Kaslo village council has given the go ahead to a couple wanting to bring cheetahs to the community — but the cheetahs may not come.
Earl Pfeifer and Carol Plato own two of the endangered species that now live with them at their home near Toronto. In late June, they approached the community of Kaslo about bringing Robin and Annie with them to live at Kane Manor, their second home, in a conservation efffort with the benefit of tourism.
Mayor Greg Lay said council has granted approval in principle to the cheetah proposal subject to the proper certification and community support.
“These people love their animals and Mr. Pfeifer is a well-respected community citizen — he’s no fly-by-nighter — so that’s why council supported it in principle,” Lay said.
Needing the village’s endorsement to gain the necessary permits to proceed, the endeavour intended to offer educational and outreach programs from their home which would be transformed to safely house the South African cats.
Since council’s approval was granted at their September 24 meeting, it was learned that Pfeifter and Plato are instead moving their project to Innisfail, Alberta.
There, the Discovery Wildlife Park houses over 40 species of orphaned animals on a 90-acre property.
Plato said that the change of venue is due to regulatory hoops they must jump through to bring the cats to BC.
“We have not given up on bringing our outreach/education for conservation program to Kaslo, but given the provincial government’s self proclaimed ‘wall around BC,’ we know it will be a lengthy and difficult process,” she said. “However, we certainly do understand and support the importance of well thought out controls for the safety and well-being of both people and animals.”
Some locals have expressed concern about such matters as the couple considers how to keep Robin and Annie.
Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away, Pfeifer and Plato are nursing one of their African cheetahs back to health. Last week, Annie suddenly fell ill and required emergency surgery on Thursday having portions of her stomach and liver removed.
As she recovers slowly, Plato expressed feeling frightened at the seriousness of Annie’s illness. The “fragile” cat still has a strong purr and her owner, at her side day and night, described this experience as “a roller coaster.”
“I honestly don’t think there could be a more wonderful cheetah anywhere, and we are devastated to think we might lose her,” she posted on her Facebook page last week. “We believe she will make a huge difference to the cheetah conservation effort via outreach, because of her incredible, purry and cuddly personality, so we’re distraught both for ourselves because we love her, and for the possible loss to the conservation effort to save the species.”
Almost a week later, Plato reported Annie is hungry and doing much better though still has a lot of “healing and recuperating to do.”
“Regardless, until Annie is 100 per cent well, we will be staying in Ontario,” said Plato.
They describe cheetahs as the original “fraidy cat” saying there is no record of a wild cheetah killing a human in the 4,000 years since Egyptians first started keeping the cats captive.
Today, there are fewer than 10,000 cheetahs left in the world and their numbers are declining by nearly 1,000 per year due to loss of habitat and farmers being able to kill them.