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Global Wildlife Center

West of Folsom, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana (April 2010)

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A Short Video at the Global Wildlife Center

Wildlife Center Location

We're always looking for fun things to do while visiting family in the New Orleans area. They'd been talking about how wonderful the Global Wildlife Center was, and how much fun the kids had on their visits there. We hadn't visited it before so we stuffed a couple of cars with all the elementary-aged cousins and took a drive over to the Northshore.

Animal Train

Riding Through the Center

It's an interesting premise and it's apparent the moment you enter the property. The driveway goes straight through the preserve as it windes over to the parking lot, with cars moving very slowly because herds of animals walk wherever they want. Animals own these spaces, not automobiles. Camel crossing, anyone?

A tractor pull strings of wagons through the preserve like a safari train. Animals roam freely and unfettered. They don't have to walk up to the wagons unless they want to, but they have a powerful incentive to do so: people on the wagons are loaded down with buckets full of food. What a great entrepreneurial idea. Visitors get a closeup view of the exotic wildlife eating from their fingertips, animals get abundant nutritious food, and the caretakers have a way to get the visitors to pay for something that would ordinarily be a cost of doing business. Everyone wins!

Giraffe at the Zoo

Feeding the Animals

The tractor-train moves through the preserve almost like it's a Mardi Gras float, with people throwing handfuls of kibble over the sides instead of beads. The animals jockey for these treats about as aggressively as you'd expect at a Mardi Gras parade too. The giraffes are certainly a highlight here. They can reach right into the wagons with their long necks. Expect them to stick a face right into the wagons scrounging for feed, and provide plenty of opportunities for a few pets from delighted children.

Hundreds of animals live on the 900 acre site. Look in one direction and it reminds you of the Serengeti, over there the steppes of Mongolia, and the other way the Great Plains of the United States in the Nineteenth Century. All of these experiences can be enjoyed within a few miles of Lake Pontchartrain and without ever leaving Louisiana.

Dromedary Camel

Seeing the Camels Up Close

The Center has an interesting background although not much of it seems to be publicly available. Apparently this started out as as the landowner's private collection of exotic animals that grew and expanded until he was convinced to open a center accessible to the public. Today it has transformed into a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to preserving rare species and to educating people about them and the need for conservation. Many of their efforts focus on school groups, and we noticed several busloads of them during our visit. Nonetheless, the center knows how to handle crowds, keep the trains moving, and make the kids happy. We never felt constricted even though it was a pretty busy day.

American Bison

The Great Plains... in Louisiana?

One thing you will not notice at the Global Wildlife Center are any predator animals. There are none here. Imagine the mischief a pride of lions might cause, for example, with so many small antelopes and gazelles running about freely. The lack of predators does comes in handy when times get tough. The guide on the train told a story about the animals during Hurricane Katrina. The way it was told, all the animals gathered together during that terrible storm, with the large ones forming a perimeter to protect the smaller ones inside. That probably wouldn't have worked so well if some of the animals wanted to eat the others.