Saturday, October 12, 2013

Inspiration Found Here - Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary

Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary
Inspiration found here

This entry strays a bit away from the theme of young companies.  However, it is such an incredible story that I have to tell you about it. 

Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary was started in 1998 by Ann and Norm Goody.  Before starting the sanctuary, Ann was an emergency room nurse and administrator at a home health agency.  Norm was an anesthesiologist.  They met in 1997 while Ann was working on her doctorate health care administration.  That June, the couple married.  The next day, Ann was struck by lightning.  


Recovery wasn’t easy and part of Ann’s temporal lobe was removed.  After relearning to walk and talk, Ann amazingly returned to work in health care.  Always the animal lover, Ann joked that she would like a zebra to help her recover.  In 1998, the Moloka‘i Ranch Safari Park closed its doors. Norm contacted the Safari Park and since the couple was licensed to care for wild animals, they were invited to choose among the animals that were about to be abandoned.  They found Oreo and Zoe, her new foal. Zoe is a brilliant blonde zebra, one of two known to exist in captivity in the world.  With Zoe, Oreo, and a few other rescuees, Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary was born.  The Goody’s turned their 5-acre lot on the Big Island into what is today Hawai‘i’s sole federally accredited nonprofit exotic animal sanctuary, one of only thirty-three in the country.

Ann and Norm continued to work their health care for several years to support themselves and the Sanctuary.  Ann decided to focus on the Sanctuary full time after another health scare prompted her to change her life.  Norm followed a few years later.  Now they run the Sanctuary full time and support themselves with their savings.  And by run, I mean care, feed, and rehabilitate hundreds of animals.  Ann and Norm (and others) spend years rehabilitating animals. They know the personal story of each of the residents and are genuinely concerned with their well-being.  And not only do they have the knowledge to care for these animals, Ann is especially adept at understanding animal behavior. Our conversations gave me more insight into animal behavior than any book I have read or tv show I have watched. 

Over the last 15 years, the Goody’s have cared for over 100 types of animals, with more than 50 types in residence at any one time.  Many roads lead animals to the Sanctuary; often tragic.  For example the Sanctuary has rescued animals from failed zoos and directly from owners who can no longer care for them.  Several abandon or abused animals and injured wild animals have also been placed there.  If at all possible, wild animals are rehabilitated and returned to their natural habitat.  Otherwise, the Sanctuary provides a life that is similar to their natural environment.  Each is researched extensively and cared for with acute attention to distress and mental harmony. Animals are often paired with other seemingly dissimilar animals according to behavioral needs.  For example a North American bison was recently paired with a feral donkey who became best friends.  Turtles and tortoises calm distrusting birds around the grounds.  One of the goals is to create an environment in which each animal can live closely to how they would in the wild.

Also impressive are the Sanctuary’s educational endeavors.  The facility is a role model for education and animal care. They work with UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and Oregon State University providing pre-vet internships to undergraduate university students.  So far, each of their interns has been successfully placed in a competitive veterinary program.  Second-year vet students can visit as part of summer programs.  The Sanctuary also provides an after school mentoring program for younger students in local schools, focusing on children between 12 and 13.  They offer various classes to students between 8 and 11.  Community lectures have been provided as well.  The Sanctuary is a non-profit organization, supported only by donations.  It is run by volunteers and no salaries are provided for anyone.

The mission of the Sanctuary is not to be a petting zoo.  In fact, it is not open to the public, but they will provide small private educational tours.  She teaches visitors that animals have their own unique ways of communicating.  She shows you how we often misinterpret their behaviors because we do not understand their language.  If you are lucky enough to visit and learn from Ann, you might make friends with an alpaca by pressing noses, shake hands with a monkey, or be greeted by a 1500 pound bison licking your hand.  No matter what, it is an experience that you will never forget.