Exotic Animals: Rescue & Advocacy with Christin Burford

Christin runs CARE Foundation, an exotic animals rescue and wildlife education center just north of Walt Disney World.

Christin joins me from Apopka, Florida, just north of Walt Disney World, where she runs The CARE Foundation, an exotic animals rescue and wildlife education center.

Christin lives on CARE’s property with more than 200 animals that she has given refuge to in her sanctuary.  Christin has a unique situation because she holds over 27 licenses and usually does not turn an animal away.  She’s a bit of a “one stop shop” for Fish & Wildlife or people surrendering their pets.  And I’d like to offer that she’s a “one stop shop” for tourists too, or locals who would like to see exotic wildlife.

In today’s episode:

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6 Simple Ideas To Make a Difference:

1. DO NOT BUY FUR.  These animals are kept in horrible conditions and suffer for something completely unnecessary.  There are vegan fur alternatives.  Don’t engage in this industry.

2. AVOID BEAUTY PRODUCTS MADE FROM OR TESTED ON ANIMALS.  Check the materials before buying anything (false eyelashes are a culprit for mink fur).  And products are still tested on animals.

3. MAKE A WILL FOR ALL PETS.  Don’t only choose someone to take custody, but verify that this person is willing and prepared to do so.

4. BOGO FOR DONATIONS.  When we see a store offering a buy one, get one campaign, save the extra item and donate it to our local sanctuary.

5. TRY A MONTHLY DONATION.  Try adding monthly support for our local sanctuary into our lives, whether it be financial, extra food & supplies from our home, or cleaning materials.

6. VISIT SANCTUARIES WHEN WE TRAVEL.  Find local animal sanctuaries to visit, and give them our money as a tourist.  It’s a win win because we get to see animals in an environment where they are comfortable and taken care of.

Tours offered at CARE Foundation:

Tours are a perfect way to support CARE (Creating Animal Respect Education) Foundation, learn more about exotic animals, and get to see them up close.  Details and booking instructions for CARE’s tours can be found on their website here.

  • Field Trips / Group Tours – girl scouts, boy scouts, local clubs, corporate experiences
  • King of the Jungle Tour – 1.5-2 hour tour at feeding time, pass out treats, witness a big cat feeding, and learn about the animals
  • Care Taker for a Day – a full day experience, learning to care for the animals, includes cleaning, food prep and enrichment activities
  • CATalyst – A human-animal interaction experience that teaches you to shift from feeling stressed to calm in seconds.
  • Weddings & other special events

How do animals end up at CARE?

A lot of the animals are ex-pets.  Christin urges us to avoid impulse buying.  Exotic animals look cute and cuddly, but the reality is that owning an exotic animal as a pet is a serious situation.  Some of the pets who were brought to Christin had attacked their owners.

Christin shares the following advice for anyone who is considering the purchase of an exotic animal as a pet:

  • Give it a long waiting period to make the decision (don’t impulse buy)
  • Do a lot of research and know the species well (How do they look when they are healthy? When they are sick? What parasites impact them? What size enclosures do they need?)
  • Work hands on with someone who has that type of animal.  Learn how to clean and care for the animal properly.
  • Plan for the vet.  What type of vet care may the animal need and is there a vet close by?  How much will it cost and do we have that money budgeted?
  • Make a will and verify that the person in our will is willing and capable of taking the animal if something happens to us.

Impact of COVID-19 on sanctuaries & how to help:

Christin shares that sanctuaries need help now more than ever.  CARE Foundation used to support their exotic animals rescue work through paid jobs, introducing animals who enjoy meeting people, to people.

But with the closures, there are no longer cruise ships coming to town, or in person gatherings happening at all.  They lost over 50 paid jobs.  Christin’s sanctuary has been surviving off of money that had been saved to purchase the property next door.  And that money is now gone.

They really need our help.  And she says that all sanctuaries do.  Here are some ideas for how we can support our local sanctuary.  As always, reach out first to make sure that they can use these things.

  • consider a small monthly donation that can go toward operation costs
  • donate extra vegetables, fruit, food that would otherwise go to waste
  • donate from buy one, get one campaigns at local stores
  • donate surplus from Sams or Costco purchases
  • donate dog food, cat food
  • donate blankets and towels
  • donate bleach, paper towels, and other cleaning supplies
  • donate via Amazon smile

Sanctuaries need to stick together:

Christin shares a strong message that sanctuaries need to rely on each other and work together right now to best help exotic animals.  She shared how she has seen the industry change over the many years that she has been involved.  She describes how she was once the only woman around who was working with big reptiles and big cats.  She says that things were ruthless, with people stabbing each other in the back constantly.

When she started her sanctuary, she had to figure out how to make it work all by herself.  And it was very hard, but she persevered.  She’s now passionate about helping other people learn what she has learned, and make their wildlife rescues successful.  She encourages everyone to work together and find sister sanctuaries, or people to learn from.

Podcast Transcript:

This episode was transcribed with ai technology from otter.ai.  Please excuse any typos or incorrect language.

Brandy Montague 0:00
Welcome to episode number 29 of the For Animals For Earth podcast: exotic animals rescue and advocacy with Christin Burford.

Christin Burford 0:11
It’s kind of funny because when I started, there were no women really doing what I did, and working the big cats. The big alligators the venomous stuff. I was like a novelty thing…

Brandy Montague 0:23
That was Christin from Apopka Florida, talking about her early years and helping exotic animals. She runs the care Foundation, which is an exotic animal rescue and wildlife education facility near Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Brandy Montague 0:39
I first visited care with my mother and father in law and my kids on a trip to Orlando and we did a tour around the property and met so many exotic animals.  My kids are always asking to go back and then feet brought me back again to the care foundation property when I was studying to become an animal Reiki teacher with the shelter animal Reiki Association. And then it’s so crazy once again through a mutual friend, I met Kevin Rose who runs the catalyst program there on CARE’s property which is a program to help combat veterans, integrate back into their daily lives. Upon returning home. Needless to say, CARE has a part of my heart. And I have to tell you guys I am just blown away by Christin.

Brandy Montague 1:34
The simple idea for today’s episode is don’t buy fur. Simple as that. There’s no point, there’s no reason for the cruel industry and we do not need to support it.

Brandy Montague 1:45
For the links to everything that we talked about today, as well as how you can help Christin, the programs that I just mentioned, will all be in the show notes at foranimals for earth.com/podcast/29.

Brandy Montague 2:04
And before we start, I just want to give a quick shout out to all of you who have left a review. Thank you. It means the world to me to have your help. I really really appreciate it. And I also want to say thank you to Ame and Megan, who have gone through our five day challenge and signed up for our private community. I am so excited to have you guys there. If you’re interested in the lifestyle challenge, go to foranimalsforearth.com/lifestylechallenge. Okay, you guys, I cannot wait any longer to introduce you to Christin. Let’s go.

Brandy Montague 2:43
Hi there this is Brandy and you’re listening to the for animals for Earth podcast. This is a space where we inspire each other to take small steps every day to live a more conscious life, helping animals, and the planet, while we do it. I’m so glad that you’re here. Let’s all take a deep breath and let’s get started.

Brandy Montague 3:08
It probably feels like chaos to you but then from someone from the outside like it doesn’t at all it’s like you drive out into the country, I call it the country but you know into kind of like swamp land slash forest land in the middle of Florida and you go down this little gravel road and you end up in this, this I can only describe as like a beautiful sanctuary that opens up in the trees, and you live there with how many animals?

Christin Burford 3:38
Roughly about 200. Yeah, if you count all the pigeons and the snakes and about 200. So, Kristen and about 200 animals in this area.

Brandy Montague 3:49
There are exotic animals of all different kinds of species, all different kinds of personalities, and what is so neat about your place is that, you know, every single one of these animals so well that I, as a person from the outside you can kind of feel their personalities and they are their spirits I guess their animal spirits that just permeates that whole property and it’s just really cool to come in and visit and to see you in action, I, I say like, I liken you to like a superhero I don’t really know how else to say it.

Brandy Montague 4:33
You can operate through the chaos though, you’re able to just kind of move from one animal’s need to another. And never stops like 24, hours a day something is going on. And you, you are able to just dedicate your life to helping them and I just find that so amazing so I’m so excited to introduce you to me today. Great. So, let’s, let’s actually, let me bring up one thing really fast.

Brandy Montague 5:02
Care foundation is our charity of the month this month. So what that means for everybody who is watching or listening, we’re all coming together as a community to jump over and just help Christin out so follow her on social media, like things that she’s posting share them, donate if you can just pitch into give Christin and care, our support this month so that’s what we’re doing is the charity of the mile

Christin Burford 5:28
Thank you. You have no idea how much that helps.

Brandy Montague 5:33
I think a lot of times we underestimate how much we can help by just sharing things on social media, right?

Brandy Montague 5:40
you think,

Christin Burford 5:40
yeah, We do tours out here and a lot of the tours are word of mouth. People that have been out here are seeing the videos and all. It helps out tremendously. Every little bit, especially now with all the COVID stuff going on.

Brandy Montague 5:57
Yeah. So tell me a bit about tthat. Let’s start with what are the different tours that you have that people can come visit and see this kind of picture that I’ve just painted.

Christin Burford 6:12
Right, right. We do, we do group tours so we do, we do some like, Girl Scouts Boy Scouts, things like that. And then we also do something called keeper for the day or caretaker for the day. That’s for two people and that that’s for a lot of times people that think they want to work with exotic animals and that kind of thing. That’s kind of an all day thing and we actually take you in with several of the exotic animals you can take pictures and trials, actually, hoping clean and kind of getting a feel for what we do, but it’s specifically with animals that enjoy that kind of interaction and that we know is not a problem. Like we teach you to train a serval we have an African serval that has certain behaviors and you can hand feed them. You can go in with our strange group our raccoon Louise and her three house cats and Hannibal The bobcat. We work with a foxes with the people. So that’s, that’s another tour.

Christin Burford 7:12
And then we have the king of the jungle tour which is our most popular is for up to six people it’s $100, but you get a tour of the whole facility. You get hands on with two of the animals, you get to see the Tigers, eat, so it’s it’s really interactive and then we do special things for like birthdays and anniversaries like meet and greets with Amos or spider monkey famous Amos that’s what we call them.

Christin Burford 7:39
And we do other things too We, we actually Amos actually presented a girl with a ring for an engagement, all crazy. And we did a wedding. That was a lot of fun. So we were starting to kind of branch out we do a lot of birthday parties too we have a picnic area. So, we branch, we have what we call the party animals that the kids can pet and hold and everything so yeah we were kind of branching out a little bit but the tours really helped.

Brandy Montague 8:07
I love the idea of bringing children there for a birthday party. Number one, because that’s such a like simple, easy thing to do, to provide you a ton of help and introduce exotic animals to children in a way that is respectful and through the lens of everything that y’all can teach right yeah we we trick them into learning things. Yeah. So, they don’t even realize learning and then at the end we ask what your favorite animal is and why and everything and yeah so we have a lot of fun with that.

Brandy Montague 8:45
I love that and for you know you’re located, what maybe 45 minutes north of Disney Yeah. Is that about my heart Yeah, not far at all, so people could these tours that you mentioned this is something that even tourists who are traveling to Central Florida could make part of their itinerary and we’ll probably spend a day or half a day with you.

Christin Burford 9:07
Absolutely.

Brandy Montague 9:08
Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. I hope that some people who are listening and watching are going to consider that, because

Christin Burford 9:14
We’ve actually had people come, year after year, especially the Europeans, that, that usually come to Florida once a year and we’ve had them come every year to see what’s changed what’s, you know, how certain animals have grown and everything so it’s really cool. If they become like family we recognize their voice when they call and, yeah, we do a little extra stuff for him. So yeah, we even have some locals that though come bring like one set of grandchildren one time another set. So we have a lot of fun with that, especially returning people we do extra special things for them and we we genuinely appreciate the help.

Brandy Montague 9:52
And, you know, It’s such a win win because the people who are visiting you are getting just as much if not more than the, the support that you’re getting through word of mouth and through the donations and through the cost of the jars all of that keeps you operating and they get just as much. Yeah, terms of the experience so yeah, it’s a win win for everybody, it is.

Christin Burford 10:17
And we’re so lucky to have such a good group of exotic animals that even the A team that are hands, and the B team is not so much hands on but loves interacting with people in other ways and just having those type of animals that are so well behaved that enjoy it genuinely enjoy it, it’s it’s a special thing that really is.

Brandy Montague 10:38
And can you, can you tell us, who’s on your team who’s on your team to give everybody an idea of what you mean by those who enjoy this interaction.

Christin Burford 10:49
Well, we’ve got both a team and B team like traveling. The a team consists of mainly my one alligator Brutus, and my other one Gilly very well behaved don’t mind being held by people. I’ve got several snakes I know that’s not your favorite but several Snakes on a team, I’ve got skunks on the a team. These are all animals that I can hand off to children, several of them work with autistic and special needs kids. The B team are ones that like to travel like to show off in front of people like Rosie, our little white faced Capuchin. She is amazing she knows several behaviors, she, her nickname is the happy monkey, because she’ll come out and she’ll look all grumpy but then I’ll say Happy monkey and she’ll smile, and she’ll jump and get everybody excited, but she’s one that she loves men, but does not like being contacted by women or kids there’s only three of us women that worked with her, but she loves going out and showing off in front of people. So she’s a good example of a b team animal because she loves going out but just I can’t hand her off to just anybody. So, things like that and yeah, we’re very lucky to have them.

Brandy Montague 11:58
So, yeah, that and you know it’s um you say you’re really lucky to have them I’m sure a lot of it has to do with them feeling comfortable because they have you and your volunteers they’re right there with you and they’re in an environment that they feel safe, right.

Brandy Montague 12:15
How do the exotic animals end up there with you?

Christin Burford 12:17
A lot of them are ex pets. Some are confiscated by the state we work closely with fishing game. If somebody illegally has something or is not taking care of it, then a lot of times it’ll come to us. A lot of times it’s just personal surrenders. I just had several snakes, a skank and a tarantula turned into us because the person couldn’t afford to keep them anymore. And we were lucky to get them because honestly two of the snakes were not in the best condition, and this person thought they were in great condition.

Christin Burford 12:48
So I was very glad we got those in when we did. But yeah, a lot of them are just animals that people bought impulse impulse buying is a bad thing. I mean, it happens all the time. It’s cute it’s cuddly it’s like the bunnies and ducks at Easter and then when they start getting bigger and everything. People don’t want them anymore so monkeys everybody thinks monkeys are so great and everything and some states you don’t even need a license for a monkey, and they go out and get these exotic animals and then we realize it’s not all fun and games and it can be a serious situation. Several of the animals we’ve gotten in have attacked their owners. So, yeah, then they’re just done with them. So, things like that and most of them are ex pets.

Brandy Montague 13:33
What would you say that if someone is thinking of getting an exotic animal as a pet, what things should they think through and do you feel like you should give it like at least a three month six month waiting period while you really think through this like would you say

Christin Burford 13:50
absolutely. In fact, fishing game now sends me people that think they want monkeys, and I got one person that thought they wanted a tiger, even though you can’t have Tigers legally in Florida unless you’re a business.

Christin Burford 14:03
The best thing I can say is do a lot of research and work hands on with somebody that has that animal, because you can be the most book smart person in the world. I’ve worked with biologists, that are some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. But put them in a situation with an animal, hands on and it goes south really fast. So, you know if you’re even considering it find somebody that has that animal and work with them, hands on with that animal, if you can, you know, learn the cleaning learn, and you got to consider veterinary to. There are more exotic pets than there used to be, but it is expensive to put it plainly and you have, like, like I’ve got the Tigers you have a sick tiger, you better be able to deal with it and figure out a way to handle it and you know not all of them can go right to the vet and it’s. You’ve got to figure that out before you get the animal, and some exotic animals are just delicate like I had somebody that was convinced they wanted one of those marmosets the really small monkeys and all and I said, Do you realize how delegated that even catches a chill. You might not notice how sick, it is and before you know it it’s dead. So you really have to get to know the species, the personalities and know what you’re getting into the proper food and how often to feed the snakes that came in, they were way underweight two of the three were way underweight and that’s just she had the right size were the right size food for the bigger snake, and yet it was way underweight and I’m like, I’m thinking to myself, how often did she feed this animal, obviously not enough. So there’s a lot of things to consider parasites that the animal could possibly get. The type of enclosure it needs. I was helping somebody move yesterday they have lemurs and a kinkajou, and she has a couple that are just very aggressive animals as pets. She does what I do to taking in pets and I’m going to help her build lockdown areas for them, so she can safely go in and clean or have her volunteers go in and clean and not have to worry about being attacked, but that’s all a part of getting these types of exotic animals is realizing the type environment they need, and safety procedures.

Brandy Montague 16:18
That’s so is that something that someone could learn like volunteering with you how do how do you go about taking in volunteers because I’m sure that I would assume at least you have a process because I would imagine, I don’t know I’m guessing 10% of people who sign up and say I want to volunteer. Yeah, actually end up wanting to stick around and volunteer so how does your process look for like bringing volunteers in if they wanted to learn

Christin Burford 16:44
right, um, honestly. We haven’t had new volunteers in a long time with certain exceptions. Right now, we’ve got such a solid group of senior volunteers that have been with me a long time. I have a dry erase board on the front porch and myself and the assistant director. All we have to do is write down which animals need to be cleaned and what needs to be done. I don’t have to babysit them they know all the procedures and everything they can go, they’ll check it off when they’re done. I don’t have to worry about. So, given the fact that it takes so much because we have, we honestly had deadly animals that can kill somebody. We don’t take very many new volunteers. When we do it’s an orientation process, they have to pay a fee just to be here. They get most of that back if they continue to volunteer, but so often we have people that want to volunteer that think they’re just going to come in and play with exotic animals and stuff like that. And it’s like, no, you’re going to work, and you’re going to be teamed up with senior volunteers and all. So we haven’t done an orientation in a long time just because I’ve got such a solid group now. I don’t want to weigh my, my good volunteers down with having to babysit and and train.

Christin Burford 17:56
The only exceptions we take in right now are either people that fishing game does send us. I’m happy to work one on one with them, and then like vet techs or people go into vet school and all that, because they’re going to need that hands on and I actually have a vet tech that just moved on to the property, and I have another vet tech that volunteers, so they’re very handy um around, and so we’ll go out of our way to accommodate people like that or somebody that’s in the biology field that’s already, you know, trying to do this, but yeah we very rarely take new volunteers because of the type of animals we have, and because we’re so hands on with the exotic animals.

Brandy Montague 18:37
That makes sense. Can you talk about the some of the exotic animals you have, you know, I don’t we haven’t actually mentioned the fact that you know you have tigers on property you have a look alike or on property there’s different Panthers different cats different better monkeys.

Christin Burford 18:54
Yeah.

Brandy Montague 18:55
So maybe you can talk about what what the animals you have on property and why it’s so important to you that safety is like the number one thing

Christin Burford 19:04
Oh yeah, absolutely. Well, just in general, like I said, we’ve got animals that can kill somebody. So, there are safety procedures we follow in all the liker that you mentioned, he’s only just over three years old and over 700 pounds. Biggest baby ever, and several of us go in with most of the volunteers can go in with them because they’ve been around him since he’s been, you know, tiny, I raised him in the house, they all had hands on with helping raise him. So he’s one of the exceptions to the rule and one of our Tigers also. She was raised the same way and so will the volunteers go in with her.

Christin Burford 19:40
The monkeys there, there’s certain, the personalities are all different to, there are certain monkeys like certain birds also that prefer certain people and everything and we always tell the volunteers, don’t, don’t take offense if you know the personalities clash. And you can’t work with that particular animal but there’s several others.

Christin Burford 20:02
But yeah, we’re extremely lucky I always say we don’t discriminate, we take in just about anything. I haven’t counted lately but I think I’ve got like 27 different state license and one federal and fishing game loves us because if there’s a situation that happens. We’re like one stop shopping. They don’t have to take, you know, certain animals to certain facilities over here and then over there. We can almost always accommodate them with whatever they get in that they need help with. So, yeah, a lot of facilities, either just deal with reptiles or just deal with big cats or, you know, they specialize and even with the reptiles it’s kind of funny because you have some places that just deal with venomous some just with non venomous. And here we deal with pretty much almost anything. So, and our volunteers are exceptional they come in wanting to learn, you know all the species. And then if somebody has a particular animal they really liked or they want to learn more about, you know, I’ll work hands on with them on that. So yeah, we’re very open to a lot of varieties.

Christin Burford 21:07
In fact, a place I went yesterday I’ve gotten to be good friends with people at other places. And it’s funny because they have the opposite animals of us. So he came up to volunteer and learn more about the exotic animals we have, the big cats, the monkeys, all of that. And I went down yesterday and they’ve got sloths, they’ve got kangaroos, they’ve got camels. So I was working with him. So we’re sharing information and that’s something that I feel is very important that the sanctuaries help each other out and we, we, you know, we basically share information and you never know what’s going to come in. I’m full up on reptiles and he took the three snakes that came in, but he’s worked with snakes before and he knows you know any questions he can call me. So, yeah, we all try to work together and everything it’s very important,

Brandy Montague 21:56
I think, is there a strong network of the sanctuaries to be able to work together I know someone. Amy Norio she was on may get this right Episode 16 and 17 of the podcast and she runs a wildlife rehab in Kentucky, and she was talking about you know sister sanctuary

Christin Burford 22:15
That’s what I call it, that’s exactly I’ve got my sister sanctuary so that’s what I was doing yesterday is helping one of them relocate. So yeah, it’s kind of funny because when I started, there were no women really doing what I did, working the big cats. The big alligators the venomous stuff. I was like a novelty thing, but it was also very backstabbing back then, like, it was horrible. It was, you know, people would literally undermine other groups and talk bad about them and try to get their exotic animals taken away, it was, it was horrible. And it’s come full circle. Finally, where people are learning, hey we all need to stick together. And unfortunately, what started that movement was because some of the laws the wildlife laws were changing, and the groups realized, hey, we need to stick together or we’re going to lose animals, we’re going to, you know, regulations are going to go against us that shouldn’t be. And there’s one person that does have exotic animals that is responsible for a lot of that, that stuff. And to this day she will backstab other people, and nobody in the industry, you know, I will be totally honest, if she needed help with her animals, she could call me, she falls down and is dying in front of me I’m going to forget to call 911. It’s just, I hate to be mean. And that’s the only person I’d ever say that about, but she is carrying on that story of that old stereotype of, I should be the only one to own this stuff. And it’s horrible and it’s it’s so nice. Now that you know the sanctuary I was helping out yesterday. They came up here they before they became nonprofit, they, they needed help starting that they needed information and I’ve helped. I think three now start their nonprofits and help guide them and yeah and that’s it. That’s how it should be. That’s exactly how it should be. I came up when I came up with all my stuff, I was on my own. Nobody was helping me nobody thought I should be doing this and everything. But yeah, I persevered through it now. You know I feel it’s my duty to help others. So that’s, you know,

Brandy Montague 24:29
That’s amazing and I love the thought of everyone working together and I’m picturing it you know you have all of you who are running sanctuaries and then you have all of us who can support you and you can just feel this kind of like big enclosed circle of people that really come together and work together to help all of the exotic animals, and it’s it’s nice to hear you describe that you feel like it’s it’s moving in that direction, where people are working together to help exotic animals.

Christin Burford 25:00
and that’s how it should be if you if your hearts in the right place. You shouldn’t have a problem, helping somebody else’s doing the same thing. Honestly,

Brandy Montague 25:07
That makes sense. Yeah, that makes sense. How did you tell us a little bit about your story because you know I have wondered is like how, how do you end up there with 200 animals living in this sanctuary?

Christin Burford 25:19
Yeah, it’s kind of funny because I’ve always had weird exotic animals, sometimes that my parents didn’t even know about. And I’ve always worked with several different people learning different exotic animals and all and I can read them really well I don’t have a fear I have a respect but not a fear. So I’ve been able to work with some hard to place exotic animals that weren’t treated well. And when I was working with this big cat trainer he was doing shows he was dragging big cats into schools and all, but nobody was doing the Florida native stuff. And here in Florida, we have such a unique opportunity for all these different animals like in our backyard literally a child can walk out their backyard run into a rattlesnake run into a raccoon an alligator. You know pretty much almost anything, and nobody was doing that education in schools. So that’s what I started what with was just Florida native animals, and teaching safety and what to do you know if you run into them and what makes a good pet what doesn’t, that kind of thing. And, yeah, then people found out about the licensing I hadn’t started dumping x pets. So that’s when I became nonprofit and started doing that, that part of it. And then it just got back and that’s how it just went from there.

Brandy Montague 26:44
Out of control or absolutely perfect?

Christin Burford 26:48
Perfect, but a work in progress, definitely.

Brandy Montague 26:52
There you go.

Brandy Montague 26:53
How has COVID. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year now. Since COVID habits, how has that impacted you have things changed permanently in any way or in just how has it impacted you?

Christin Burford 27:12
As far as, as, permanently. Yeah, and one aspect, It looks like we we used to do a wildlife shows at an airboat place, and a restaurant for people coming off of cruise ships. Obviously there’s gonna be no cruise ships for a long time, and the company that was doing the tours that were bringing the people from the ships to us. They’re no longer around because of COVID. So I don’t know that we’ll ever have that back again. Since this whole thing happened. Initially we lost over 50 jobs. And that’s how we were bringing in money for the animals. In fact, myself and the assistant director, our exotic animals because we have an A & B team we have backups. Also, so the animals were getting changed out but she and I were, we’re literally pardon the expression but busting our butts going out doing extra shows and all, because we’re trying to get money to put aside for the property next door that a friend of mine owns it has a warehouse on it and it has a mobile home on it. It’s good a fridge that we could really use I could turn the warehouse into storage and a full kitchen facility.

Christin Burford 28:27
We had that money put away. And like a week before COVID hit. I was about to go into negotiations to buy the property, and something told me when COVID hit, wait and see how this plays out. And luckily I did because that was our survival money. So, yeah, so that’s that’s gone. I mean the property is still there. But, you know, the possibility and a time of buying that property is totally out. So, and we, you know, every once in a while we’ve got Chimera, our liliger, we’re building him a new place, and like I said he’s over 700 pounds. We’re building him a new area, his new housing lockdown area that project started. I think we, we started that in June and it’s still not done because the money’s just not there, and we’ve been building, little by little, but right now most of the money goes to being put aside for medical or food. So yeah, it’s hit us extremely hard like all the other places too it’s not just ours.

Christin Burford 29:29
So most of the places I know, fortunately have small animals, and they’re surviving on, you know donated produce and stuff we get donated produce to which helps a lot. We also get donated meat now we just hooked up with Second Harvest Food Bank, and they’re helping us out tremendously in that regard. But yeah, we all need money at this point all the sanctuary is not just ours and, yeah, it’s a serious situation so if anybody has a sanctuary near them. Just, you know, it doesn’t have to be much, I have some people that started donating $5 monthly, and that adds up if you have enough people that adds up and that helps pay the electric and whatever food you do have to buy and, yeah, it helps if you know you can donate anything even. We have people occasionally come by and just drop off dog food or cat food or, you know, things like that, blankets and stuff so that all helps as well.

Unknown Speaker 30:29
That’s.

Brandy Montague 30:31
I yeah

Brandy Montague 30:32
So one thing I want to do is get from you just a list of like physical things that would be helpful for people to drop off when they have them, and then for the, for donations and monthly donations, is there a place on your website is it, is it, can you just go to your website and like find donate. You could do this like $5 a month or a couple dollars a month.

Christin Burford 30:53
Yeah, we have a link on the website and then we also have amazon smile and a list of things that we we use all the time. So, dog, cat, dog and cat food and canned fruits and veggies, that stuff we go through a lot of so awesome bleach some you know it’s funny, um, what do you say, oh bleach, we mean materials, paper towels.

Brandy Montague 31:20
Yeah. Gosh, I could see that Yeah, okay. Yeah, I could see that the. This is on kind of a different topic but you and I had talked about wanting to cover this, and I know you get a lot of animals that were pets. And a lot of times we talked about how people you know have to surrender them, you know, whether it be financial or they’re just not able to take care of them. What about when people pass away or die. I would assume that is a situation as well when a lot of animals don’t have a place to go.

Christin Burford 31:58
Right. Yeah, that’s something that you see a lot. Luckily we don’t see a lot of that with the exotics, We see it more with the domestics I’ve had people call and try to place house cats with us, because their family died or whatever. So I don’t see that as much but that is something that really, really needs to be addressed.

Christin Burford 32:20
Our original four monkeys. I had, I claimed I’d never have monkeys, and now I’ve got like seven or eight. But our original four came in from a couple that passed away, and nobody in the family of course was licensed or knew how to handle these exotic animals at all. And so yeah they came to us and we weren’t even supposed to keep them. It was supposed to be a temporary situation. And after what they went through and everything. I’m like, they’re, they’re like foster kids I don’t want them hitting the system and getting divided up because we didn’t know which monkeys got along with which and everything. We also got a bird. a big cockatoo Maggie.

Christin Burford 33:01
Her name was Magnum when she when she came in, but she didn’t seem to like that name and I figure new, new life new met new name, she, her mother died and keeping in mind these birds can live over 100 years, her original mom was an old lady and she passed away, she actually had it in the will to go to the doctor, which was a good thing she made a will. She had it situated I’ve got a will. I’ve got specific people names that can take over everybody in this place.

Christin Burford 33:36
But yeah, the problem was, it was willed to the daughter, who was afraid of the bird. And until the daughter found out about us, Maggie or Magnum was locked in a closet type situation, because the girl was so afraid and lived that way for about a year. And when she first came in she did what I called demon talking. She would mumble and she would talk, but it’s stuff that she heard through the closed door. It was really creepy.

Christin Burford 34:05
But yeah, so this poor bird because you know the woman did the right thing by putting her in will but she willed her to somebody that really couldn’t properly care for it and, and was afraid of it so yeah it’s it’s important to have a will, but have somebody that knows what they’re doing and can deal with the situation properly. So, and we get we get that with snakes and stuff too. Like, that’s a very common thing with snakes, kids get snakes at all. And then they go off to college, and they can’t take the exotic animals, especially the snakes to college and then the mom or whoever is stuck with it and does not want to deal with it so we get we, that’s one of our most common things is, is kids going off to college, and the parents, not knowing what the heck to do with the sample. So, yeah preparations have to be done for situations like that.

Brandy Montague 34:56
That’s really interesting and I feel like we could add it to the stuff we talked about at the beginning, which is when you’re thinking about getting an animal and you know it’s not just an exotic animal right it’s like a dog, a cat anything and they have a heart and should be, where can it go have fun. Yeah, yeah, yeah I really like that.

Brandy Montague 35:17
We’re gonna do a little bonus talk after this where we’re gonna get into some of the exotic animals that will be on a separate episode but before we finished this. I’m wondering if you could share with everybody. One simple idea. So, with for animals for earth we like to put together simple ideas that people could try in their daily lives to make a difference because a lot of this becomes overwhelming quickly when we’re talking about helping animals and hurting the environment, but we like to think that if we’re doing things in our daily lives that can snowball. So I wonder if you can share with us just one simple idea, off the top of your head that people could do to make a difference for animals in the environment.

Christin Burford 35:59
I can think of a few I can share them all in one. One of the things is don’t buy fur. be conscious of that for farms, there’s no need for them to exist and these animals live in horrible conditions.

Christin Burford 36:16
Excuse me.

Christin Burford 36:20
That’s a big thing.

Christin Burford 36:24
Also like makeup and different products, make sure they’re not they’re not using animals, that kind of thing. Like I was, I was surprised a friend of mine was talking about eyelashes metallic eyelashes, like the false eyelashes and all that. A lot of them are mink fur. And that shocked me that I’m like what. And she says, yeah. Didn’t you hear about that I’m like no wait, what are you talking about, yeah they use mink fur from mink farms. So be conscious of the products you use if possible recycling of course is a good thing.

Christin Burford 37:01
And like I said, you know, check out your local sanctuaries and maybe once a month just, you know, give a gift or drop something off to something, you know, if you’ve got a store that does bogos, maybe, you know, pick up an extra thing and donate it something that simple because a lot of stores these days do bogos. And, yeah, just start a little maybe pantry and once a month drop off stuff that you that extra of things like that simple things like that. So that’s such a good idea because I know they are, at least in Central Florida and I don’t know how far Publix spreads but I know what a big thing for Publix is a buy one get one.

Brandy Montague 37:39
Yeah, a great idea to just grab that extra, because I know when I shop. I feel like I don’t need that. Like I’ll just get one because I’m like I don’t want to waste the second one

Christin Burford 37:50
or costcos when you buy bulk and you’ve got so much of it. Yeah, that’s something simple that you can just put aside and drop off. Occasionally, that is a big help to places like mine. So, what a great idea. I love that and on the conscious products front is there

Brandy Montague 38:11
Do you know if there’s, so obviously, fur, don’t buy anything made of fur, that’s obviously fur. Do you know if there’s any way to dig into figuring out if something is made with fur or would you say just just only choose products where you can go and you can read and they’re very clearly on

Christin Burford 38:29
Most products you can just look up, and it’s listed. So, yeah, these days with internet and just Google it and everything most products, yeah it’ll, it’ll list the materials.

Brandy Montague 38:42
So, okay, good. Yeah, and then obviously on the cruelty free front you can get like the cruelty free stamp, stamp isn’t the word I’m looking for verification right on things as well.

Christin Burford 38:53
Exactly. Yeah.

Brandy Montague 38:55
Awesome. Well, thank you so much. We’ve shared so much today and I know that people are going to want to get in touch with you What is the best way for someone to contact you.

Christin Burford 39:06
Um, I recommend calling. That’s the best way. I usually don’t answer the phone because I do have a set message on there that I want people to hear like if somebody has an injured animal I already tell them where to go and take it so I don’t have to call them back about that and all that. So calling is the best way. You can also reach out through text message. I don’t do the email thing because I’ve got so many scamming emails and, yeah, crazy, crazy junk mail stuff so I don’t do that, but yeah text message or calling is. So, and I don’t handle the Facebook page too and the volunteers do sometimes people message through that. But if you want to get ahold of me directly or book a tour, just do the phone call thing for sure.

Brandy Montague 39:54
Perfect. Okay. And if anybody wants to get smiles every day. Go follow Christin on Instagram at care foundation Florida, she posts over the funniest things that are going on there on that property. I love it it makes me laugh every day.

Christin Burford 40:18
Yeah, because I live on property I love doing it because I know the animals personalities and I’m around 24 seven so it’s, you know, not unlikely for me to take a picture of lemurs staring in the bedroom window, or famous amos having a sleep over with another monkey and stuff like that. so yeah it’s kind of funny because I’ve actually had people message me saying they went just to check it out, and then an hour later they’re still going through it.

Christin Burford 40:50
I wasn’t gonna, I’m so Tech Challenged, as you know, but somebody taught me the basics of Instagram and I actually I enjoy it. I’ve got. That’s how I met this sister sanctuaries. That’s how we, they reached me and everything is through Instagram and all that so it’s become quite a helpful tool, even though I hate technology. It’s been fun for me, reaching different people and interacting with different people at other places and see how they’re doing things and all.

Brandy Montague 41:18
So I really love that and I think that anyone listening is going to fall in love with it too so go follow it check it out.

Christin Burford 41:28
It’s not always happy like when the cold weather hits I’m posting thing but most of the time it’s funny and it’s happy and, yeah. So, but you know what it’s, it’s, it’s real. That’s what I like to keep it as real this is, this is what goes on. Stuff happens I mean, yeah, so I try to keep it real and and people that I’ve had several people say yeah I was thinking of starting something like yours, but I see how you know it can get overwhelming how chaotic and yeah maybe I should, you know, think this through. And I always say it’s better instead of starting your own place and having to deal with all the regulations at all. Try to try to hook up with somebody that’s already doing it that might need the help. So, but yeah you can see all the craziness on my, my Instagram, for sure.

Brandy Montague 42:16
And that’s all for today, thank you so much for tuning in and listening and for supporting the show. If you’re up for it ratings and reviews are really helping us right now as a new show, you can do those if you listen on Apple, or on Stitcher. Otherwise, the best thing you can do to help is to tell a friend. I really appreciate your help in helping us grow this community. Remember that you can always join me live for interviews at foranimalsforearth.com/live just check out that link to see when the next one is scheduled. And if you want to get in touch with me personally, I’d love to hear from you. Come say hi, you can DM me on Instagram at for animals for Earth. Okay. Until next time, bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Christin runs CARE Foundation, an exotic animals rescue and wildlife education center just north of Walt Disney World.

About Christin:

Christin has worked with and cared for animals all of her life. She started working with large predators as the personal assistant to a big cat trainer in 1985. She worked hands-on with lions, tigers, pumas, and leopards.  Over the years, she ran various wildlife experiences, and was as a consultant and trainer, with a focus on helping handle animals with special behavioral issues and needs.

She started a wildlife education program nearly 30 years ago to teach children and adults about the value and importance of native Florida wildlife.  And that program is still in operation today.  She now provides a permanent home for non-releasable exotic & wild animals through her nonprofit: The CARE Foundation.

What we learned series:

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The best way to reach Christin is via phone or text at 407.247.8948.

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Christin runs CARE Foundation, an exotic animals rescue and wildlife education center just north of Walt Disney World.
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