By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: Special Interest | Issue: April 2011
Frank Gaddy with a baby kangaroo at Safari’s Sanctuary in Broken Arrow.
Are you familiar with the Tulsa area’s “other” zoo? Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary, at 26881 E. 58th St. in Broken Arrow, was founded in 1995. In that time, it has grown from eight acres and a handful of cats to over twelve acres and 250 animals, including lions, tigers and other exotic cats, as well as bears, parrots, monkeys, kangaroos, and quite a few more. “We call ourselves Broken Arrow’s best-kept secret,” says Safari’s volunteer Frank Gaddy. “We’ve been here in the same location for 16 years now, and we still have people come by that have never heard of us.”
Safari’s is a non-profit organization. There is no paid staff – everyone there is an animal-loving volunteer, and all donations go directly to the care of the animals. Safari’s is funded solely through gate admissions, tours, parties and donations.
“I’ve always had an intense love for animals, and that love drove me to start Safari’s,” says Lori Ensign, founder of Safari’s Sanctuary. Every exotic animal at Safari’s is a rescue: some were abused, some were unwanted, and others were misplaced. Many came from people who had them as pets; some came from overcrowded zoos. “Safari’s is here not only to give the animals a safe home, but also to educate the public on what it takes to own an exotic animal,” says Ensign. “If you’re thinking about getting an exotic animal as a pet, I invite you to volunteer at Safari’s and learn just what it takes to care for these animals.”
At Safari’s, you can feed many of the animals yourself. Safari’s sells treats you can give to the monkeys, barnyard animals, kangaroos, the camel, and the exotic cats. You can even feed a lion or a tiger – from a safe distance.
Many of Safari’s animals were at one time privately owned, and some are so comfortable with people that they will come right up to you at the fence. Gaddy says, “When you come to Safari’s, you can leave your binoculars at home – but don’t forget your camera!”
Safari’s has quite a bit going on in the next month. First, if you’re interested in becoming one of Safari’s volunteers, Safari’s Spring Volunteer Drive is April 11, beginning with orientation at 1 p.m. Safari’s needs help with the care and feeding of its animals as well as with construction projects; they also need tour guides and park ambassadors. Safari’s particularly needs carpenters, plumbers and electricians. Volunteers as young as 12 years old are welcome. All volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during orientation.
On April 24, Easter Sunday, Safari’s Sanctuary will host its annual free Easter egg hunt, beginning at 2 p.m. Children 10 and under are welcome to hunt for 5,000 eggs filled with candy and toys. Prizes will be awarded for the most eggs found. Afterward, egg hunters and their families can tour Safari’s at a discount. Families can also show up early to see the animals before the egg hunt.
On Tuesday, April 26, Safari’s Sanctuary will have a fundraiser at Top That! Pizza (83rd and Memorial, www.topthatpizza.com) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For every receipt put into the donation box, Safari’s will receive 20 percent – all of which goes directly to the care and feeding of Safari’s animals.
Safari’s annual Uno de Mayo celebration, as you might have guessed, is on May 1 (a Sunday). Every visitor who asks for the Uno de Mayo discount gets into Safari’s for just one dollar.
Safari’s also is in continuous need of donations, both monetary and material. They can use a lot of things you might throw away, like old towels, dog houses, pet carriers, yard tools, work tools, and building supplies.
For more information, including directions and times for special events, visit them on the web at www.safarissanctuary.com.