Ifaw is an African lion was rescued after having spent his life in a roadside zoo and animal orphanage. Both facilities closed, leaving the lion as the only surviving animal.
Ifaw is an African lion was rescued after having spent his life in a roadside zoo and animal orphanage. Both facilities closed, leaving the lion as the only surviving animal.
Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary recently got good news. They earned accreditation from the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS).

Jeanne Marie Pittman is the GFAS Director of Accreditation for the Americas. She summed up the organization's view of Safe Haven in a press release.

"Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary truly maintains the welfare of their residents as their highest priority as demonstrated by their large natural habitats and excellent environmental enrichment," she said. "It is heartwarming to see animals that are unable to be placed back into the wild receiving the lifelong care and respect they deserve."

Each of the wild animals at Safe Haven Animal Rescue has a back story. Otherwise most would roam their native habitat where they'd hunt, mate and raise their young as Nature intended.

Meet Ifaw

Ifaw, an African lion, wound up in a roadside zoo in South Dakota. When it closed, the owner took off and left the animals behind. By the time animal rescuers arrived only Ifaw had survived, minus his tail.

From there Ifaw went to a wild animal orphanage that housed over 400 animals including 200 primates. When they went broke, he came to Safe Haven to spend the rest of his life playing with the toes on his hind feet, his favorite pastime.

Clarence the cross-eyed tiger

Clarence's previous keepers stuck him in a 20 X 30-foot cage with three other tigers, one of whom attacked him. He came to Safe Haven as a twelve-year-old, extremely cross-eyed, overweight white Bengal with a puncture wound and dental problems.

A white Bengal cub results from the breeding of two tigers that both carry the recessive gene for whiteness. In nature, the double recessive allele only occurs about once every 10,000 births.

To capture the elusive pigment zoos inbreed closely related animals. White tigers draw people to zoos although many are unaware of the waste behind their whiteness.

Inbreeding causes cleft palates, curvature of the spine, mental impairments and crossed eyes – severe enough that breeders kill many deformed cubs along with the "extras" that don't turn out white. Except for his crossed-eyes, Clarence escaped the list of health problems endemic to white Bengal tigers.

When his owners could not care for him anymore, Safe Haven accepted Clarence for permanent placement on their 160-acre solar-powered sanctuary in Imlay, Nevada. They fixed his teeth, put him on a diet and took care of his puncture wound. Today he chases boomer balls and stalks staff, volunteers, and visitors.

The illegal pet trade left Safe Haven's residents declawed and defanged — and, ultimately abandoned them. But Safe Haven Animal Rescue Sanctuary provides dozens of lions, servals, tigers, cougars, and bobcats with permanent shelter.

And, while nothing can replicate living in the wild, the staff gives the animals the most natural lives possible. They use enrichment activities to draw out healthy behaviors. Their web page shows a bobcat feasting on a gelatin Blood Jiggler. It wiggles and oozes away like live prey.

They also rehabilitate several hundred orphaned and injured animals every year. People call Safe Haven when they find baby owls on the lawn or small mammals by the roadside. First, their volunteers guide callers to return the animals to their nests or dens. If that's not possible, they get the animal to the Sanctuary, treat any injuries, and prepare it for eventual release.

Another part of Safe Haven's mission is outreach and education. They give tours by appointment seven days a week at either 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.

The Sanctuary relies on donations, grants, and fundraisers. They receive no state or federal money

Executive Director, Lynda Sugasa, founded Safe Haven on five wooded acres outside Marengo, Ill., in 2000. By 2006, they needed more space. So she and her husband David, a retired corporate pilot, relocated the sanctuary to its current location. They live on site.

"Going through the certification process with GFAS has helped our organization further pursue excellence in providing best care practices," said Sugasa. "As the only GFAS Accredited Sanctuary in Nevada, we are excited to bring attention to the distinctions between pseudo-sanctuaries and those that work to provide optimal care for their residents."

For more information visit www.safehavenwildlife.com.