Review of Wildlife in Need- Charlestown, Indiana

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Note: This place has come under scrutiny with local and national news after our visit.  See a recent story  here and here to determine for yourself if you want to patronize it. There’s also information here on the Indiana Animal Rights Alliance website.

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My husband and I recently took our two daughters to Charlestown, Indiana to participate in a fundraising event for a nonprofit organization called Wildlife in Need. This organization is dedicated to helping exotic and endangered species. They are currently offering two events (Tiger Baby Playtime and Exotic Animal Encounter) to help raise money to support their cause. These events won’t last long so check out their Facebook page to keep up to date with these events, as well as new events that are posted.
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It was an easy 25 minute drive to get to Charlestown from downtown Louisville. When we arrived at Wildlife in Need we were greeted by a lady who checked our tickets and told us where to park. They are finishing several construction projects so you will not enter the facility, but will enter a large tent set up out front. The tent is divided into two sections: Tiger Baby Playtime and Exotic Animal Encounter. We had tickets for the Exotic Animal Encounter. Inside our tent was a circle of chairs where about 35 people could be seated. When it was time to start, an animal handler gave each person a grape while talking about Wildlife in Need and their mission. He then began to tell us about the monkey he was holding. As he was talking, the monkey ran across our laps and then jumped up to run across our backs. My daughters were in awe of the little guy! He stopped and ate a few grapes along the way, including my one year old daughter’s grape. She laughed the entire time he was eating it out of her hand. The handler made sure everyone got a chance to pet the monkey or take pictures before he put him away and brought out another animal.

 photo wildlifeinneed136_zps4954e326.jpgWith the Exotic Animal Encounter you get to meet about half of the 12 different animals they have for this event, depending on the animal’s mood that day. On our particular visit we got to encounter two different monkeys, a sea otter, baby kangaroo, white fox, and a tiger. We were able to pet each animal that was brought out, with the exception of the sea otter and tiger. Even though we didn’t get to pet the tiger, it was so cool to be that close to a tiger who wasn’t caged up.

My daughters had the best time! They’ve seen some of these animals at the zoo, but never got to be so close or hands on with them. We brought our camera and were allowed to take pictures. At the end of the event you can have a picture taken with your camera holding any of the animals from the session for $10 per animal.

The other event was the Tiger Baby Playtime. It gives you the opportunity to be up close and personal with baby tigers for about 30 minutes in a large group setting. You do get to touch and play with these tigers, unlike the larger tiger we saw in our event. We haven’t participated in this event yet, but plan to in the future. I have heard great things about it, and it sells out super fast. To see future dates and times, plus read a description of each event, check out the event website.

The price for the Tiger Playtime is a $25 donation and the Exotic Animal Encounter is a $20 donation. There is no age restriction (parent discretion). Everyone attending must have a ticket, even small children and babies. All donations to the facility are tax deductible and help support their efforts. It may seem like a lot of money, but I was willing to pay because it goes to a great cause and it’s not often that you get a chance to interact with baby tigers or pet a kangaroo!
(Please note: They are only allowing children under 16 through July 19th. When they finish their facility they will offer tours for all ages, but for right now if people want to bring their children under 16 to one of the fundraising events (animal encounter or baby tiger playtime) they have to do it very soon.  Also, read comments below from other readers.)

Kimberly 

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29 comments

  • Question: is it $20/$25 per person? Just wondering bc I've seen several posts on fb about this and I enjoyed your review! Sounds super cool and something my whole family would enjoy!

  • Check the eventbrite link in the review – I believe all of their rates are per person.

  • I just returned from the Baby Tiger Playtime. You don't get much hands on time but it is fun to watch them.
    I really don't support this type of place because it is a money maker for the owner. I believe at one point he drugged the babies so they would fall asleep quickly for about 12 minutes so people could get their picture with them and they wake up quickly. I don't believe in drugging animals for profit of any kind. Also, beware, the owner is very crude and every other word out of his mouth is a curse word.

  • Thanks for your feedback. One of our writers went this week too and she mentioned the foul language-she was surprised!

  • This place is wonderful. Under no circumstances are these animals drugged. I guess if your baby sleeps after having a bottle or playing then we should assume your have drugged your child!! If you're offended by cursing you should not leave your house! The people here dedicate their lives to these animals. Spend a little less time complain and if cursing bothers you…spend a little more time parenting…explain to your children that cursing is something an adult chooses to do. I'm sure you would not appreciate it if someone accused you of drugging your baby. Get real. And welcome to 2014…people curse. .get over it!

    • Animals should not be bred in any sanctuary! Period!!! The baby Cubs, etc., will have to live the rest of they're lives enslaved!! It is a money maker-to attract visitors…do not be fooled by them!!

  • Don't give this guy your money. While I know that PETA can be some hypocrites, the fact remains that this guy needs to be stopped. He has even pleaded guilty to illegally trafficking an ocelot. Talk to people in Charlestown about him. He is now under investigation. I mean, who in their right mind would recommend that someone hit a tiger on the nose? http://www.newsandtribune.com/news/article_a3d202c4-2981-11e4-a4ca-0019bb2963f4.html?TNNoMobile

  • This place is yet another roadside zoo masquerading as a "sanctuary". Despite the name, it does NOT have nonprofit status.

    True sanctuaries DO NOT BREED animals, and the type of breeding done here cannot legitimately be called "conservation". It's just breeding tigers for profit – it does nothing to improve the tiger's gene pool or increase wild tiger populations. The cute little cubs bred at this facility for visitors to take photos with are just sold to other roadside zoos when they get too big to handle, and that's very worrisome. They often end up in very poor conditions, and in some cases, even end up being slaughtered and sold on the black market.

    The so-called "rare" species he breeds, like white or golden tabby tigers are not seperate species at all – they're just color mutations of the Bengal tiger, and usually have severe health problems from the inbreeding required to produce them (which is why responsible zoos, accredited by the AZA, do not breed or display them).

    All in all, I find this operation to be extremely irresponsible – possibly even illegal. The owner's USDA inspection reports, which are publicly available and record how well a facility complies with the Animal Welfare Act, found that he lied about having a veterinarian, had two young leopards die without seeing a vet, failed to keep acquisition and disposition records (a red flag for illegal trafficking), and provided animals no shelter from the heat, among other violations. He even plead guilty to illegally trafficking an endangered Ocelot.

    A recent video captured at a "tiger taming class" held at the facility even shows the owner telling guests to "treat the damn tiger (cub) like you'd treat a damn dog – smack him in the nose". He then deliberately holds the tiger cub in a way that makes it uncomfortable to demonstrate what a "pissed-off tiger" looks like, then hits it when it resists. All the while making snide (and very profane) comments about how the government doesn't like what he's doing. If this man truly "loves animals", he has a very unusual way of showing it.

  • Thank you for all the reviews. While I would love to experience the joy of holding a baby tiger, I know that places like this are rarely what they seem. I can say that if I went and witnessed these appalling heinous acts of cruelty I would possibly go to jail. I would not stand idly by and watch these precious amazing animals be abused.

  • Someone please tell me I've not spent my hard earned money on a facility that abuses their animals???!l

  • Is this place still open? And $25?

  • Jordan – please check with them directly on their status and pricing.

  • The man who runs this is doing good work. A lot of the complaints that you'll find are from people who don'tb know what they're talking about. The tine I went, I had a blast. As for the people who get bent out of shape at the occasional curse word….×#%$ them.

    • This man has a history of undocumented smuggling of animals to and from his facility… he was caught with an undocumented ocelot in 2008 and it was taken from
      Him because it was so emanciated that it was near death.. this man needs to be shit down… he is a horrible le personwho is exploiting animals for profit….

  • Is there anywhere like this still open that takes care of the animals? My kids really want to visit a facility like this!

  • Is this place still open ? I called the number and the answering machine was for another business. Is there anywhere else like it , my kids were really excited about checking this out!

  • The last event was Jan 24th, does any one know when and how to find out when they will be having more or another event?
    Thanks so much

  • Can you still do Tiger Playtime?

  • Katie – You will have to check with them!

  • DO NOT GO HERE! Several children have been bitten. He has been cited multiple times for a lack of adequate supervision of the animals during this event. This man abuses his animals, admitted to beating one of his leopards to death with a baseball bat, and breeds them which only contributes to the exotic animal issues in this country! He has a laundry list of citations and violations from the state and federal government and is currently under investigation. In 2013, one of his leopards is suspected of escaping and was shot and killed after eating 9 of his neighbors pets! This is a long read, but worth it: http://kycir.org/2014/11/12/oversight-of-indiana-tiger-exhibit-big-on-growl-light-on-teeth/

  • Are we still able to do this or was it a limited time only?

  • Devon – Contact them directly to check their schedules

    • There are videos of this man abusing the animals and he's been cited by the usda numerous times for mistreatment. Having a blast shouldn't come at the expense of the animal's welfare. Why is Louisville Family Fun still promoting it?

  • Im late on all this… Is this wildlife in need still going? I'd love to go and donate

    • I believe they are Paul. It looks like they have several events scheduled for the weekends of April and May. Just Google Wildlife In Need and several things will come up. I'm thinking of going myself. I love tigers and its been a dream of mine to be able to pet one. I don't believe all the negative press about this place. You can't believe everything you read. If things were truly that bad he'd be shut down. That's the way I look at it. Hopefully you go and you have fun. I know I will?

    • Don't look at the reviews. Look at the citations from the USDA. You have to kill a lot of animals before you get shut down. Do some research.

  • Louisville Family Fun wrote a review of this place prior to the more prominent scrutiny. We do not overtly promote this place and we linked up stories about the controversy so people can make the decision for themselves as to whether to go there or not. Thank you.

  • This place should be shut down. Don't participate to this cruelty. Stop it now!

    Today, PETA sent a letter calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate animal exhibitor Tim Stark—owner of the Wildlife in Need roadside zoo in Charlestown, Indiana—for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act after he was caught on video cruelly handling a bear cub during his regular “Tiger Baby Playtime” event. PETA has also asked the USDA to confiscate the animal.

    https://www.peta.org/blog/video-tim-stark-screaming-bear-prompts-call-for-usda-seizure/

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