SAN DIEGO — Bobbi Brink knows all the quirks of the exotic animals she cares for.
“They don’t like to walk on the rocks,” she said with a chuckle as two tigers jumped over a path of gravel in their enclosure.
Brink founded Lions, Tigers & Bears after witnessing the exotic animal trade firsthand; now her sanctuary is San Diego County’s only accredited big cat and bear rescue.
Brink herself has spent the last 20 years personally rescuing black bears, bobcats, servals, leopards and other animals. The rescue provides veterinary care, fresh food, enrichment and a lifetime shelter for animals abused, neglected or thrown away.
Nola the white tiger was found malnourished in Louisiana. Her roommate Moka, a Bengal-tiger hybrid, was discovered in the floorboard of a vehicle attempting to smuggle the cub across the Tijuana/San Diego border.
Teddy the Himalayan black bear was rescued from a roadside zoo in North Carolina. One of his favorite snacks is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Conga the leopard was a captive-bred pet who was abandoned by her previous owner at the age of five weeks. She loves playing with her ball and climbing on large rocks and logs.
“It never ceases to amaze me some of the places we find these animals," Brink said. "Basements, kitchens, dining rooms and bedrooms made into cages.”
Brink recently worked with several other accredited sanctuaries and the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out a large-scale rescue of endangered big cats at Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma. In total, 69 big cats – lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids and one jaguar – were removed from Jeff and Lauren Lowe’s facility due to “ongoing Endangered Species Act violations.”
“These characters in the 'Tiger King,' they deserve what they’re getting," Brink said. "And there’s a few more of them that need to go to jail, and everything is at the expense of the animals.”
Brink wasn't able to talk about any details of the rescue since it is a federal case and is not allowed to comment at this time.
She hasn't watched season two of "Tiger King" but hopes it isn't just entertainment but education on the dark side of the exotic animal trade.
“I know how much we all want to hug on a baby animal, but a lot of these animals disappear," Brink said. "We don’t know where they go. A lot of them are put down or sold into the exotic animal trade so don’t support that because they only do it for money."
Lions, Tigers & Bears is a no-contact, no-kill, no-breed and no-sell facility. She believes sanctuaries like hers are the ones that will keep cleaning up the mess long after the "Tiger King" popularity fades.
“Look behind the scenes at the animals and what the animals are actually going through so all of these people can have their drama,” Brink said. “It’s disgusting, and it needs to stop.”