Located in Loxahatchee, Panther Ridge Conservation Center is a truly unique and incredible way to spend a day or even an evening. A popular tourist destination, (although less popular than a well-known and way less cool animal safari spot), visiting the grounds and animals at Panther Ridge is a treat.
This hidden gem in Palm Beach County is home to cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, clouded leopards, panthers, ocelots, serval, and caracal cats. At Panther Ridge, you’re able to get close to these awesome creatures and observe them playing, snoozing, eating, swimming, and living their best lives in open-air enclosures. The experience is unique, intimate, and rare. Watching these incredible creatures, some of which are endangered, is a really cool experience.
While it’s a great place to visit, Panther Ridge is not a mainstream tourist attraction or zoo. They are a conservation center first and foremost that specializes in the care and needs of endangered and threatened species of cats. They acquire their animals from a variety of places and for many different reasons, oftentimes rescuing them from people who have tried unsuccessfully to keep them as pets.
At the sanctuary, the animals are considered ambassadors for their species. The tour guides are highly informed and share with the guests the story of each animal and the current status of their species in the wild. They provide interesting and thoughtful assessments of the destruction of their natural habitats including ways in which we can all help.
One True Thing Learned:
Palm oil, for example, is literally everywhere. It’s in food, makeup, cleaning products, and more. Unfortunately, the consequences of palm oil consumption are great including the displacement of indigenous peoples, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity. Many big cats lose their habitats to palm oil plantations. After visiting Panther Ridge, you’ll be motivated to take notice of this dangerous product and its prevalence and hopefully make small adjustments to your lifestyle accordingly.
Favorite True Cat:
Charlie the Cheetah is a personal favorite of True Floridian. Charlie was born in 2005 in a facility in South Africa, he’s a third-generation captive-bred cat which qualified him to be imported as an Ambassador Cat by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He lives on a one-acre enclosure and though he’s older now, he’s so much fun to watch. His sleek coat and calm disposition are delightful to see in person.
Need to Know:
Guided tours are approximately 1 hour and are good for all ages. The guides navigate you through the ground, introduce you to the ambassadors, and discuss conservation efforts as well as interesting tidbits about each cat. There are also Head Keeper Tours, Keeper for a Day Tours, and more. Bring sunscreen, water, and make sure you have a camera.
To learn more about Panther Ridge Conservation Center visit their website www.pantherridge.org. There are ways to donate on their website as well as volunteer and internship opportunities, how cool would that be?!