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Project Survival's Cat Haven let's you see big cats up close

 

Get up close and personal with some of the rarest cats in the world. At Project Survival's Cat Haven in Dunlap, California you can. 

"It's a non-profit project and what we strive to do is raise awareness and funding for issues and scientists who work with cats in the wild to address the problem that cats are having to survive in the wild," said Wendy Debbas president of Project Survival's Cat Haven. 

Cat Haven was founded 15 years ago by Dale Anderson, who has been a lover of animals and cats since he was a kid. In the 7th grade someone brought a mountain lion to his class that sparked Anderson's interest in doing something to help cats. 

"We started Cat Haven with the idea to give people a better idea of cats. Hopefully they'll become interested when they see and hear about them and take an active role in conservation in the wild," said Anderson.

Visitors hit the trails with a guide near Kings National Park to learn about the cats and conservation. The facility has a variety of species and subspecies of cats including cheetahs, a Bengal tiger, lynx, leopards, lions, and jaguars

"Cat conservation is different from most other animals.  Cats learn how to hunt and how to stay safe by being taught by their mother--it's not an instinctual thing, so breeding cats in a captive situation will not have help the wild population because we can't place them back in the wild they don't have survival skills," said Debbas.

Cats are part of the ecosystem and are top of the line predators, so if you see healthy cats then down the line there's a healthy ecosystem, says Debbas.

"That's why cats are lot of bang for your buck.  If you can hep cats then you can help a lot of animals at the same time," said Anderson. 

Project Survival does work all over the world and focuses on conservation and education. Currently the organization is working hard on a cheetah project and raising funds in Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania.

Anderson says that having the animals at Cat Haven give visitors that personal experience and allows people to connect with the cats. 

"When you connect you want to do something more and be productive as far as helping animals," he said. 

And visitors like it more than a typical zoo experience. 

Project Survival's Cat Haven gets about 25,000 visitors a year. 

"A zoo kind of has a commercial aspect and it's crowded.  Here you get to meet the people who have one-on-one contact with the cats and they can tell you everything and its more intimate, its nice," said visitor Robin Tubesing. 

 

Michelle Macaluso is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here.