North Georgia wildlife preserve rescues exotic animals - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

North Georgia wildlife preserve rescues exotic animals

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ATLANTA -

The Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and Zoo is the only exotic animal rescue and wildlife preserve in north Georgia, and keeping it all together takes plenty of help.

C. W. Wathen has been the curator of the exotic animal preserve for decades, and he says his fascination with animals started in his native Kentucky. He used to collect animals on his family's farm.

"Then I moved to Georgia 30 years ago and I saw there was a big need for rescue, people having animals that didn't have homes for them or shouldn't. So, I got into rescue and when I done that, it became more than a hobby," said Wathen.

He says he and his family put in over 12 hours a day, seven days a week to care for the animals. His wife helps him, and even their 4-year-old daughter Bella helps out.

"Every afternoon until it's time to go to bed, she's out here feeding and helping care for the animals. And she knows almost every diet that every animal eats," said Wathen.

There are currently more than 200 animals on the preserve, and it's expensive to care for them.

One meat locker has about $30,000 worth of food in it. Wathen says he's grateful to donors but has to make up the difference with his construction business. He says he honestly doesn't have a favorite, not even the new tiger cubs.

"Even though it's a snake to a grizzly bear, they've all got their different personalities," said Wathen.

There are plenty of long days, no vacations, and often animals are simply dropped off at their gates. Wathen says giving all god's creatures a chance at a happy life makes it all worth it.

Want a chance at naming the white tiger cubs? You can vote on these five names: wild women, Twilight stars, Hunger Game stars, royal women and Shakespeare. Click here to vote, and you'll be entered in a drawing to receive four tickets to the wildlife preserve and a private encounter with the tigers.  
         
The winner must visit the preserve by Sunday, November 4.

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