Dr. Frank Mendel, a professor at the University at Buffalo, has been conducting research at CARE for close to 10 years.
He sits down with us for a very impromptu interview to tell us a little about the nature of his research and how CARE fits in.
Part of CARE's mission (and name) is research. We have a strong belief in partnering with researchers, scientists, and animal care professionals to help further our knowledge and understanding of the different species in our care. The more we know, the better equipped we are to provide excellent care and even solve illnesses and issues that plague these animals both in captivity and in the wild. All of the research that is performed at CARE is minimally invasive, meaning the animals may be aware that something is going on, but they are never caused prolonged stress, pain, or discomfort.
How CARE feeds - As mentioned in the interview, CARE feeds our big cats in a very special way. Most facilities feed a processed meat product on a daily basis. The product contains all the nutritional elements that the cats need, but we have found that feeding whole animal parts on a fasting schedule (meaning they eat every 2-4 days like they would in the wild) has distinct advantages. The animals that serve as food for our cats are mostly made up of cows and horses. These animals are always either already deceased or are aging, ill, injured, or otherwise need to be humanely put down. These animals are donated to us by ranchers and private owners in the community. We butcher the carcasses on site and feed the cats virtually all of the parts. The cats have to bite through hide, hair, muscle, sinew, and bone. Not only does this help keep their jaws, connective tissue, and other muscle groups strong, it keeps their teeth exceptionally clean and healthy, meaning that the cats usually live longer, healthier lives. We see very little gum disease or build-up on our cats' teeth here.
CARE also saves local ranchers approximately $150,000 per year in livestock disposal fees. In turn, these donations save CARE thousands of dollars a week in food costs for the cats. It is a win-win situation for all involved and a more natural, less wasteful way of feeding the big cats.