Ever heard of caracals? Binturongs? They are among the 20-plus species of exotic animals at the Conservators Center in Mebane, North Carolina, along with jungle cats, lynxes, lions, and tigers. The Center celebrates them this month at its annual Lions, Tigers, and Beer fundraiser May 4: six local chefs and six local brewers are paired with six animal regions for creative food and drink, all set up just steps away from the furry creatures. “You’re 50 feet from the leopards, cooking really good food,” says Kathy Patterson, a volunteer with the Conservators Center.
The event is intimate and its 80 tickets sell out quickly; luckily, the celebration serves as icing on the cake to spread awareness about the center, Patterson says. “Lions, Tigers, and Beers is a really good incentive for people to come see us, but usually once you learn about us you want to visit anyway.”
If you miss the chance to sample a bite from Kimbap in Raleigh and a sip from Sanctuary Brewing Company in Hendersonville inspired by Eurasian lynxes – at least this year – you can visit for a tour or a “treat safari” most any weekend. As daylight stretches on longer and longer, Patterson especially recommends twilight tours: “The animals become really talkative at dusk. There are so many sounds in the park.” Sights and sounds aplenty. –Jessie Ammons Rumbley
To learn more: conservatorscenter.org