Lions and tigers and bears and more: The Wild Animal Sanctuary

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

In January of 2014, I published a movie review of the film LION ARK, which I saw as part of the 2013 STARZ Denver Film Festival. The riveting documentary tells the true story of the dogged efforts of Animal Defenders International and other compassionate folks as they rescued twenty-five African lions from deplorable, inhumane conditions in Bolivian circuses and transported them across the world to a safe haven in Colorado.

I found the feat and the film heartbreaking, humbling, inspiring, amazing. I was doubly delighted by the fact the forever home where the egregiously mistreated animals would now roam was mere hours north of me. It warmed my heart that my forever home state was now their forever home, despite the assumption I'd never actually meet my big-cat neighbors.

Fast forward to June of 2017, just a few weeks ago. I was invited to attend a Nissan event highlighting the fun and feisty Nissan Rogue Sport. The day would include time to go wild at the wheel of the crossover vehicle as well as the opportunity to witness the truly wild at The Wild Animal Sanctuary located 30 miles northeast of Denver. I immediately RSVP'd yes as the lineup sounded pretty darn cool.

The coolness factor increased exponentially upon my arrival when I learned The Wild Animal Sanctuary is the sanctuary housing the Bolivian lions featured in LION ARK. Plus hundreds of other wild animals rescued from unscrupulous jerks (there's no polite way of saying it) around the world — from public zoos to private residences — who exploit, abuse, neglect, abandon or worse lions, tigers, bears, wolves and more.

What a wonderfully wild day! After a few hours dedicated to all things Nissan Rogue Sport — which you can read about here — Nissan treated our group of automotive writers and bloggers to an amazing afternoon at said sanctuary.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a 720-acre home to more than 450 rescue animals — the largest carnivore sanctuary in the world. The big cats, bears, and other residents have ample space to roam, with species-specific habitats ranging from five to twenty-five acres, plus underground dens, swimming ponds, wood and concrete play structures, toys and enrichment opportunities. Most of all, they have freedom in a safe and nurturing environment with custodians who love and care for them.

Above it all is "Mile into the Wild Walkway," a massive elevated walkway that allows visitors to roam — out of harm's way and without impacting the animals — to get a birds-eye view of the wild things below and those enjoying open spaces beyond.

Visitors first enter The Wild Animal Sanctuary via the Welcome Center/Education Center. Informative rescue videos play on big screens here and there, various exhibits that explain the importance of animal rescue plus how it's done, refreshment and play options are plentiful.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary 

From the Education Center, visitors access the walkway — where the wild fun begins. Time to get out the binoculars and camera.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary 

Along the walkway (and not in this order), I saw...


The Wild Animal Sanctuary


 The Wild Animal Sanctuary


The Wild Animal Sanctuary 


The Wild Animal Sanctuary


The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Along the walkway is the Tiger Roundhouse, where tigers are learning to live and play together before released into the large habitats, plus the Bolivian Lion House (yes!). In the lion house, TV screens play rescue stories and loud roar-fests erupt spontaneously — which are wildly delightful to witness.


The entire sanctuary is delightful to witness. And serves as an amazing, unforgettable wake-up call on the horrific ways in which so many wild and wonderful creatures are mistreated — while highlighting the important and incredible ways compassionate humans make a difference.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Find out how you can make a difference — including animal adoption! — as well as full details on The Wild Animal Sanctuary and its rescued residents at


The Wild Animal Sanctuary

The Wild Animal Sanctuary
1946 County Road 53
Keenesburg, CO 80643
Info on hours, admission and more
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  • Plan to arrive early in the morning or in the late afternoon. The animals are fed in the morning and evening, so more are out and about at those times. Plus, they tend to nap and stay out of the heat during peak daytime hours.
  • Wear comfy walking shoes. Traversing the 4,800-foot walkway (long enough to hold 4,000 people on it at one time) to the end and back — which is a must in order to see all the exhibits — can tire, possibly even torture, unprepared tootsies.
  • Bring binoculars. The walkway features a couple long-range viewers but they're few and far between. You'll want, at minimum, one to share with all who attend with you. Better yet, equip each visitor with their own.
  • Be sure to grab a (free) Tour Guide at the admission counter. It's full of fabulous information including explanations of each habitat as well as the names and circumstances of rescue for every animal.
  • Take breaks at the covered rest areas, especially if you have kids with you.
  • Allow three to six hours for your visit (arrive no later than four hours before closing). And take your time perusing the place. The sanctuary is not like a zoo, with animals up close in cages. The wild ones roam their expansive space — as wild animals should do — and are sometimes far from view. Don't give up if you don't spot this and that right off the bat. They're out there and you will see them. And if the lions, tigers, and bears are playing shy, take a break indoors experiencing the massive Education Center... then head back out for another view of natural habitat.

Disclosure: Thank you to Nissan for providing this unforgettable experience free of charge.