By Deborah Warwick
mail@floridanewsline.com

The St. Augustine Wild Reserve has been busy, building new habitats, acquiring new exotic animals in need of a home, and arranging fundraisers to help pay for it all. 

This year, the Reserve received a beautiful young cougar from Montana named Topaz. She is extremely sweet and loves going for walks and swims in the Reserve’s lake. A male cougar named Loki is also new to the Reserve. He is a year and a half old and likes to walk on his lease.

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Cougars have many names (around 81), all for the same cat. The names include cougar, Florida panther, painter, mountain lion, puma and more. They are the second largest cat in the Americas (after the jaguar). They can’t roar; they have a different hyoid bone structure in their throats which allow them to purr. Cougars live in various ecosystems from mountains and deserts down to sea level. Their range includes North and South America. Their main prey is deer, but will eat smaller animals as well. They have the longest hind legs in proportion to their bodies in the entire cat family, allowing them to leap over 20 feet with one bound. They can drop down from a ledge or tree 60 feet tall, landing softly on the forest floor. In the wild, they live around 10 years and in captivity, 20 years. 

Also this year, the Reserve received a snow white lioness, an extremely rare color variant of the southern African lion. Sahara is settling in nicely into her new habitat. White lions in the Timbavati region of Africa were first sighted in 1938. They are regarded as divine by some African cultures. White lions are not albinos; they are leucistic, a recessive trait derived from a mutation in the same gene (for tyrosinase) that causes albinism. They vary in color from blond to white. In the next month or two, the Reserve will receive a snow white male lion who is in need of a home, retired from a breeding program. St. Augustine Wild Reserve does not breed animals, so these animals will be kept separate. 

What is a Ti-Liger? Apparently, there are only six in the world and one of them, Chandra, is at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve. A Ti-Liger is a cross between a male tiger and a female liger (a liger is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger). This means that Chandra is three-quarters tiger, one-quarter lion. She looks similar to an orange tiger, but if you look closely, you can see spots and strange stripes, distinguishing her from regular tigers. 

Now more than ever, St. Augustine Wild Reserve can use donations of supplies for the animals, including monetary donations. The Reserve’s tour operation has diminished considerably in the wake of the pandemic. To protect staff and guests, everything is thoroughly sanitized and the open-air compound allows for social distancing. Tours are appropriate for children and adults and may be booked via bookeo.com/tigertours. If you cannot visit, consider sending a tax-deductible donation. Visit www.sawildreserve.org for more information.

Staffed by a host of valuable volunteers, the St. Augustine Wild Reserve is always in need of new caging and animal supplies. Plans are to raise funds to construct an onsite veterinary clinic, and a barn for diet preparation. Email wildreserve@aol.com to volunteer, particularly if you have building/welding of fence working skills. The St. Augustine Wild Reserve is a 501©3 tax exempt organization. 

Photo courtesy Deborah Warwick
Topaz, a new cougar at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve.

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