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Big cat sanctuary opens to the public

Posted on Friday, November 10, 2017 at 9:44 am

By Rachel Christian
Staff Writer
After a hectic move and months of fundraising, the Central Florida Animal Reserve is now opening its gates to the public.
The animal reserve is a nonprofit organization that cares for big cats rescued from life-threatening situations and poor living conditions. More than 20 big cats, including lions, leopards, cougars and tigers, live on the property.
The reserve sits on 11 acres of wooded land near Holopaw. The remote, quiet sanctuary is

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Kola Kici Ya, a lioness, looks out from her enclosure in total contentment at the Central Florida Animal Preserve.

a radical departure from the hustle and bustle of Kissimmee, located about 40 minutes away. Animal reserve neighbors Forever Florida, an ecotourism spot along U.S. Highway 192, making the big cat reserve an ideal weekend destination for animal and nature lovers alike.
The reserve moved to its new Osceola County location over the summer after about 10 years at its original Brevard County site. The move was necessary after a zoning issue left the nonprofit animal group searching for a new home a few years ago.
CEO and Senior Vice President of CFAR Simba Wiltz said the move was stressful and difficult at times. Volunteers worked diligently to raise the money required to transport the cats and erect enclosures for the exotic animals, some of which took longer to adjust to their new location than others.
“Moving that many large animals is always going to prove challenging in certain aspects,” Wiltz said. “But overall, it went better than expected.”
Each of the cats arrived at the preserve with a unique story. Some were rescued from animal trafficking cases, but all of them were born in captivity.
Wiltz said that the reserve isn’t trying to actively expand the number of cats that it shelters, but said that welcoming some additional residents in the future isn’t out of the question.
“We’re working on potentially having some acquisitions that may take place soon, but acquiring cats has not been our primary focus,” Wiltz said. “It’s really been about taking care of the cats we already have.”
Now that the cats have settled into their new homes, CFAR is ready to open its gate to the public.
Those who are interested in seeing the facility can book their tour online at www.cflar.org. At this time, tours are being offered only on the weekends, but Wiltz said they might include weekday openings if there is sufficient demand from the public.
Revenue from admission will help continue to fund the facility, which averages a minimum operating cost of $15,000 a month and receives no state funding, Wiltz noted.
He said educating the public about big cats is a major priority for the organization. It is working with local schools to arrange trips to the reserve, with plans to construct a special veterinary care center on site in the future.
“Once that is built, students of all ages will be able to see up close how we care for the cats here,” Wiltz said. “And having a vet facility on site will help us provide even better care for the cats.”
For more information on the Central Florida Animal Reserve, call 321-637-0110 or visit its website at
cflar.org.