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Calendar >  Travels With TR – Shambala Preserve – A Sanctuary

Travels With TR – Shambala Preserve – A Sanctuary

By   /  December 18, 2014  /  1 Comment


tom & carolShambala is a Sanskrit word meaning “a meeting place of Peace and Harmony for all beings, animal and human”.  I had the pleasure, with my wife, of visiting the Shambala Preserve and saw this definition come to life through the care and preservation of some 30-70 endangered, exotic big cats. Shambala is owned by Tippi Hedren, mother of Melanie Griffith and former movie and television star. As a young actress, she made her name in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies – “The Birds” in 1963 and “Marnie” in 1964. Many movies and television appearances later led her to a 1969 movie, “Satan’s Harvest”, and her first close experience with a lion. She loved this encounter and in the 1981 movie, “Roar”, another up close and personal experience with African lions that would lead Ms. Hedren to continue this love affair with the preservation and rescue of large exotic cats. The “African” set for the movie is the current preserve. After some 5 years in filming this movie with her daughter, Melanie, the set would become the preserve Shambala.

Shambala preserve is located in Acton, California, located 10 miles southwest of Palmdale off of State Route 14 and the Sierra Highway. In 1983 Ms. Hedren established the Roar Foundation, to raise money to help with the care and treatment of large exotic cats; ranging from African lions, Siberian tigers, Bengal tigers, Asian leopards, servals, mountain lions, bobcats, lynx, Florida panthers, and tigers.  The type and number of cats on the preserve changes periodically and can range from 30-70 exotic cats. Almost all of the cats have been born in captivity and are either no longer wanted by circuses or zoos or most commonly were owned by private owners who could no longer care for animals as big as these cats can get. Large cats that have lived in the preserve have even included Michael Jackson’s Bengal tigers, Sabu and Thriller, once living on the Neverland Valley Ranch. The current Vice President of Operations and Director of Shambala is Chris Gallucci.

Tippi Hedren is a huge advocate for legislation to control and eliminate the abuse of owning these large cats for personal ownership in areas not conducive for these type of animals. Since 2011, 104 people in the United States have been killed or maimed by large exotic cats. One famous case involved the owner of a facility in Ohio housing a number of animals including large cats, bears and other animals. The facilities owner had financial issues and released the animals into the public domain as a protest causing the destruction of a number of animals and fear in the community where these animals were released.  Many of the people injured or killed by exotic cats were involved in having their pictures taken with these “wild” animals.  It should be noted that the exotic cats Ms. Hedren maintains are not considered wild any longer, but rather dependent on the humans that take care of them. She has written numerous letters to Congress and has supported bills before Congress to try and control and regulate the ownership of these large cats.

One bill is the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. Its original purpose was to stop breeding of exotic felines for personal possession of financial gain. The Captive Wildlife Safety Act was signed into law in 2003 to stop interstate traffic of big cats for sale as pets.  On the Shambala web site there is a part of the site donated to information on pending legislation and letters visitors to the web site can send to their local Congressmen concerning these exotic cats and their control.

As far as the Shambala Preserve is concerned, there are a number of ways to become involved with the preserve. One weekend a month Safari Tours are offered that include a 3 hour program and a one hour walking tour to see the exotic cats currently at the preserve. Reservations are needed to secure a space for these tours. There are also Sunset Safari dinner tours, for $150, that take place in one of the areas built around the “homes” of several of the big cats. For those wanting a more extensive involvement in Shambala a program, called Malaika Marquee, involves an overnight stay and other amenities for around $3,000. An Adopt-A-Wild One program allows individuals to “adopt” (support) a specific cat and see the cat on Parent’s Day, the first Saturday of each month.  This adopt program ranges in prices from $600-$900. Individuals can become a Roar member for as little as $25 a year to as much as $10,000.  The specifics of each of the programs mentioned can be seen on the Shambala web site. All of the money raised goes to support the care, feeding and maintenance of the animals and facilities. It also supports veterinarians care for the cats and the range of specific diets the different animals have.

When we were at Shambala, I found the facilities the cats were kept in large, full of a variety of items that these animals would enjoy to “keep them busy”. The staff was quiet knowledgeable about the care and treatment of exotic animals. Because of the size of Shambala, Ms. Hedren can only accept a limited number of the cats that require a facility like this, and it should be mentioned that this type of facility is few and far between in the United States.  There have been facilities in the United States calling itself a preserve for exotic cats, which was actually not built in the best interest of these large animals.

On the Web site there are a number of special programs the preserve runs to give patrons and interested people a variety of ways to support the preserve or enjoy programs offered.  Ms. Hedren also occasionally receives support from outside agencies. One such business, Harris Steel Fence, built an exact replica of the jungle gym, from the movie “The Birds”, visitors can see and take photos around. There is also a Trading Post gift shop with the typical gift shop items. One interesting item I bought on line was a series of wine and wine bottles with pictures of Tippi and scenes from the movie “The Birds”.  The Trading Post also sells “Roar” coffee. Tippi Hedren’s story of her involvement and establishment of the Shambala Preserve can be found in “The Cats of Shambala”, written in 1985.

The ownership of these exotic animals and any other type of exotic animal always is a controversial subject with people.  Many feel no one has the right to tell them what they can or cannot own and many others feel the abuse, deaths or injury these animals can cause or be subjected to is reason enough to legislate and control the ownership of animals considered “wild and exotic”. Regardless of your feelings, there is no question Shambala has rescued these animals and is giving them the care they deserve.  It is an interesting facility and worth the time to visit and decide for yourself what degree you would like to aid or support this group.

REMINDER – we are still taking sign-ups for those interested in traveling with us Sept 2015 to Croatia and Slovenia. If you would like information, send an e mail to kodyrobertson@yahoo.com.



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  • Published: 9 years ago on December 18, 2014
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  • Last Modified: November 21, 2015 @ 4:09 pm
  • Filed Under: Travel
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1 Comment

  1. Barbara says:

    Acton not Aston.

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