About 40 miles northwest of the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex live a group of animals that aren’t exactly native to Texas. Bears, tigers, lions, primates all live the good life in Boyd, Texas at the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary, a fascinating place to visit. It’s not a zoo; in fact, many of the animals here have been rescued from zoos and circuses, confiscated from people trying to keep them as pets or saved from some other bad circumstance. The sanctuary was founded in 1988 as a safe haven for abused and abandoned exotic animals. While it’s never a perfect situation for wild animals to live in captivity, the sanctuary’s goal is to provide their residents with a safe and comfortable home and best quality of life they can experience.
The workers at this unique animal sanctuary don’t only provide the animals with a good and safe place to live (large environments with houses, pools, toys, etc.), they’re also concerned with their emotional well-being. Louis Dorfman, the animal behaviorist for the sanctuary, has implemented a program he calls Emotional Enrichment. He interacts with the animals by playing with them, scratching their bellies, talking with them…I’ve even seen him touching noses with a bear! There truly seems to be a mutual respect between Mr. Dorfman and his menagerie; they clearly consider him to be a trusted and dear friend.
I always enjoy visiting this special place, and if you love animals, or just want to see truly magnificent beasts you don’t usually get to see up close and personal, then you will love visiting, too. The tours are fun and informative, and are offered daily at 11:00 a.m., and Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. and 3 p.m. You can just show up, but they highly recommend that you book a spot in advance, which you can do here. The tours run about 2 hours in length, with a suggested donation of $20 for adults and $10 for children. And speaking of children, they must be at least 7 years old to go on the tour.
As part of the tour, you also get to see where the food is prepared, and learn about the special diets they provide the animals to ensure their health and well-being. I found this really interesting too, especially seeing how much some of them ate in a day! Which brings me to this: If you can, make a donation. It’s tax-deductible, and goes to help cover the overwhelming costs of food, maintenance, animal care, etc.
I’m so glad that there are places like the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in the world…but also a little sad that we need them.