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Arthur Tiger was not impressed that Maggie Stiefvater came to meet the wolves and not him.

Conservators' Center, August 2011 Mebane, NC


Last year New York Times Best-selling author Maggie Steifvater blogged about being in Hungary as part of her European book tour.  While there, her European publisher arranged for her to meet a pack of wolves owned by a trainer named Zoltan.  It was a great, funny posting and was one of two thoughts I had when I read that she was going to be making an appearance at our favorite Raleigh independent book store.  The other thought was, "We have wolves at Conservators' Center.  She should come meet our wolves!"

For more photos and rambling, click on through to the other side... )
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Archer Binturong's Friend, Phil

May 2011 Conservators' Center, Mebane, NC


Cynical though I may be, there are still things that give me hope in life. The story behind this photograph is one of them.

The guy in the plastic lawn chair is Phil. Years ago, he became a lifetime adopter at Conservators' Center, chosing to adopt one of the animals there, Archer Binturong. Part of the deal with adoption is that you're given additional time with your animal, to form a personal bond with him or her. You're given (and can bring) treats to feed your animal and, in that way, spend time getting to know them, and they can get to know you.

In his younger days, Archer Binturong used to excitedly climb down to greet Phil whenever Phil could come by for a visit. Sure, tasty treats ensued, but it really did go beyond that. Archer knew he had a friend in Phil, someone for whom Archer was special. It's something all of us want and need on some level, to know that we matter to someone else, that we're important. Obviously Archer was important to Phil.

While not a lot is known about binturongs, it is reported they can live up to 20 years in captivity. Archer is reaching that mark and not surprisingly, Archer has slowed down a lot. Most days, he rarely comes out of his den, preferring to sleep and keep still.

This, however, has not stopped Phil from coming to spend time with his favorite animal. When I was out early Saturday morning helping to feed some of the animals in the Small enclosure side of things, I saw Phil sitting next to Archer's enclosure, reading. It was clear Phil was settled in for the morning. When I asked if I could take his photograph he laughed and said, "Sure," at the same time apologizing for not having Archer down with him.

To me, though, this photograph wasn't about Archer. This photograph was about patience and love and the bond that can develop when people stop and take the time with someone else, be they human or animal, and then agree to a lifetime committment to that other creature. There is something magical, something that goes beyond words and settles into a warm spot, deep in the heart when this happens.

It's a rare gift, but one we all have the capacity to give and to accept.

So, thanks, Phil, for allowing me to witness this. I'll try to remember it when the world turns dark again.

(I heard later in the day that Archer finally woke up and realized that Phil was there. He slowly made his way down to see his friend of many years and spent some time with him before climbing back up to rest again. That, though, was their moment and not one that needed someone with a camera to document.)


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Ruffian Binturong

April 2010 Conservators' Center, NC


When I became a vegetarian back in 1979, my mother gave one of the best proclamations she ever decreeded. "Well," she said, "if you think I'm going to make anything special for you for dinner, you're crazy." I had done some baking during summer vacations, but (aside from Minute Rice, which I don't think counts) I had never cooked for myself. Fresh into my 18th year, I figured it was about time to learn how to cook.

This means when I started cooking, I didn't cook meat. In fact, until the last few years, I had never even handled meat. I've learned how to brine a turkey (for the science of it and, because, Bonn loved turkey) and grill chicken breasts for Bonn, but that's it. As our rock star daughter learned when she asked me to carve a Thanksgiving turkey back in the 90's, my mantra was "I don't butcher dead animals!"

See that adorably cute Binturong in the photo above? Yeah, well... let's just say the photos (with the possible exception of the next one) will stay cute, but the text likely won't.

For those who have read my last two entries about Conservators' Center and have an idea of where this entry is heading, I'll leave off here. For those who want to follow through, just click on through to the other side... )

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Jeremiah Lemur

April 2011 Conservators' Center, Mebane, NC


While I think most people who come to tour Conservators' Center are mostly interested in seeing the larger animals, I find that the "Smalls" are in some ways more approachable and captivating. Sure, there's something impressive and undeniably amazing about being four feet from a full-grown lion and tiger, but, personality-wise, the smaller animals are even more engrossing. Perhaps it's because I don't get the sense of being judged as a potential meal quite so much from the smalls, but I find myself drawn to them a bit more.

The "Smalls" area has an interesting assortment of animals. One of my favorite shots of the day is this slightly out-of-focus shot of Jeremiah Lemur. Between the intensity in a lemur's eyes and the slight fuzziness (the bars of his enclosure were what the lens auto-focused on) there's something about this image that I like, despite its faults.

Interested in more images from the Smalls enclosures? Just click on through to the other side... )


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