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Friday, February 4, 2011

FROM SCOTT BUNDY---

Big Cat Habitat: Come one, come all!

Ellian Rosaire, pictured with one of her horses during last year’s Animal Extravaganza
By Christine Hawes, Herald-Tribune
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Come to spend time with dozens of animal species, including Mia, one of the few hundred ligers that exist worldwide, or Ricky, the chimpanzee that graces the cover of comedian Jon Stewart’s best-selling book.
Come to show support for the Rosaire family, which has been helping animals for nine generations and will pay tribute this year to bear trainer Derrick Rosaire Jr., who passed away last spring.
Or come just to help out the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary, which has for six years been providing homes for exotic animals that can’t be housed anywhere else.
The sixth annual Animal Extravaganza kicks off this weekend. Sanctuary founder Kay Rosaire promises the biggest event to date, a two-hour show featuring more than 50 animal experts from across the country, and their animal companions, combining education with entertainment.
“This is the only show of its kind in the world,” says the 62-year-old big cat lover. “It’s a novel concept because it’s actually animals supporting animals.”
Animals to be featured include big cats, primates, bears, elephants, camels, buffalo, lemurs, horses, dogs and more. All proceeds from the event go to help the sanctuary support its ever-growing collection of animals, which come to the sanctuary from overwhelmed private owners, generous zoos, and an entertainment industry that tends to reject older animals, Rosaire says.
The show’s growth is a testament to the sanctuary’s increasing popularity and its growing responsibilities, Rosaire says. The extravaganza has grown from a one-weekend, two-night show under a small tent six years ago, to this year’s four-weekend, three-night show beneath a tent that seats 1,200.
Rosaire, whose background is mainly in big cats like lions and tigers, says this year’s event will be a tribute to her brother Derrick, who used to put on a show with brown bears that also featured his two sons. Derrick passed away in April, leaving Kay and sisters Ellian, Pam and Linda to carry on the show. Ellian, 53, will once again present her equestrienne show, while Pam, 64, showcases Ricky and other primates she has trained. Linda lends her hand to all of the sanctuary’s animals, says Kay.
Kay’s son Clayton, who continues his mother’s tradition of working with big cats, will guide the behaviors of not only Mia, the 3-year-old liger (offspring of a male lion and female tiger), but white tigers and other felines from the wild. Rosaire says, big wild cats will be a special focus of this year’s show, Kay Rosaire says, because of reports last fall predicting tigers may be extinct by the year 2022 unless many Third World countries stop hunting them and destroying their habitat. Those reports estimated that only 3,000 tigers exist worldwide — 2,000 less than estimates from just a year before.
“Tigers need to be saved in the wild,” Rosaire says. “They’re getting pushed all the way to the edge of extinction, and nobody’s really paying

ANIMAL EXTRAVAGANZA
Every weekend through February with shows at 2 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 6 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary, 7101 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota. $12 for adults, $7 for children.
371-6377; bigcathabitat.org.

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