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Staff members at National Tiger Sanctuary in Saddlebrooke, MO ge - KOAM TV 7

Staff members at National Tiger Sanctuary in Saddlebrooke, MO gear up for busiest season

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Staff members at the National Tiger Sanctuary in Saddlebrooke, MO are gearing up for their busiest time of year.

The site is in Christian County, 15 minutes north of Branson, MO.

32 large cats reside at the non-profit sanctuary.

Visitors say they're surprised how close the animals are in proximity.

"To see a tiger up on his hind legs, as you feed him a piece of chicken, and his paws are as big as your head, and his head is as big as your chest, it's a pretty amazing sight," said Dale Cammon, St. Louis resident.

Many of the animals are rescued.

Others have been retired from a zoo or circus.

Founder Keith Kinkade says meeting the needs of each individual cat is a very detailed process, as diets and eating schedules vary for each one.

"We take and feed every animal individually," Kinkade said. "We weigh all the food they eat. If they don't eat everything, we weigh that back. We keep track."

Because the sanctuary is closed two days a week, and tours are given just four times a day, the animals are able to rest more, therefore, more interactive when visitors are present.

"The animals here move, particularly if you're feeding them," Cammon said. "If you go to a zoo, you kind of watch them sleep most of the time."

Kinkade says educating the public on the species and the environment is part of the sanctuary's mission.

"It makes you realize how close the animals are to the same way we are," he said. "We all have different personalities.  They all have different personalities and different wants and needs."

Staff members at the sanctuary say all the species currently on display are in danger of becoming extinct in the wild within the next couple decades.
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