St. Augustine Wildlife Refuge turns to community support amid decline in pandemic visitors


JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Lions, tigers, bears and many other animals in the country’s oldest city need your help.

An animal reserve in St. Augustine welcomes them with nowhere to go, but now struggles to stay afloat.

“We welcome tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, hyenas and all kinds of large carnivores,” said Deborah Warrick, Founder and CEO of the St. Augustine Wild Reserve. “We do animal rescue, just exotic animals the big stuff. We get them primarily from Florida Fish and Wildlife or the Federal USDA. They will seize these animals from people who illegally bring them into Florida. “

Warrick has been rescuing animals since 1981, and his efforts all started with a skydiving accident.

“Before, I was a parachutist and in one of my jumps, I broke my back. And my skydiving instructor gave me a wolf puppy as a recovery gift and that’s what sparked my rescue efforts with wolves. Which I did for about 20 years and then I graduated in big cats in the 1990s, ”Warrick said.

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Since the early 1980s, she has saved between 400 and 500 animals.

Currently, there are nearly 80 animals on the property, requiring between $ 3 and $ 4,000 per week to feed and care for them.

But with the pandemic underway, Warrick says she needs more community support.

“If it wasn’t up to me and there are a few other rescues here in Florida doing a good job, but without us Fish and Wildlife they can’t afford to take care of a big tiger or of a lion they most likely would be shot. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen, “Warrick said.

“How has the pandemic affected your efforts? Said Lena Pringle

“Before the pandemic, we would have at least 100 people on each of our tours, so things were going well, then the pandemic hit, and we had to cut down to just 10 people on our tours, so that was last year. “said Warrick.

Warrick says things are picking up.

Visits have grown to 75 people each way, but she says the reserve still needs help, so she never has to turn down an animal.

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“Anytime Fish and Wildlife or USDA calls me and they have an animal, we take it. Even if we don’t have a cage yet, we will build a cage, ”Warrick said.

The The St. Augustine Wildlife Reserve’s annual fundraiser takes place in early November and begins with a silent auction.

The auction will last from October 24 to November 6.

In the meantime, the reserve is currently in need of monetary donations, refrigerators, building materials and a tractor.

You can find more information about the reserve and its fundraising here.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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