Tuttle — Bill and Melissa Meadows love the rare and unusual. But theirs is not a love affair with rare gems or hard-to-find antique furniture pieces. They love rare and exotic animals. The owners of Tiger Safari zoological park in Tuttle, the couple have been collecting such animals since their passion began 17 years ago with their first exotic pet: Shirkon, a cougar they still own.
"He was our very first and was going to be our very only," Melissa Meadows said. But that was not to be. Since the couple opened Tiger Safari seven years ago, their collection of exotic animals has grown to include more than 140 animals.
Bill Meadows claims that he and Melissa own one of only about 17 snow white tigers in the world, in addition to one of only about 24 Golden Tabby tigers.
After a trip last week to Myrtle Beach's The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, the Meadows have added one more rare and unusual animal to their collection. Yen, a juvenile black and white ruff lemur made the road trip back to Tuttle with the couple. In addition to Yen, several other new youngsters recently have joined the park's residents: Shikita, a tiger cub; Kenya, an African serval; and Ottie, an otter.
"We have everything from the cute and cuddly to the creepy crawly," Melissa Meadows said.
Tiger Safari is growing by leaps and bounds. Not only have several baby animals been added to the park's family, several new buildings have been added to the park's infrastructure during the past year.
The park now boasts a 2,300 square-foot welcome/convention center and a Jungle Safari treehouse that stands 30 feet tall and overlooks the entire park. A waterfall was built in the center of the park and soon, a Tiger's Den bed-and-breakfast will open in which visitors can stay in the second- and third-floor guestrooms with a gift shop and education center on the first floor.
The new convention center, the park owners said, is perfect for corporate events and weddings.
"You get something that you don't get anywhere else," Bill Meadows said.
In the near future, Bill Meadows said he plans to add to the park Lemur Island and three safari huts on stilts that will overlook Lemur Island, where families can camp.
"I want the public to get a feel like they're in Africa, just being in Tuttle. They're able to sit on the porch at night and just relax, overlooking the lemurs but also hearing the lions roar at night," Bill Meadows said.
The park is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, go to www.tiger