Norman's Little River Zoo gives last animals to California sanctuary

The last two animals at the now defunct Little River Zoo in Norman have found homes near San Diego, Calif.
BY BRANDON GOODWIN bgoodwin@opubco.com Published: August 5, 2011
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Blossom and Delilah are heading to California.

The two black bears are the last two animals to stay at the now closed Little River Zoo in Norman. Their departure marks the end of the sanctuary's 14-year presence in the community.

The bears are being taken by Bobbi Brink, the founder and director of Lions, Tigers and Bears Big Cat and Exotic Animal Rescue. Her lifetime animal sanctuary is located 45 minutes east of San Diego, in Alpine, Calif.

Brink flew in a few weeks ago to assess the bears' condition.

The bears were overweight and being fed doughnuts and candy instead of proper bear foods, said Brink. They were also overheated and not getting exercise, but otherwise were in fair condition.

Brink has been in Oklahoma since Sunday, spending the week rounding up the bears into special traps.

26-hour trip

The bears will make a 26-hour trek to San Diego in a modified horse trailer Brink had made especially for the bears' transport.

Lions, Tigers and Bears is a lifetime home for rescued exotic animals. The group is currently expanding its bear exhibit to make room for Blossom and Delilah.

Brink said they have one other bear, Liberty, currently in their care.

She said transports like this one are not uncommon.

“Right now I'm looking for homes for 28 tigers,” Brink said.

Little River closed in late January as a zoo due to financial troubles but hoped to stay open as an animal sanctuary.

The nonprofit closed its doors for good in March, with 240 animals still on the property.

The phone line to Little River was disconnected, and the owner, Janet Schmid, could not be reached.



AT A GLANCE

Little River Zoo once was popular attraction

The zoo opened its doors in 1996, becoming home to 375 animals and attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year. In 2002, more than 50,000 visitors toured the grounds.

Some of the better-known animals at the zoo included Gomez, a colobus monkey who recovered from paralysis in the sanctuary in 2003, and Merlin the boa constrictor, who escaped twice in two weeks in 2008.

Bobbi Brink, the founder and director of Lions, Tigers and Bears Big Cat and Exotic Animal Rescue in Alpine, Calif., said her sanctuary is asking for donations to help fund their bear exhibit expansion, which is estimated at more than $38,000 to complete.

For more information on how to donate, visit www.lionstigersandbears.org, or (619) 659-8078.

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