Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? (William Blake)
If you crave the adrenalin rush of big game hunting, put on your pith helmet, and head directly to Clarington where you will surely experience your fill of cats
much, much larger than the average tabby. My "walk on the wild" side started at the Bowmanville Zoo,
Canada's oldest private zoo, established in 1919. This is also the original children's zoo and for those who like to name drop, home to many famous Hollywood celebrity animal actors. Bowmanville Zoo trains them for the feature film and television industry. I rubbed shoulders with star tigers such as Billy of Animorphs and Robbie of The Gilda Radner Story, Baghera a black jaguar, in Peter Benchley's Amazon, elephant, Sheba, camels, Sam and Sally and primates, Maggie, the crab-eating Macaque and Petie, the ring-tailed lemur.
The zoo is accredited with CAZA, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and winner of the prestigious Thomas Baines Award for excellence and achievements with over 300 creatures living here.
Inside the 400-seat Animatheatre, along with hundreds of excited school children, I watch a daily feature presentation
(two per day at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.) that starts with rats overhead running down a ship's rope towards a big box disguised as cheese, allowing the MC to explain how the infamous Black Death (plague) was started. From that clever beginning on, we learn a great deal about animals and are provided with a positive environmental message to take home. Education is a huge theme, explained, Rob Clement, my guide, who led me through this highly interactive zoo, where I was up close and personal with Sheba, the elephant allowing me to rub its mammoth, coarse trunk and pat its huge side.
For lunch, I remained in Ernest Hemingway safari character, dining at Wild Wing in Newcastle where I enjoyed a "Wild Willie" (deep-fried pickle) and a "Wild Wrap" (veggies & chicken).
Next stop was Jungle Cat World, a wildlife park located on 15 picturesque acres in Clarington's historical Orono. (Toronto without the T's) Here, I met Wolfram & Christa Klose, founders and owners. Wolf is a former German policeman who moved to Canada, and began breeding and training German Shepherds. He traded one for a lion and began acquiring exotic animals in the early 1980s, eventually opening the zoo to the public.
Jungle Cat World performs captive breeding and management of threatened and endangered species, working with and supporting a variety of Species Survival Plans (SSP) and Population Management Plans (PMP). I was introduced to tiger cubs Anushka and Zcarina, born at Jungle Cat World on February 14. There are an estimated 450 Amur tigers, considered critically endangered, struggling to survive in the wild. I climbed the Tiger and Wolf Observation Tower which offered a chance to view and take photographs of the animals from above, clear of any fencing obstructions.
Wolf and Christa run a B&B on site, featuring two rooms exotically outfitted in African motifs. People stay with the zoo all to themselves at night, listening to wolves howl under the moon and stars.
I watched Vanessa perform her feeding tour, throwing large sized chickens through a porthole for the cats while providing fact-filled commentary for the excited children gathered to watch the lions, lynx, Siberian tigers, mountain lions, Amur leopard, snow leopards, black panthers, otters and wolfs. There are 254 animals living here. JCW is an accredited member of CAZA since 1989.
Jungle Cat World offers a summer camp, a unique six days for kids or adults, living the life (chores included) of a zookeeper. Wildlife Safari is an outreach program available to schools, libraries or even community events and Night Safari, a great idea for kids, starts with supper (pizza and juice) and an interactive wildlife presentation (insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals), leading to a nighttime feeding tour (of tigers, leopards, jaguars, gray wolves) and is capped with the chance to sit around a campfire and listen to the howls and hoots of the surrounding night sounds. Birthday parties come in two packages (Tiger or Leopard) adaptable to the number of guests (Tiger is up to 20, Leopard is for no more than 12 people). These packages offer wildlife presentations, feeding tours, a party room for two hours and some up-close and personal time with critters.
Another service performed here is that there is a remarkable pet cemetery that, at the moment, holds 1800 pets including Wolf's original lion.
Both zoos are in Clarington, 45 minutes from Toronto, 25 minutes from Peterborough and 90 minutes from Kingston, open year round and a terrific family experience, spending time among the wild animals
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
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