Hold onto your slippers, Dorothy — there’s a lion, tigers, bears and so much more a Noah’s Ark in Locust Grove, Georgia.
This 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.
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.
It’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.