Founder Carole Baskin never dreamt she'd one day oversee a 55-acre sanctuary inhabited by some of Earth's largest cats. In 1992, she and her late husband were at an exotic-animal auction seeking out llamas for their farm. A man had a 6-month-old bobcat that he could no longer care for, and the pair decided to give it a place to call home. They then traveled to a bobcat breeder for another playmate, but upon seeing the horrible conditions the animals were kept in, they bought all 56 kittens. They rehabilitated them back to health, and gave them permanent homes on their then-40-acre site. Soon, word of her knack for nurturing spread beyond the Tampa area, and callers began donating abandoned or orphaned cats. Her mission to save these animals also reached the ears and hearts of many celebrities, including contributors Harrison Ford and Bo Derek.
After 20 years of hard work and learning, Carole is still caring for abused and abandoned big cats at her rescue site, accommodating more than 100 medium and large creatures from bengal tigers and black leopards to lynx and lions. Her staff of volunteers helps care for the animals and leads groups in tours that educate visitors on the plight of these animals both in the wild and in captivity.