Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota offer a unique opportunity to get up-close to a range of big cats including Royal Bengal Tigers, Siberian Tigers, Lions, Rare White Tigers and cross-bred Ligers. With their beautiful markings and athletic ability they are a joy to watch in action. Adults and children will find it a worthwhile day trip and a welcome break from the beaches of Fort Myers.
Unlike a zoo, a visit to this Big Cat Habitat helps educate visitors about the threat to these amazing exotic creatures and other environmental topics. Young children will enjoy the petting zoo’s goats, birds, tortoises, and other animals. Visitors can also watch the animals at work with their trainers and learn the background story to the residents. Each resident animal also has its own unique personality which can be seen during the fascinating training demonstrations.
Rosaire Family History
The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary was founded by Kay Rosaire who is well-qualified to start such an incredible non-profit organization for the benefit of exotic wild animals. She has more than 30 years’ experience working with wildlife and comes from a long-established circus family. She now manages the sanctuary along with son Clayton, other members of the family and a team of volunteers who all make the work of this exotic animal sanctuary possible.
Derrick Rosaire Sr. is the 89-year-old patriarch of the family. He started training and communicating with animals as the “Boy Wonder” as part of the family circus act in England. In 1960 he moved to the USA and featured on many popular TV shows. He trained Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Judy the Chimpanzee for the popular Daktari TV show along with Gentle Ben the Bear.
Recently Big Cat Habitat’s Handsome the Lion and Chance the Chimpanzee, appeared in the Martin Scorsese directed film, The Wolf of Wall Street. The money earned from appearances by the sanctuary’s animals in films and commercials goes to support this nonprofit.
Animals to See at Big Cat Habitat
The sanctuary not only takes in big cats but also bears, monkeys, birds and other exotic creatures that may have outgrown their existing home. Some animals are rescued after working in circuses or being used for photo opportunities as babies and then outgrowing their commercial purpose. Other animals are brought to the sanctuary after being mistreated or abandoned. Each animal has its own story which fortunately has a happy ending when they arrive at the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary.
Big Cat Habitat expanded their facility again in 2017. The latest expansion includes an expanded petting zoo, new serval habitats, alligator ponds, new bear pools and shades, and Walk on the Wild Side, where you can see tigers relaxing and swimming in their pools!
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This Sarasota attraction is open Wednesday through Sunday. Every day there is a bird show and a demonstration showcasing some of the animals in the air-conditioned arena. It’s well worth planning your visit to coincide with seeing the show. Visitors can see the trainers handling the big cats and demonstrating positive reinforcement techniques to train these big cats. Clayton Rosaire has even been known to put his head in a lion’s mouth, the ultimate trust in his relationship with a wild animal.
Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary entrance gate is open at noon and closes at 4 p.m. Bird show at 1 p.m. and animal demonstrations in the air-conditioned arena at 2 p.m.
Admission fees: Adults $18.00, Children ages 2 to 12 years of age $8.00 (100% of the admission price goes towards the upkeep and care of Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary’s animals). Parking is always free.