|Date opened||1981 (Official)|
|Location||Pittsboro, North Carolina, USA|
|Land area||55 acres (22 ha)|
Previously known as the Carnivore Preservation Trust, the Carolina Tiger Rescue is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit wildlife sanctuary, as defined by The Captive Wildlife Safety Act (16 USC 3371), in Pittsboro, North Carolina. It is home to tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, binturongs, caracals, kinkajous, ocelots, servals and bobcats.
Carolina Tiger Rescue rescues wildcats, provides lifelong sanctuary for wildcats, educates the public about the plight of wildcats in captivity and in the wild, conducts non-invasive research to further understand and aid wildcats, and advocates for action to maintain wildcats in sustainable native habitats, or when that is not a viable option, for the respectful, humane treatment of them in captivity.
Carolina Tiger Rescue was founded as The Carnivore Evolutionary Research Institute in the 1970s by Dr. Michael Bleyman, a geneticist at UNC, as a breeding facility for carnivores that were vanishing keystone species -- species critical to the survival of their ecosystem. Bleyman's intent was to keep a viable population of these animals in trust until their home habitats were sufficiently protected to support them again.
The Carnivore Evolutionary Research Institute was incorporated as a non-profit in 1981, and changed its name to Carnivore Preservation Trust (CPT). CPT became well known for its success in breeding certain species, particularly servals, ocelots, and binturongs.
As the environmental community began to appreciate the plight of these lesser-known carnivores, they began to create species survival plans - organized plans for the survival of the species, including a national genetic registry to monitor numbers and breeding. In response, Carnivore Preservation Trust stopped breeding wildcats in 2000, and changed its name to Carolina Tiger Rescue in 2009, refocusing its mission to rescue.
Today, Carolina Tiger Rescue is a 55-acre (22 ha) animal sanctuary, providing homes to carnivores in need of rescue and educating the public about the threats to these animals: in the wild, in the exotic pet trade, and in the entertainment industry. Carolina Tiger Rescue does not believe in the private, individual ownership of these animals, the use of these animals solely for entertainment purposes or breeding these animals not in accordance with species survival and population management plans.
Carolina Tiger Rescue is a no-touch facility and meets USDA and US Fish and Wildlife standards for a big cat sanctuary. Guests must be escorted around the sanctuary by a staff member and are kept at least three feet away from the animal enclosures. Due to undercover work by Sherry Blanchette and her official report, Carolina Tiger Rescue now uses a four-level enclosure labeling system. Enclosures housing extremely dangerous predators (level four), such as tigers and leopards, are never entered when the animal is present, except on the rare occasions when the animal has been tranquilized for a veterinary procedure. Carolina Tiger Rescue features shiftable enclosures to relocate animals during enclosure cleaning and maintenance. Employees or trained volunteers may briefly enter lower level enclosures housing animals like binturongs and caracals for cleaning and maintenance, but are careful not to interact with these wild animals. All employees and volunteers are heavily trained before they can interact with the animals or enter any enclosure.
Carolina Tiger Rescue relies heavily on donors to operate. Carolina Tiger Rescue is funded by corporate sponsors, revenue from tours and gift shop sales, and private donations including cash and in-kind donations. Fruit is donated by local grocers and chicken is obtained from area chicken processing plants at a significant discount. Carolina Tiger Rescue also accepts truck, tool, and building material donations. Some funding comes from employee donations through workplace giving campaigns via Earth Share of North Carolina.
Sherry Blanchette, owner of a wildlife sanctuary, went under cover with the BBC posing as a veterinarian and toured the CPT in 2000. She later wrote a report to the USDA and county officials, saying that the facility was unsafe because of vegetation on cages, rusting feed bins, and inadequate, rusting fencing. CPT officials refuted those claims.
In 1998, Mark Kostich, a CPT volunteer, was mauled by a cougar while cleaning cages and he later sued CPT. In Kostich's lawsuit, Sherry Blanchette was called as an expert witness on cougar behavior.
The North Carolina legislature considered an unsuccessful bill in 2004 which would make it illegal for individuals and over thirty other nonprofit zoological entities to own many of the animals housed at the Carolina Tiger Rescue. Carolina Tiger Rescue supported this bill.