During their Winter break, Towson University T4T members chose to spend a week volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue (CTR), through their university's Alternative Break Connections program. CTR is an accredited, non-breeding, big cat sanctuary located in Pittsboro, NC and offers the opportunity to learn more about big cats, and the problems surrounding them in the U.S.
When asked to describe their experience in three words, Towson T4T president, Chelsea Connor said, "Inspiring, enlightening and fun!" Before arriving, the 14 girls had no idea what they had in store for them service-wise. "We weren't told much about what we would be doing besides 'light construction.' Most of us were expecting that we would be cleaning out a tiger enclosure or doing yard work, " Chelsea said. Girl power really came into play when they learned that "light construction" meant concreting a tiger enclosure. To their surprise, and those at Carolina Tiger Rescue, they finished the enclosure in just three days. The girls also found themselves chopping wood, helping with office work, and sorting through donated Christmas trees the tigers could play with. The girls rewarded themselves by leaving their own "paw print" behind, writing their names along with "Towson" in the cement.
With the service came up close and personal encounters with the tigers, including fence barriers of course! During their work on the tiger enclosure, the ladies found themselves as neighbors with two tiger brothers Max and Christian. According to Dan Munn, CTR Site Manager, the tigers see turned backs as a weakness, and as a result they will charge the fence. As advised, the girls took turns watching the tigers while the rest worked. This didn't seem to matter to Max! As Max started to approach the fence, Dan attempted to get his attention vocally. In return, Max locked eyes with Dan and charged the fence with a heart-shaking roar. "We suspect Max doesn't like men!" laughed Chelsea.
One of the most memorable moments the Towson group had was listening to the stories of how the tigers ended up at the rescue facility. Getting to know the history of the cats and the workers sparked a sense of closeness between the group, the big cats, and Carolina Tiger Rescue. However, Chelsea had a special moment of her own. While photographing the big cats she met tigress, Tasha. Chelsea said, "As I was taking pictures I chuffed at her, so she wouldn't see me as a threat. She chuffed back, and I can't explain it, but I felt an instant connection with her. It's small moments like these that make me appreciative of sanctuaries like Carolina Tiger Rescue." We're right there with you, Chelsea!
The group had such a wonderful experience there is already talk about a trip this coming Summer. "We were able to get close to the tigers and other cats at the sanctuary. I learned so much this week about the cats and myself," Towson T4T member Kimberly Vogt said. Kimberly continued, "I didn't know everyone that I went on the trip with, but by the end of the week our group was inseparable." We are very proud of Towson T4T and their work at Carolina Tiger Rescue. If you'd like to learn more about this group, you can keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter!