Louisburg wildcat conservation area to expand after 20 years of rescuing large, exotic cats

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LOUISBURG, Kan. — If you’ve dreamed of seeing lions and tigers up close and personal, you don’t have to book a trip to Asia or Africa to do it. There’s actually a place in Kansas that rescues and raises large cats, and now they are making big plans to expand. 

Cedar Cove Feline Conservation and Education Center in Louisburg is celebrating its 20th year, and organizers and volunteers are looking forward to a future with more space to save lives.

Senior Curator and President, Steve Klein walked along the fence line, calling for five-year-old Cali. 

“Cali. Cali! There’s the girl!” 

A beautiful female Bengal tiger rounded the corner in response. Cali has been at Cedar Cove since she was only 8 months old. She is one of seven Bengals living there. 

“They were socialized as young cubs,” Director of Operations B.J. Auch said. “They came from a pay-to-play situation, which is not something we support. They produced so many tigers, we felt like we could help by taking a few of them.”

Along with the Bengals, there are two African lions, a leopard, a puma, a lynx, bobcats and even a couple of wolves. Twenty-six animals in all roam the acreage, rescued and thriving in a place where they no longer have to perform.

Klein and Auch have practically raised some of the big cats. The experts roar and purr to the animals, fluent in their language. And the felines respond. 

“When you spend enough time around them, you learn their vocalizations,” Klein said. “They are social animals deep down. Because they are in captivity, we spend as much time as we can to socialize with them, and giving them enrichment through communication is a big part of that. They’re letting us know what they want.”

They seem almost tame, despite the fact that no trainers here have ever cracked a whip. 

“They are wildcats, but they are still cats. They still react to that interaction and an emotional enrichment in a positive way,” Auch said.

Cedar Cove was founded 20 years ago. They’ve recently purchased an additional 125 acres adjacent to their existing Louisburg property. The board of directors have long dreamed of expanding the habitat, adding some overnight guest lodging for observation, trails, a planetarium and even a rain forest biodome — all solar powered. 

“In some small way, this is why we have given our lives to this. Because these animals are disappearing. We have seven and a half billion people. Humans are tearing down rain forests and the homes the animals rely and depend on.”

Cedar Cove is open for tours and for visitors to observe feedings on the weekends.  To learn more about donating to the expansion, you can go to their website.

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