In August 2002, Bobbi Brink discovered that wildlife authorities had been about to confiscate a pair of tigers that had lived for 5 years in an unshaded, 6-by-12-foot chain hyperlink cage in a Texas man’s yard.
Brink, who had been concerned in unique animal rescue work for the reason that early Nineteen Nineties, knew she needed to act quick to present these animals the everlasting sanctuary they deserved. So inside 30 days, Brink and her husband, Mark, secured the permits, the transportation and the land — an enclosure on a good friend’s 93-acre property in Alpine — to present the tigers, Raja and Natasha, a peaceable eternally dwelling. The large cats’ arrival in Alpine in September 2002 marked the start of Lions, Tigers & Bears, the Brinks’ large cat and unique animal rescue and sanctuary that can mark its twentieth anniversary subsequent fall.
What the Brinks didn’t know on the time was that Natasha was anticipating, and on Nov. 8, 2002, she gave start to 2 feminine cubs, Sitarra and Tabu, who stay the one animals ever born on property at 24402 Martin Way, which the Brinks ultimately bought because the nonprofit’s everlasting dwelling.
Natasha and Raja handed a few years in the past and Sitarra died in 2013. Then earlier this this month, the final member of the sanctuary’s first household, Tabu, died on Jan. 7. Two days later, the Brinks had been additionally compelled to euthanize Bakari, an African lion who got here to the property together with his two sisters as 4-week-old cubs in 2007. Both animals had persistent age-related well being issues.
Brink mentioned saying goodbye to 2 of the park’s oldest and longest residents was heartbreaking.
“It’s super hard whenever you lose these animals, but they don’t live as long as we do,” she mentioned. “Tabu was a 20-year-old tiger, and they only live 13 or 14 years in the wild. And Bakari was an older male with a degenerative disc disease. He was in a lot of pain. He was a big guy, 610 pounds. You couldn’t visit the sanctuary without hearing him.”
Over the previous 20 years, the Brinks have constructed Lions, Tigers & Bears into one of simply six large cat and bear animal sanctuaries which can be nationally accredited by each the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the American Sanctuary Association. The sanctuary is a no-kill, no-breeding and no-contact facility that’s now dwelling to 63 animals of 17 species, together with 4 lions, 4 tigers, 5 bobcats and 9 bears.
It prices about $4,000 a day to feed the animals at Lions, Tigers & Bears, and the pandemic has been onerous on fundraising. But Brink mentioned that for the primary time in three years, they’ll be internet hosting their annual Wild in the Country gala on May 21, which in pre-pandemic years raised sufficient cash to cowl three to 4 months of working prices.
“We’re hanging in there right now. We’re doing what we can to fundraise,” she mentioned.
Tops on Brink’s want listing can be a brand new laser machine to assist deal with animals with arthritic joints and a digital X-ray machine for the property’s onsite medical clinic. She’d additionally wish to construct a shed or gazebo to show the pictures and cremation urns of Tabu, Bakari and all of the opposite animals who’ve lived out their ultimate days on the property.
While the general public can go to Lions, Tigers & Bears for behind-the-scenes excursions and particular occasions, it’s nothing like a zoo, animal present or circus. In reality, Brink has spent a lot of her time over the previous 25-plus years working to rescue large cats and bears from deplorable situations in roadside zoos, unique animal breeding amenities and tent circuses. Over the years she has coordinated the rescue of greater than 600 large cats, bears and wolves and has assisted in the relocation of a whole lot extra.
In October, she was honored for her animal advocacy work on the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce’s nineteenth annual Women in Leadership occasion. Event emcee Kristine Costa mentioned Brink “has been working with and advocating for captive big cats, bears, and other exotic animals since the early ‘90s, after witnessing firsthand the abuses and neglect inflicted on captive animals victimized by the exotic animal trade.”
Brink, who serves as founder and director of Lions, Tigers & Bears, mentioned the most important problem these wild animals face is from well-meaning individuals who purchase them as docile cubs, mistakenly believing the animals will make good pets or can be utilized as a vacationer attraction to make cash.
“These animals don’t make good pets. They have triggers. They might seem like a giant puppy, but something like bright lights or loud sounds can trigger them to be the wild animals that they are,” she mentioned.
Brink mentioned she works with a community of companies to rearrange rescues, together with sheriff’s departments, state fish and wildlife officers, animal parks and particular person house owners who’re surrendering their unique pets. She’s typically demoralized on the situation of the animals when she arrives.
“A lot of them are filthy,” she mentioned. “I’ve gotten them out of peoples’ basements, tied to a post in the backyards, garages, dining rooms and horse trailers. People might have good intentions but have no idea how expensive it is and what it takes to care for them.”
Brink mentioned there are additionally many unaccredited unique animal parks in the U.S. which can be breeding a surplus of animals which have nowhere to go, so many simply disappear. One of essentially the most infamous such amenities, Oklahoma’s Tiger King Park featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” was closed by federal authorities final May for violating the Endangered Species Act. Brink was onsite in the course of the park’s shutdown final yr and introduced in three giant vans to move some of the large cats to new sanctuaries across the nation.
Despite the deaths of Tabu and Bakari, Brink mentioned that didn’t open up any new area to rescue extra tigers or lions. Tabu shared a habitat with Hank, a senior white tiger rescued from an Ohio breeding middle in 2015. And Bakari lived together with his sisters, Jillian and Suri, who arrived with him as cubs 15 years in the past. Brink mentioned these cats at the moment are too outdated to aim any new introductions with different animals.
“Building habitats is a big expense,” Brink mentioned. “We’ve been successful at building one or two new habitats a year. If we can properly house these animals for life we’ll keep them, but we have a responsibility to provide for that animal for life.”
For info on Lions, Tigers & Bears, go to lionstigersandbears.org.