I once visited an exotic animal santuary that seemed less of a sanctuary and more of a prison. All the big cats were in cages, and when I expressed my disappointment that they weren’t running free, the people looked at me as if I were a child and said, “but that wouldn’t be safe, would it?”
So it was with trepidation that I accepted an invitation to visit Fossil Rim, an exotic animal sanctuary here in Texas, but my hostess assured me the animals ran free, that we would be encaged in her vehicle. It sounded fair to me, and so it turned out to be. The animals (some nearing extinction in the outside world) are allowed to run free in huge pastures where they can live a near-normal life. The smallest enclosures were for the cheetahs, who were part of a breeding program to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.
More than thirty species, over 1,000 animals, live on the property. Most will live out their lives in the sanctuary (or so I presume), because they are accustomed to being fed by the workers and by the visitors. (Each vehicle is provided with a small bag of food pellets to feed the animals.) Since it was a hugely visited day (smack dab in the middle of spring break for children), many of the animals were sated to boredom, but others came up to the car looking for a handout.
We saw several species of deer and antelope, giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, wildebeast and all sorts of more common creatures such as bison and ostriches.
All these photos were taken by me or my friend. Such an unexpected experience!
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)