If you visit a sanctuary, don’t expect to see all of the animals. This is Max at the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa watching intensely from the long grass. He was rescued from a circus in Guatemala where he was in a bare cage and was torn from his mother while still suckling and handed around for photographs. Now that Max has space and freedom, he can be wary about approaching people, but that simply makes it extra special when he comes up to chuff and greet you. Animals in captivity need to be able to make the choice of when they want to be seen or not. For many species, being stared at by people can be a torture.
Animals in sanctuaries have often endured horrific experiences with people. Many animals are also naturally reclusive. True sanctuaries provide habitats that mean animals can disappear into the undergrowth, secluded areas or dens. No one wants to be on display all of the time. We might be proud of our homes but we wouldn’t want strangers coming to the window and looking in whenever they felt like it. It is important for the welfare of most species that the animals can avoid prying eyes if they want, and, likewise if they are inquisitive and intrigued they may come over to check you out. Just like watching animals in the wild, it should be a treat to see an animal even if fleeting.
So, if you visit a sanctuary on an open day or for an escorted tour, be patient, and remember in sanctuaries it is what the animals want that comes first.