WHY GO THERE
About 60 miles southeast of Lawrence, near Louisburg, is a small zoo -- the Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Education Park -- that specializes in endangered and threatened wild cats. The animals run the gamut from man-eating lions to obscure, smaller species the size of a large dog. The zoo offers affordable guided tours.
THINGS TO SEE
There are about 25 animals on display at Cedar Cove and most of the jungle’s rockstars are present: African lions, tigers (white and orange), leopards and bobcats, according to Bettie Auch, the director of operations. The park has a new baby lion, Kalyana, and a tiger named Voodoo who is notorious for his territoriality (he’s not afraid to mark his area in front of an audience) and staring at children clad in purple.
But there are also the cats that don’t often make headlines. Cedar Cove is home to a caracal, a three-foot long reddish-brown cat with wicked-looking tufts of black fur coming off the top of its ears. It’s known for an ability to leap 10 feet into the air and knock nearly a dozen birds out of the sky at once — if a flock were to fly by. There are also two servals, another medium-sized cat with leopard spots.
WHAT TO DO THERE
Cedar Cove visitors are treated to a guided tour, which can run from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how many questions visitors have. Tours include information on each animals’ physiology and conservation status. About a third of the species at the park are considered threatened, vulnerable or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“Everybody who comes to Cedar Cove gets a personal opportunity to talk to the keepers and learn about each animal, and in particular all the ones that are in danger and struggling in their natural habitat,” Auch said.
Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Tours can be done by appointment on weekdays. The public can also watch the animals feed at 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
The park started under the late William Pottorff, a Vietnam veteran who wanted to care for these animals after witnessing their mistreatment while on his tour of duty. It took several years for Pottorff to gather the resources, licensing and money to open the park, which began operation in 2000. Today, the park relies on about a dozen volunteers, Auch said. Only one person receives a monthly stipend.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children 4-12 and free for children under four and adults 65 and older.