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Tigers in North Carolina? Oh yes, and lions too! In fact, ten different kinds of animals live here. Did you know that the North Carolina Zoo doesn’t have a tiger exhibit? So if you want to see and learn more about these beautiful animals, you’ll have to visit Carolina Tiger Rescue.

Hearing about the Carolina Tiger Rescue over the years, it was high time for us to see it for ourselves. So what better day to start our New Year’s resolution of exploring more locally than visiting this attraction in Pittsboro, North Carolina?

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What is it?

Carolina Tiger Rescue is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing a safe environment for tigers and other wild cats. The center aims to teach the public about these beautiful animals and how we can take steps to protect them both in captivity and in the wild. They accomplish this goal through instructional tours, community presentations, kid camps, high school summer camp, field days, and “Kid For A Day” adult camp (more about this later in the post!).

a wild serval in an enclosure

Zoey the serval hissing at us. Can you believe someone had her as a pet?

What to expect

Plan your trip in advance since tickets sell out multiple weeks in advance. Log onto the website and choose the appropriate tour for your group: public tour and twilight tours. Tours are usually held on weekends. Please note that twilight tours are for adults only (no one under 18).

When you arrive, you’ll observe a tall metallic fence reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Enter through a gate and approach the Visitor’s Center. Arrive a little early for your tour as every member of your party must check in on the provided iPads and sign waivers of liability and photography permission forms. Use the restroom at the Visitor’s Center since you won’t be able to do so during the tour.

You’ll sit through a short video presentation about safety precautions and the center’s mission. You’ll return to the Visitor’s Center for a short wrap up video at the end of your tour.

lioness standing on top of wood shed with vultures on trees in background against dark sky

Lioness keeping an eye out on her domain – while the vultures in the trees hope she leaves some leftovers when she’s done eating!

The tour

What can you expect to see? Carolina Tiger Rescue cares for over ten different types of animals:

    • Bobcat
    • Caracal
    • Cheetah
    • Cougar
    • Coatimundi
    • Jaguar
    • Kinkajou
    • Leopard
    • Lion
    • Ocelot
    • Serval
  • Tigers

The animals are kept in separate spaces divided by a tall chain link fence. The fence has some give in it so that animals don’t hurt themselves if they throw themselves against the sides. A second, shorter chain link fence keeps the public away from the enclosures. Don’t cross that smaller fence.

three tigers playing with cardboard boxes with wood shed in background

Three tigers enjoying the New Year’s Day treat boxes!

Where the animals come from

Carolina Tiger Rescue provides sanctuary for wild animals from all sorts of backgrounds except circuses. Part of the agreement for the Rescue to take the animal is that the person giving up the animal promises not to take in another wild animal – a circus won’t stop. Some people thought it would be neat to have a wildcat as a pet and are somewhat surprised when it becomes too much to handle. Cubs of tigers and lions are used in roadside zoos but no longer wanted as they get too big and dangerous for petting or photo opportunities. As soon as profits dry up (these carnivores are expensive to feed), they are frequently kept in horrific conditions, including cages that don’t even allow them to stand up fully. Others come from sanctuaries that fail.

Carolina Tiger Rescue allows these big, beautiful cats to be able to enjoy their environment. We enjoyed seeing three lions digging through boxes looking for smell treats (the enrichment portion of our tour). At one point, we could hear lions roaring in the background and it really did remind me of the noises in Jurassic Park!

farm house with tall wire fence around it

Getting there

Carolina Tiger Rescue is located at 1940 Hanks Chapel Road in Pittsboro, North Carolina. The website indicated that GPS directions would not necessarily get you there. We used Waze and had no difficulties. I didn’t see any signs off Highway 64, the way we came. It will look like a big farm on a country road. The most important thing to remember is to pay attention to the signs indicating which driveway to use. Almost all approaches will have you coming in so that Carolina Tiger Rescue is on your right. From this approach, the third driveway on your right is the entrance to the parking lot.

tiger facing the camera

Shenandoah Tiger keeping an eye on us visitors!

Know before you go

The tour takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on how active the animals are that day and how interactive the visitors are. You’ll be walking, or at least standing, most of the time. A gator was available to take guests who need a little bit of help but you should know that you won’t be able to get as close to the enclosures (due to the noise of the gator) and other guests will inevitably stand in front of you, blocking your best views.

Tours sell out fast, so reserve ahead of time online. Admission prices for public tours are:

    • Adults (13 and up) $18 plus fees and taxes
    • Youth (4-12) $12.75 plus fees and taxes
  • Children 3 and under are free but still need a reservation

 ***We participated in an Enrichment Tour (a special event) which cost $28 per adult ($64.78 including taxes and fees for both of us) ***

Dress appropriately for the outdoors. I would recommend wearing closed-toe shoes. We visited after several rainy days and it was incredibly muddy. In warmer weather, I would imagine that fire ants and other bugs are plentiful.

Carolina Tiger Rescue Visitor Parking sign

The unexpected – “Kid for a Day” Adult Camp

As a kid, did you dream of working in a zoo or as a veterinarian? The “Kid for a Day” Adult Camp takes you back to your childhood. From 9am to 4pm, you’ll take part in the daily activities of a wild animal sanctuary. Seamlessly learning about the animals, you’ll help the keepers feed and paint with the animals. I can’t imagine a better way to spend $225 on a pretty unique experience!

leopard behind wire fence

Anthony the leopard was curious about his visitors.

What you can do to help

    • Visit, of course! Learn about their mission. Your fee goes to caring for the animals.
    • Volunteer – the Rescue relies heavily on adult volunteers
    • Donate – money is always a good option
  • Spread the word

Have you visited an animal rescue and sanctuary? If not, putting that on your list!

Happy travels!

Annick, The Common Traveler

Visit the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, North Carolina, USA. #tigers #visitnc