How to ensure your visit to a big cat sanctuary does no harm

Illustration of 2 hands holding a tiger

Many visits to big cat sanctuaries and other captive-wildlife facilities in the US and around the globe are well-intentioned. Messages about the conservation and rescue of big cats with nowhere else to go—like lions exploited by the circus—tug at the heartstrings. And some rescue centers legitimately provide the sort of long-term safe havens we all want to support.

But that isn’t always the case. Some facilities are focused on turning a profit (think: photos with tiger cubs) instead of offering sanctuary or any conservation value. Many mislead visitors and mistreat animals; some even fuel the illegal wildlife trade—a primary threat to many species in the wild.

To avoid these bad actors and play your part in big cat conservation, be sure to visit only ethical facilities. Here’s what to look for:

  • NO TOUCHING Public contact with big cats of any age should not be allowed—no posing for photos, holding, or petting.
  • NO BREEDING A true sanctuary does not engage in any breeding of the animals they care for; their purpose is to rescue animals, not produce more.
  • PROPER ENCLOSURES Animals have sufficient space to move, and enclosures are secure for the safety of both people and felines.

Learn more about the US’s role in tiger conservation and the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

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