Animal sanctuary mourns loss of lion Sheba

Carolina Tiger Rescue is accredited by Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 8/2/19

PITTSBORO — Staff and supporters of Carolina Tiger Rescue mourned the loss last week of one of the sanctuary’s resident lions.

Sheba, who’d enjoyed a “posh life” at the local animal …

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Animal sanctuary mourns loss of lion Sheba

Carolina Tiger Rescue is accredited by Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

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PITTSBORO — Staff and supporters of Carolina Tiger Rescue mourned the loss last week of one of the sanctuary’s resident lions.

Sheba, who’d enjoyed a “posh life” at the local animal sanctuary — which provides lifelong care to rescued wild animals — for the past nine years succumbed to overheating after vomiting, said Michelle Myers, CTR’s communications director.

“Unfortunately, it was mostly her age,” Myers said in an interview with the Chatham News + Record.

On July 23, she shared the “sad news” on Facebook.

“Sheba got overheated this past week due to vomiting after she ate her meal, not that she just got too hot because of the weather,” the Facebook post stated. “The animal care team saw her vomit and kept watch over her the entire time.”

Staff intervened in an attempt to help the animal, calling for “additional help when it was clear that she was not able to recover on her own,” Myers wrote.

Using a cooling IV and other techniques, staff attempted to save Sheba, but “unfortunately her age made her more susceptible to the increased temperatures,” the Facebook post continued. “It is likely that her kidneys and liver were already not in the best of condition before this and simply couldn’t handle the additional stress. At 17 plus years of age, most cats have some kidney issues or other health issues that make them more fragile.”

Sheba joined the approximately 50 other animals residing at CTR after moving here from a sanctuary in Texas in 2010 when that sanctuary closed. Prior to that, Sheba had been employed at a beach in Cancun, Mexico, escorting beach-goers up and down the coastline, Myers said. Sheba was retired from servitude after she began to “get a little aggressive,” Myers said.

“That’s no life for a lion,” said Myers.

Sheba’s life in Pittsboro at the 55-acre sanctuary for wild cats was much better, Myers said.

“She had a real nice, sunny hill and she could lounge in the shade all day,” Myers said. “She lived a very posh life.”

The average lifespan for a lion in the wild, Myers said, is 8 to 10 years. In captivity, they can live between 15 and 18 years.

Sheba was 17.

Brought to CTR along with two other lions — Sebastian and Tarzan, who’d both led similar lives of servitude prior to their rescue — Sheba “will forever be remembered as the matriarch of the pride of three that came to us from Texas,” Myers wrote on Facebook.

“She always kept Sebastian and Tarzan in line and was the first to work out new enrichment items,” Myers said. “Her confidence and leadership was seen the moment she stepped into Quarantine on her first day. Rather than being worried about the new people, she felt the need to walk around and check out everything about her new space. She walked the perimeter, stood on her hind feet and looked at the roof, and sniffed every corner. While Sebastian and Tarzan hold a special place in my heart as the more delicate members of the pride, Sheba will also stand out to me as the epitome of what it means to be a lion — strong, confident, and smart.”

Myers said Sheba’s “presence will be greatly missed in the sanctuary,” but also noted that life and death, just as in the wild, are a natural part of existence for the rescued animals who comprise CTR’s menagerie. This year, the sanctuary has mourned the loss of 10 other animals, Myers said.

Sheba’s death, however, captured a great deal of attention. Newspapers and television stations throughout the U.S. — the New York Post seized upon the story, and it was broadcast on news in Oregon — covered the story.

And though the news of Sheba’s passing was “heartbreaking,” Myers said the staff’s efforts to save the animal offered her a moment “to reflect on the Carolina Tiger Rescue family.”

On Facebook, Myers wrote, “I have always said that one of the reasons I have been here so long is the people. And it’s true. The people that we have working here, both staff and volunteers, are incredible. Not only do I consider them friends, I’m always impressed with how they handle themselves. This crisis was no different. Not only did they respond quickly and professionally when things were critical, they kept going long after the sun had set and were back ready for more when things had not improved. ... There is no other team that I would rather have by my side. Thank you for all that you do every day, and even more for what you do when called upon in an emergency.”

Randall Rigsbee can be reached at

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), the only globally recognized organization providing standards for identifying legitimate animal sanctuaries, awarded Accredited status to Carolina Tiger Rescue as of July 17.

Carolina Tiger Rescue provides lifelong care to rescued wild cats at its forested, 55-acre sanctuary.

Achieving GFAS Accreditation means that Carolina Tiger Rescue meets the criteria of a true sanctuary and is providing humane and responsible care of the animals. To be awarded Accreditation status, an organization must meet GFAS’s rigorous and peer-reviewed animal care standards and also adhere to a demanding set of ethical and operational principles, CTR reported in a press release.

“The accreditation status provides a clear and trusted means for the public, donors and grantors to recognize Carolina Tiger Rescue as an exceptional sanctuary,” the press release stated.

“We are proud to announce the recent Accreditation of Carolina Tiger Rescue,” said Kristin Leppert, GFAS Program Director-Wildlife. “This sanctuary has a highly dedicated staff and volunteer team” says Leppert, “and it is wonderful to see the animals living comfortable lives free from exploitation.”

“Carolina Tiger Rescue has a 45-year history of caring for and protecting wild cats. We are excited to add this new chapter as a GFAS-accredited sanctuary and to continue to expand services to benefit wild cats in captivity and in the wild,” said Pam Fulk, executive director of Carolina Tiger Rescue.


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