Without their stripes, tigers would lose the ability to camouflage themselves while hunting but would gain the ability to wear polka-dotted neckties without clashing. Marvel at big cats' fashion-forward fur with today’s Groupon: for $30, you get four tickets to Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota (a $60 value). The sanctuary’s visiting hours are from 12:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Discounted $7 tickets are regularly available for children.
The nonprofit Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary shepherds visitors as close as four feet from the lustrous fur, noble frames, and graceful gaits of big cats such as royal bengal tigers and African lions, as well as a menagerie of bears, primates, birds, and tortoises. At the wildlife safe haven, domestic safari-goers weave through three large indoor and outdoor housing complexes in hopes of spying Pharaoh, a male African lion, as he dips into the pool for a swim, or ogle Conan, the park's largest tiger, as he mounts a boulder to perform a Bollywood dance sequence. At 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays, trainer Kay Rosaire and her son Clayton lead animals in an exciting and educational demonstration. To display the creatures' athletic prowess and to stress the importance of habitat preservation, Kay and Clayton may prompt one of their three baby tigers to pitch a no-hitter against the Florida Marlins.
Big Cat Habitat
Whether furry, feathered, scaly, or smooth-skinned, the residents of Big Cat Habitat are all family. Founder Kay Rosaire is an eighth-generation animal trainer, and her father, Derrick Rosaire Sr., appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show with his companion Tony the Wonder Horse. He also trained Gentle Ben, the bear from the show of the same name.
Along with their human relatives, the Rosaires preside over a household of more than a dozen tigers, eight lions, two ligers, a troop of lemurs, and several tortoises. With their nonprofit wildlife sanctuary, the Rosaires hope to educate the public about the importance of habitat preservation and to help foster an appreciation for these animals.
They do this with guided tours and training sessions, which allow visitors to watch the big cats respond to verbal commands from the trainers and receive a tasty treat in return. Training takes place in the cooler months, which ensures the animals don’t overheat and the snow cone treats they are rewarded with stay frozen. Guided tours of the facility are scheduled year-round.