. Although we didn’t lose any animals, it was hard on staff,” said Sugasa. “They worked from 6 a.m. Until 9 p.m., replenishing drinking water and hosing down the animals.”
However, things are looking up. Even Tangassi has a new friend, Rose. Her journey to Safe Haven began in central Quebec. In 2019 Canadian officials closed the Saint Édouard Zoo where she lived with more than 200 animals including lions, tigers, zebras, bears, wolves, kangaroos and primates.
The former owner pleaded guilty to providing inadequate and unsanitary facilities as well as a lack of veterinary care for sick animals. The Montreal SPCA seized the animals, including Rose and Capone, a Siberian tiger.
“Rose and Capone finally arrived at Safe Haven in late 2020, two years after we agreed to accept them. Their transport was delayed many times due to Canadian/US border closures. Finally, they made their long journey from Montreal to Dallas to San Francisco by air, and then ground transport from San Francisco to Safe Haven,” says Sugasa.
Other new residents include orphaned bobcats and a pair of cougar cubs. Safe Haven anticipates the arrival of ‘Babs,’ a cheetah, next month. She’s part of the Species Survival Program (SSP), a breeding and conservation effort for selected species of wildlife including cheetahs.
Since 1981, the SSP has focused on maintaining genetically diverse captive populations within AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facilities. From aardvarks to zebras, there are currently 117 species covered throughout North America. Should any become extinct in the wild, they will still exist in captivity.
There are ten cheetah breeding centers across the United States. Under the Cheetah SSP, accredited zoos breed cheetahs and place them in sanctuaries like Safe Haven for lifelong care.
‘Babs’ will be Safe Haven’s first-ever cheetah. “Cheetahs require housing away from big cats such as lions and tigers to prevent stress as cheetahs in the wild are hunted by lions. So ‘Babs’ will be in the quiet section,” says Sugasa.
Global-warming induced extreme weather is likely to continue. Always proactive, Safe Haven has initiated a matching campaign to raise funding for a 40’ X 100’ climate-controlled building. It will provide life-saving emergency housing for all their large animals if needed.
They’re also planning their 15th annual fundraiser on Saturday, May 7. Due to concerns about the omicron variant, it will be held at the sanctuary. Check in starts at 5 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m. Live entertainment and a silent auction follow.