Ch@t: CTR celebrating its 45th anniversary with an eye toward the future

Posted 9/27/19

Carolina Tiger Rescue will be celebrating its 45th anniversary this week, so we’ve spoken with Susan King Cope, the organization’s development director. She joined Carolina Tiger Rescue in 2014, …

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Ch@t: CTR celebrating its 45th anniversary with an eye toward the future

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Carolina Tiger Rescue will be celebrating its 45th anniversary this week, so we’ve spoken with Susan King Cope, the organization’s development director. She joined Carolina Tiger Rescue in 2014, having previously worked in the health and human services sector of nonprofits for over 20 years in the areas of program development, advocacy, fundraising, and special events. While working to raise money and awareness for a variety of health organizations has been extremely rewarding, King Cope says “it is wonderful to work with so many dedicated people who love animals and conservation efforts just as much! I finally found home at the rescue.” In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, kickboxing and gardening.

Carolina Tiger Rescue is celebrating its 45th anniversary with “A Southern Supper” event on Sept. 29th. What’s going to happen on the 29th, and why use an event like this to observe this anniversary?

Carolina Tiger Rescue has been rescuing animals for 45 years — but we have evolved quite a bit over the decades. This milestone is an opportunity to unite old friends and new faces to celebrate caring for and rescuing hundreds of animals. In addition, we have been so lucky to have such a supportive community — we wanted to thank the many people who really help us perform our mission of saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild!

As you and the staff there reflect on 45 years of work dedicated to saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild, what’s foremost in your minds about what Carolina Tiger has accomplished?

Most importantly, we have provided a forever home to hundreds of animals, many that came from abusive and negligent situations. We have provided them with the love, respect, and expert care they deserve and offered them a second chance.

Many people will remember Aria Tiger, who was kept by a family as a backyard pet. When Aria was 10, she became ill and began to rapidly lose weight. Her owners were unable to find a vet willing to treat a tiger. Aria’s conditioned worsened until she became extremely thin and was so weak she could barely even lift her head. Animal Control officers came to evaluate her situation and immediately called Carolina Tiger Rescue. Aria’s condition was so desperate; we weren’t sure if she would survive the trip to North Carolina. When we brought Aria to our sanctuary, she received a thorough examination and tests showed she had Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. We fed her beef pancreas to provide the enzymes that her body couldn’t make. After a proper diagnosis and a new diet, she began to rebound quickly and went on to live for several more years.

It is these success stories that drive us to do all that we can for the animals.


Aside from the work you do with the cats, Carolina Tiger focuses on education and its role as a tourism destination. Let’s talk about education first: What kind of educational programs do you offer, and how have they changed and grown over the years?

We offer pre-reserved guided public tours every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and some holidays. We also offer private tours, field trips, summer camps, and a variety of off-site educational opportunities. Visitors get to meet the interesting tigers, lions, leopards, servals and other cats and learn their heartbreaking stories and see them thrive, now that they get a second chance in life. We believe that with education, we can further our mission to save and protect wild cats in captivity and in the wild. Technology has helped us expand our program, and having a great staff dedicated to education and different learning styles has really improved the level of education we can provide.


Certainly some of your visitors come to learn, but there’s also the thrill of seeing these amazing and exotic animals — which is why Carolina Tiger is such a tourism draw. Almost 90 percent of your visitors come from outside Chatham, but talk to us about what local folks are missing by NOT coming out?

We have over 19,000 visitors every year from across the country and even from different countries, yet some of our neighbors have never been to the sanctuary. As an animal lover, it is hard for me to understand why they would not want to come to see these amazing animals, but maybe they don’t know what to expect.

First of all, we are not like a zoo. All tours are guided by experts who share stories and answer questions about the animals. Visitors can get really close to the animals, sometimes as little as four feet away from a 400-pound tiger! If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear our lions start oofing at one another. It is one of the most amazing sounds I have ever heard.


Your “golden” anniversary is coming up in five short years. What changes, additions and other new programs are planned for the near future for Carolina Tiger?

It is hard to believe that 50 years is right around the corner. We have so many major plans for the near future. Last year we purchased some additional land next door and are working on plans to increase our educational offerings…other than that little tease, you will have to come to A Southern Supper to learn more about our BIG proposal!


How can people learn more about the Southern Supper event?

Visit our event website at or call a staff member at 919-542-4684


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