As we entered the secured, gated area, we could hear a loud rumbling “Aaroo! Aaroo!” in the distance. Our guide, John David, explained that we were hearing the roar of a male lion! This was our introduction to the carnivorous mammals at the Conservators’ Center in Caswell County, North Carolina.
While visiting family in Durham, NC, my daughters were given a belated birthday present – a VIP Tour of the Conservators’ Center where they try to preserve threatened species including lions, tigers, and other large cats through rescues, responsible captive breeding, and educational programs.
As we strolled through the Conservators’ Center, we learned a wide variety of interesting facts as we met the different mammalian inhabitants:
- Red foxes like Soxy like to dig holes to bury their food for later and have a distinct odor they use to mark their territory.
- Ring-tailed lemurs like Cookie and Jeremiah (the only herbivores at the center) are only native to Madagascar and have a matriarchal society. Cookie kept pinching Jeremiah until he realized that she was in charge!
- Binturongs like Archer and Jerry have prehensile tails which make them excellent climbers in their native Southeast Asian rainforest canopies.
- Lions and tigers like Kira and Arthur can cohabitate as a mixed pride.
- Gray wolves like Hopa, Roland, and Trekkie Monster still establish alpha females and alpha males even in a pack as small as 3 wolves.
- Male lions with dark manes like Thomas are actually seen as more desirable than those with golden manes like Calvin. Who would’ve guessed that they got it wrong in the Lion King!?!
This was the first time we had ever seen animals like binturongs, kinkajous, and servals and the closest we had ever gotten to lions, tigers, and leopards. All of us were fascinated by the animals, especially as they received scent enrichment and tasty treats of bananas, chicken breasts, and steaks!
- Skills: Visual acuity, curiosity, gross motor
- Preparation: No preparation is really needed – just go prepared to observe the animals!
- Cost: The listed price for the VIP Experience is $275 for a private group of up to 25 people for a 2-hour tour. A more affordable option for a small family is a group tour. There’s a Family Adventure tour geared towards younger children which is $14 for adults and $10 for children ages 2-11.
- Time & Energy: The 2-hour VIP Experience can be scheduled at your convenience, while the other tours are on a regular schedule. You should wear comfortable walking shoes and bring sunscreen and a hat since it can get pretty sunny.
- Contact Info: The Conservators Center has a website (http://www.conservatorscenter.org/). Try to get John David to guide you – his enthusiasm and knowledge made the tour more memorable. Plus he was more concerned about us having a meaningful experience than sticking to the time limit. He was happy to spend an extra 30 minutes with us!