Your Ice Purchases at Work: The Safe Haven Rescue Zoo

Frog is not only part of our BMHQ ticket team, she also heads up the Playa Animal Welfare (PAW, get it?) team, assisting non-human animals on playa. She writes:

Ifaw and Kovu (rawr)

“It isn’t all that publicized but the Burning Man Organization donates a portion of proceeds from ice sales to many local Nevada charities each year. The posted list from 2010 is an example. I’m fond of one organization in particular, the Safe Haven Rescue Zoo. Located in Imlay, Nevada about two hours north of Reno, they take in big cats and other wild animals and give them a safe, healthy environment, free of the stress from their previous lives. A lot of the animals were kept as illegal pets and others were found orphaned. They always make room for those most in need, especially geriatrics and those compromised by previous substandard housing. The most common story is that of people who thought it was a great idea to have a wild animal as a pet and then realized the huge responsibility and danger involved and decided to find them a better home.

Safe Haven originally started in Illinois in 2000 but the need for more space caused founding members Lynda and Dave Sugasa to move to a 160 acre space in Imlay in 2006. Together with volunteers they have spent countless hours building enclosures to safety specifications, warm dens for the animals, a fire break around the entire compound and a small solar array (that after their recent expansion definitely needs upgrading). Pairs of interns volunteer in 4-6 month periods and help put together educational programs for local school groups who tour Safe Haven. Occasionally work groups from local mining or construction companies will come out and spend a team building day or two helping with more building and heavy machinery tasks. Throughout the year Safe Haven holds several fundraisers and some of the local industry have made great donations, but in these lean economic times they are getting by just barely. It’s difficult to stay afloat financially so far out in the country where there aren’t many visitors during the cold winter months.

The amount of food and veterinary costs involved, even for just a yearly checkup, are huge. Just the anesthesia cost to sedate one of the animals for an exam is around $800. For food, Safe Haven currently has a generous arrangement with a big box chain store several hours away. They are allowed to take meat at no charge that is at least one day over the expiration date since the store can no longer sell it to the public. This entails a day long journey of driving for pickup and bringing it all back to Safe Haven. Fuel costs are high for those heavy loads and part of the deal is that they aren’t allowed to sort the meat before taking it. Then once back at Safe Haven it is sorted it by expiration date (some can’t be used) and type of meat. The animals usually eat both chicken and beef in equal quantities. The lions and tigers alone can eat from 8-10 pounds total of meat a day.

Right now they have three Siberian tigers (one of whom is 16 years old), two each of African lions, coyotes, cougars, bobcats, foxes, one African serval, and one Canadian Lynx. They also have a desert tortoise named Mojave Moe.

Each of them has their own unique rescue story. Their names and brief stories are listed here, and you can even choose to sponsor an animal. If you are ever in that part of the state and can make it by, call ahead a few days in advance and they would be happy to give you an up close and personal tour of the rescue center. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Safe Haven on several occasions and let me tell you, being that close to those magnificent wild animals gives me a pretty amazing feeling. It makes me very happy that the Burning Man Organization is able to donate to this local wildlife refuge.”

Video: New Arrival Rescues at Safe Haven

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase first attended Burning Man 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art HQ) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004-2009, then transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009 to become Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He's the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Voices of Burning Man blog, and content manager for Burning Man’s websites. He also manages the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social networking efforts.

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