Lions, tigers and more: Big cat reserve now open for tours in St. Cloud

By Stephanie Bechara , Osceola County Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017, 7:33 PM EST

A sanctuary for big cats that moved from Brevard County to Osceola County is finally opening its doors to the public. 

  • Central Florida Animal Reserve to host guided public tours
  • Reserve is home to about 30 rescued big cats
  • The reserve recently moved from Brevard County to St. Cloud

The non-profit Central Florida Animal Reserve has expanded and they’re calling St. Cloud their new home. The new facility is 11 acres and cost $1.3 million. 

The reserve is home to more than 20 lions, tigers, cougars and leopards -- all big cats that have been rescued either by FWC or turned over by owners that couldn't care for them.

The non-profit faced many challenges along the way. CFAR was forced to move over zoning changes in Brevard County. The area in Cocoa where it original was went from agricultural to residential, meaning there was no room for growth.

“It’s been a big transition for both the humans and the cats. But we're very happy everyone has adjusted and we’re ready to start inviting people to the site,” said Dr. K Simba Wiltz, CEO for CFAR. 

For the first time they will be providing guided educational tours to the public. The facility is set up in a way that works primarily for walk-throughs.

Those animals that would rather privacy are placed in the back. However, those that love human interaction are towards the front. 

Dr. Wiltz said this is about ordinary people coming together for an extraordinary mission, to protect these endangered species.

“It’s very important to me to keep a good strong connection to nature,” added Dr. Wiltz. “And we’re really hoping as this organization is adopted by the community. we can have others that have the same appreciation.”

The Central Florida Animal Reserve is fundraising to cover the costs of maintenance and food for these felines along with the expansion of their facility. 

The non-profit reserve's work includes pricey veterinary care, and feeding each cat up to 250 lbs. of food a day.

The guided tours will be available on the weekends starting Sunday and you have to sign up ahead of time online.

To set up a tour, head to the Central Florida Animal Reserve website.