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The Wild Animal Sanctuary continues to grow

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Located in eastern Colorado amid the farms and ranches of Weld County some of nature’s fiercest creatures roam the plains with grace and majesty, animals who are at the top of the food chain. Creatures such as lions, tigers, bears and wolves. Making national headlines in 2011 with the rescue of 25 lions from circuses in Bolivia, The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg is growing even more this summer. (See previous article, “Bolivian lions adjusting well to new Colorado home")

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The Wild Animal Sanctuary specializes in the rescue and welfare of large carnivores such as bears and tigers that have been born and raised in captivity. Often these animals come from very sad situations, such as crowded circuses, caged at roadside shows and even private homes where people thought they could raise these wild animals as pets. Sanctuary Founder and Director Pat Craig recently gave a presentation at the Lone Tree Arts Center to talk about the history of the organization and its continued growth.

According to Craig, the sanctuary recently purchased a large tract of land increasing the size to 720 acres. However, the organization is gearing up for two large rescues this year that will use up all that available space. The sanctuary is working with the government of Spain to rescue 24 lions and 4 grizzly bears from the zoo that went bankrupt. The sanctuary is also coordinating the arrival of 18 to 19 big cats from Peru that like Bolivian in 2010 passed a law banning animals from circuses. Once these animals arrive at their new home, the sanctuary will be in need of more land to continue the rescue of large carnivores. The public can get involved in many ways to help the sanctuary continue to grow.

The animals at the sanctuary enjoy running in their habitats. For humans who enjoy running, consider joining the Run into the Wild running festival Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8. Run or race the roads around the sanctuary along with fun and food afterwards. The running events include a run or walk 5K up to a full marathon. For the serious runner, all courses are certified by USA Track & Field and will be timed by Innovative Timing Systems/Jaguar. Included with the race fee are custom event t-shirts, finisher medals, live entertainment, lunch after the races, activities for kids and everyone gets a free sanctuary tour with paid registration.

On Saturday, June 7, will be the timed and certified 5K and Walk into the Wild events. Biker riders are also included on this day. Walk into the Wild is an untimed event for all ages and abilities. Sunday, June 8, will be the 10K Omnivore Odyssey, the Carnivore Classic Half Marathon and the Predator Challenge Full Marathon. These events will be timed and have water stations. All three courses will finish by passing the three grizzly bear habitats.

Prefer something a bit more leisurely? A lovely al fresco dinner while lions roar below your feet perhaps? Attend one of eight intimate Summer Safari dinners this summer. Summer Safaris are held in the Bolivian Lion House and are small gatherings featuring delicious food and drink while watching the sunset over the sanctuary.Tickets are $120 per person and include buffet dinner followed by a presentation with Pat and Casey Craig. Each event is limited to only 75 attendees and the May and June Safaris are already sold out.

Tickets are still available for the following dates: July 26, August 9, and August 23. All dates are Saturdays and the dinner starts at 6 PM, but guests are encouraged to come 60-90 minutes early to view the sanctuary.

Besides the purchase of land, the sanctuary is constructing a new welcome center and will extend the elevated walkway, Mile into the Wild Walkway, another half mile covering even more habitat. The sanctuary is currently home to 330 animals including 98 black bears, 64 tigers and 56 African lions. To learn more about these and other events at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, visit the organization’s website or Facebook page.

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