Nestled in Noble County, near the small town of Albion, you’ll find the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary. It’s a place where exotic animals once abused have a safe place to live the rest of their lives.
“We are a true sanctuary. We do not buy, sell or trade our animals. We provide refuge to captive-raised exotic animals. A little different than a zoo,” Kimberly Roos, one of four lead keepers at Black Pine, said.
There are more than 90 animals, representing 60 different species that prowl, crawl, fly and slither.
“I like how they rescue animals and give them a better home and how it gives them a much better life,” Bella King, a ten-year-old visiting the sanctuary for the second time, said.
The animals at Black Pine end up there in many different ways and many have a past full of cruelty and abuse.
“Some were previous pets [or in] bad facilities. We have a lot of elderly animals. They have a bad past. They’ve been mistreated. I kind of say it’s like a retirement community for our animals. Our motto is we keep them for the rest of their lives,” Roos said.
On a tour of the sanctuary, guests not only get to see the animals, but hear their backstories.
“Education is such a huge part of our job. The reason all these animals are here is because people weren’t educated on how these animals are. None of these animals should be pets,” Roos said. “Over 20 million households in the U.S. own exotic pets. Exotic pet laws vary state-by-state and Indiana is one of the most lenient.”
One of the bears was used as a bait bear, which is illegal. Two of the monkeys, that were someone’s pet, had all their teeth pulled out because their former owner feared being bitten. The lioness, Africa, was part of a cub petting program. She was living in a tiny concrete cage and was malnourished when she was brought to Black Pine.
“You could see every vertebrae on her back and she could barely walk. The cage she was kept in for three years was the size of a dog kennel and she could only turn around in it,” Roos said. “We want to educate people on cub petting. You don’t realize what the animals go through to provide that entertainment for you. They keep them out 12 hours a day with no food or water. And they can only keep them in that program for a few weeks before they start biting and using their claws and they’re a liability. So after that, they are either kept for breeding, sold to the highest bidder, which could be a roadside zoo or even your neighbor, or used for trophy hunting. They’re put in a cage and you can trophy hunt it.”
As an accredited sanctuary, petting the animals at Black Pine is NOT allowed.
“I promise this is as close as you need to be to these animals to appreciate their beauty and if you want to use them for education as opposed to entertainment, that’s what you need to enjoy them,” Roos said.
Black Pine is a non-profit and relies on private donations and tour admissions to keep running.
Because of the pandemic, guests are required to wear a mask while on property to keep not only the humans safe, but the animals too.