Tippi Hedren’s Big Cats
It was 1972 when exotic big cats first captured actress Tippi Hedren’s heart. She rescued some lion cubs after shooting two films in Africa. “I’ve always been an animal lover and Africa was a dream,” says Hedren, 87, who’s best known for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and who published her memoir, Tippi, last year. “But we became very aware of the horrors of big game poaching and sport hunting. Environmentalists were telling us there’d be no wild animals left by 2000 if we didn’t do something right away.”
In 1983 Hedren opened the Shambala Preserve on 40 acres of her property in Acton, Calif., where she still lives, and founded the Roar Foundation to fund it. Shambala provides tours and safaris to educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic cats. When it was founded, anyone could breed, sell and ship exotic cats anywhere in America. “It was a gigantic business.
Billions of dollars,” says Hedren, “on a par with illegal drugs, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” In the 1990s she drafted the Captive Wildlife Safety Act with her congressman, and the bill was finally signed into law in 2003.
Shambala has given sanctuary to more than 235 exotic felines— from lions, tigers, cougars and leopards to lynx, tigon and liger—all confiscated from roadside zoos and private citizens. Hedren has huge respect for anyone taking in animals. “People who rescue animals are basically angels,” she says, “and the animals in return can really save our lives.”