Photo: Pictured above, a bear on Tigers for Tomorrow’s preserve takes a bite out of one of the unicorns made from recycled wrapping and tissue paper while visitors watch. Photo courtesy of Tigers for Tomorrow.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
On Jan. 4, Tigers for Tomorrow welcomed visitors of all ages for “Claws, Paws and Unicorns,” a volunteer event that encouraged a major facet of the preserve’s mission of recycling. Visitors brought their leftover holiday wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, bows, bags and ribbons to TFT’s pavilion and created unicorn toys for the animals.
While TFT hosted private workshops in the past, “Claws, Paws and Unicorns” is the first community workshop and Volunteer Enrichment Program featured on the preserve. TFT’s Volunteer Enrichment group consists of 13 members who meet monthly in the Gadsden area to collaborate on different enrichment activities for the animals. The meetings brainstorm a variety of enrichment ideas for the animals, from a tree cutting service in Gadsden building platforms for rabbits to crafters creating toys. Through the enrichment group, TFT hopes to host three community events per year and to develop a consistent supply of enrichments that will last the animals an entire month, rather than just one day.
“The whole goal is to make it where we supply the keepers [animals] with enough novel enrichments to go for the entire month,” said TFT Volunteer Enrichment Program’s Wendy Wallace. “So, it’s not just for one day, it’s the community helping us make it where the keepers have something every day, whether that’s something for the tigers to shred or the bunnies to find a neat way of accessing food.”
The inspiration behind “Claws, Paws and Unicorns” is the same as all action taking place on the preserve: the animals. Home to 160 animals, including wolves, African civets, foxes, juvenile lions, white lions, tigers and more, TFT strives to promote an environment where its residents flourish and live the best lives possible. The toys provided for the animals improve the animals’ quality of life, keeping them interested, active and happy.
“The toys stimulate the animals and encourage good behavior,” said TFT Director of Marketing and Public Relations Katrina Hubbard. “We can also discourage bad behavior with some of the different toys.”
Some of the animals’ favorite toys are not purchased but donated recyclable items most households have each year. In October, community members donate pumpkins for the big cats or bears and after Christmas supporters donate real Christmas trees. Through donations to TFT, pumpkins and Christmas trees transform from discarded holiday decorations into fun gifts that motivate and enliven the animals’ day-to-day activities.
“We believe in recycling,” said Hubbard. “We do have recycling on the property, where you can put your cans and plastic. We’re just big on protecting the environment. A lot of the problems with our environment are habitat destruction, so that’s why we’re seeing a lot of animals become either threated or on the list of extinction.”
TFT practices the same actions the preserve encourages in others. Through efforts like recycling, TFT establishes a safe, healthy atmosphere where its residents can dwell peacefully, promotes environmental conversation and dissuades a wasteful mindset. Even the facility’s pavilion, where “Claws, Paws and Unicorns” participants created toys, was built from recycled wood.
“Our philosophy is the animals lift our spirits,” said TFT President and Director of Animal Care. “The animals are our responsibility, for they are the reason we are here.”
Through events like “Claws, Paws and Unicorns,” the Volunteer Enrichment Program and the promotion of environmental conservation, TFT hopes to lift the animals’ spirits as well. The community’s involvement in “Claws, Paws and Unicorns” brings TFT one step closer to ITS goal of bridging the gap between humans and animals through education, preservation and conservation, just as TFT has done for over 20 years.
Tigers for Tomorrow’s next upcoming community event is “Art on the Wild Side” on March 28 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., which attracted over 500 people last year. “Art on the Wild Side” welcomes a variety of vendors to the animal preserve where they showcase their artwork, jewelry, handmade items and food. Visitors are invited to experience the 160 animals that live on the preserve and a petting area will be designated. For more information about “Art on the Wild Side” or other events at Tigers for Tomorrow, contact Katrina Hubbard at 850-586-3702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Tigers for Tomorrow, visit tigersfortomorrow.org or call 256-524-4150.