The ark has been found, and it’s in Locust Grove, Ga.
Noah’s Ark, a 250-acre nature preserve less than an hour south of Atlanta, is home to a wide range of exotic, domestic and livestock animals. It may be the only place in Georgia where you’ll find circus tigers, tame bears, a two-legged goat, boa constrictors and a lion that sometimes acts like a house cat.
And it’s free to visit.
Walk along the 40-acre trail and see animals in an environment much more natural than the zoo. Some creatures, like the peacocks, deer, ducks, llamas, pigs and rabbits are wandering free, immersing visitors in a wildlife experience unlike any other.
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But that’s not the ark’s claim to fame. The real treat in visiting the animal rehabilitation center is the opportunity to see a bear, lion and tiger together. That’s right — in the same enclosure, acting just like family and completely unaware their ancestors come from different continents.
Nicknamed the BLT, this bear, lion and tiger were rescued during a drug raid in Atlanta. Kept as unconventional pets by drug kingpins, they came to the center as cubs nine years ago and have lived there since.
Although the three together is certainly a sight to see, the sounds of Noah’s Ark are equally amazing. Hear the wail of a siamang gibbon ape and the purr of a 2-year-old American black bear.
While it’s wild, the environment is also soothing. In fact, it’s a stress reliever for wounded warriors who visit the site.
Jenna Hughes, family readiness support assistant for the Warrior Transition Battalion, said the unit’s Soldiers visit the center annually for some rest and relaxation. Their next outing is Sept. 30.
“It’s a peaceful day for the Soldiers to get out,” she said. “Noah’s Ark is an excellent place for a wonderful family experience. While there, you will experience peace and tranquility while communing with staff, nature and animals. The insight Noah’s Ark provides is a learning experience of what nature and family offers ... is to appreciate things most precious to you — like family and the beauty of your surroundings.”
The nature preserve is open to the public from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It takes about an hour to tour the entire site, including the alligator pond, turtles and reptiles in and near the welcome center.
For more information, visit the website at www.noahs-ark.org or call 770-957-0888.
A mission of caringIt’s not only its animal diversity that makes Noah’s Ark more than just a zoo.
Besides providing a place for animal rehabilitation, the site houses a long-term children’s care facility. Named for its role in providing shelter for unwanted or abused animals and children, the ark was born out of a 4-year-old’s dream to provide a home for the defenseless. Founder Jama Hedgecoth realized that dream in part in 1978, with the establishment of the rehabilitation center, and fully in 1993, with the licensing of the care home.
For the children, the opportunity to nurture small or injured animals is often therapeutic, bringing healing not just to the animal but also to the child.
Committed to keeping the animal habitats free and open to the public, the staff at Noah’s Ark nevertheless depend on donations. Every year, the center turns away several children and animals because they don’t have sufficient funds.
The center also provides other services to the community, such as educational field trips and a veterinary clinic that offers spay and neutering.
A Night at the Ark, the third annual gala fundraiser 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at Noah’s Ark, 712 LG Griffin Road, Locust Grove, Ga. $50 for adults; $25 for 12 and younger Call for family rates.
Includes dinner, flashlight safari, bonfire, hayrides, kids activities, silent auction and animal encounters Reserve your spot by Oct. 1. Call 770-975-0888.
Noah’s Ark Adventure Safari, an overnight camp 7 p.m. Oct. 22 to 11 a.m. Oct. 23 at Noah’s Ark, 712 LG Griffin Road, Locust Grove, Ga. $100 tax deductible donation per camper Children must be accompanied by an adultDiscount for groups of 5 or more Includes flashlight safari, bonfire with wiener roasts and marshmallows, wagon rides, campout, feeding the animals and continental breakfast.