A De Brazza’s monkey wonders who’s looking at him. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Something about wild animals not living in the wild rubs me the wrong way.

While I was looking forward to going to Safari West in Santa Rosa this past spring, I left a little put off.

It’s one thing for animals to live out their final days at a place like this, it’s another that it is a breeding facility. So, it’s creating more exotic captive animals. To prevent inbreeding, animals are traded between similar facilities.

A tower of giraffe roam around at Safari West. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I say exotic because these aren’t animals that would normally live in Sonoma County or call anyplace in California home. Think monkeys, giraffes, and buffalo.

No big cats are on the property.

Flamingos keep cool in the waters of Safari West. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Nearly 1,000 animals that would normally call Africa home live on this 400-acre preserve.

From what I could see all the animals were well cared for. But they aren’t only eating food that they would find in the wild. Their diets are supplemented with other things; all under the scrutiny of veterinarians and trained staff.

Animals that would naturally roam have space to do so. The perimeter is fenced, with animals that don’t get along sectioned off from each other. That’s not to say there aren’t cages. There are. That’s hard to see even though I completely understand the need.

Some animals at Safari West get names–baby Otto and mom Eesha. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While this tourist destination has been around for 30 years, this was my first visit even though I used to live in Sonoma County.

The good thing about places like this is it gives people an opportunity to see animals in person they might not otherwise ever see. I fear that one day places like Safari West will be the only home for non-domesticated, non-farm animals. So, maybe I should applaud their efforts instead of being unnerved by them. But I’m just not ready to do that.

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