Cougar Memorial Fund
Many of you were fortunate enough to have experienced the majestic Sariah, our beautiful South American Cougar here at North Georgia Wildlife Park. She passed away this morning at the incredible age of 20 in her favorite spot, surrounded by some of her favorite people.
Thousands of our guests have learned about her wild cousins when they visited our park. Others have encountered her personally on the Wild Cat Experience. She never turned down a good brushing and would proclaim so with her purring. Up until the very end she loved to play hide and seek and surprise you with a quick jump up on the fence or meow.
Sariah is the reason that everyone here at our park loves and respects cougars. Due to our amazing experience with her, cougars will always be one of our keystone species.
Many have asked how they can help or show their love and appreciation for Sariah. It has always been our plan to let Sariah live out her life here before we added any new cougar ambassadors. We are keenly aware of the need to be part of the conservation initiative of this species and our plan is to add a pair of cougars to help propagate the species.
We ask that you donate to the Sariah the Cougar Memorial Fund for the building of a new and improved cougar habitat in preparation for their coming.
While we will miss her greatly, she has left a legacy that we hope to uphold for her species and every gift brings us closer to achieving that goal.
Thank you for loving her and supporting the animal ambassadors here at the park. With any amount of donation given, you will receive a copy of Sariah's paw print.
Note: North Georgia Wildlife Park is not a 501c3 tax exempt organization and contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes as charitable contribution.
From the Director Hope Bennett…
Sariah came to me 20 years ago, a kitten full of energy and play. We shared an intense personality. I was passionate about teaching people about animals and believed strongly in the human-animal connection. I wanted to help people care about their wild cousins and the world around us. We were presenting traveling educational programs and we were not yet open to the public.
Sariah and I were on a mission to bring people and animals together; to care for people and animals; and to connect people to animals and conservation causes.
However, her mission looked a little different than mine. Hers included shredding everything in sight and lots of pouncing! She quickly outgrew her ability to be a tactile animal with other people.
Back then I had no staff, just a few crazy volunteers and my brother who was willing to try anything for me. So from then on it was my mission to stay the course with Sariah and figure things out. Sariah gave me grace to fail and get back up again in my training ability. She challenged everything I knew about training and animal ambassador work. She helped me solidify our purpose and mission.
She brought the worst and best out in me both emotionally and physically. As she grew and got stronger, so did I.
Sariah and I eventually came to agreement on what life was going to look like for us, and let me tell you, it was out of the box!
In her training area she learned to respect biting boundaries, but some things we never could agree on; such as: jumping on my back. So she got her own space and in that space she could do as she wanted. I would never go in there. There was never a time Sariah did not want to come out and train though. When I opened her door, she would launch herself out into her training area, get on her stand and wait for me to put her halter on, all while licking my arm obsessively, like sandpaper wearing away my skin.
As a kitten up to five years of age, Sariah could destroy almost anything, but the one thing she never destroyed was her blue plush saxophone. She would chase it, jump for it, pounce on it and bring it back to me for more hours of fetch. It reminds me of who she was and how extremely honored I am that she let me into her life.
For the first 10 years of her life Sariah traveled many places and loved watching the world go by. She would “wow” the crowds and students with her ability to jump and pounce as she would go through a series of movements using stools, targets, ladders and tables. Her tail always followed majestically behind her.
As she aged and laws changed that world had to change. We opened up to tours at the zoo when she was 10. She began to enjoy just coming out of her habitat to see people on “Behind the Scene” tours, then going back to her cushy life of watching her fans walk by. As she grew older she found herself content with people coming to visit and giving her a good back scratch or chin rub with a brush. Her habitat was her home, and her home was her security. She loved displaying herself proudly in her home and enjoyed her “mom” and close friend Melissa coming into the training area to say “Hey” as she purred, licked and sucked on her paw.
Sariah was foundational in helping the zoo become what it is today. She crossed many barriers with me and weathered many storms with me and showed me constantly who I was and what I was meant for. God set in motion a vision in my life that Sariah reminded me of daily - to bring people and animals together to glorify God so that no life goes untouched; to care for people and animals; to connect people to animals; and to conserve for future generations. This is our vision and mission here at North Georgia Wildlife Park.
Will you join us on this journey? We would love to have you help us build for the future a new cougar habitat so we can continue as soon as possible having cougars here as keystone species and animal ambassador.
Hope Bennett, Owner/Director
North Georgia Wildlife Park