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The national ad campaign “Be Together, Not the Same” has gone viral for its humorous and touching video clips showing animals of different species playing and cuddling together. Four of the featured performers hail from right here on the Grand Strand at the T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station and Myrtle Beach Safari.
If you haven’t seen the commercial, which was unveiled during the Super Bowl, it’s worth Googling. The 18-second mark shows Suryia the orangutan playfully chasing Roscoe the blue-tick hound, followed by Bella the black lab diving into the Intracoastal Waterway from the back of Bubbles the elephant. The ad closes with Roscoe standing beside Suryia, who performs a flawless Nestea plunge onto the lawn at T.I.G.E.R.S, which stands for "The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species."
You can see this kind of inter-species behavior and more at T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station and Wild Encounters Preserve. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway in the Socastee section of Myrtle Beach, this 50-acre property looks like a scene out of the African wilderness. The swampy Lowcountry terrain is home to a wide variety of wild animals, including apes, leopards, wolves and, of course, the namesake tigers.
Many of the animals are members of endangered species, rescued and sent to the preserve to help keep the bloodlines alive. T.I.G.E.R.S. Preserve is one of the few certified animal breeding facilities in the United States so there is a good chance your tour will include an up close and personal encounter with a tiger cub or an infant orangutan. Handlers and audience members hand-feed the cuddly creatures with super-sized baby bottles of milk. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to connect with another species in such an intimate way and setting.
Some of the animals have appeared in movies and TV shows, such as the "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective", “Dr. Doolittle”, “Jungle Book” and “Mighty Joe Young”, as well as many stops of the national talk-show circuit. The animals put their performance skills to work to delight the crowds who come to see them in action. Trained by experienced handlers, the animals perform stunts on stage, in this case a grassy lawn, to show off their natural abilities and learned behaviors.
Volunteers are often chosen from the crowd to pet, feed or interact with the animals, and photographers and videographers are there to preserve the memories. Photos and DVDs of the shows are sold for an additional charge, but where else can you get a picture taken standing next to an elephant or smiling cheek to cheek with a chimpanzee?
The star of the T.I.G.E.R.S. show is Hercules, a rare liger (half lion, half tiger), which is a crowd favorite for its imposing size. Standing more than 10 feet tall on his hind legs and tipped the scales at more than 900 pounds, this hybrid beast is a gentle giant with his handlers. Guests gasp in amazement as Hercules leaps high into the sky to grab a piece of meat dangling from a wire, and sprints at speeds of more than 30 mph to chase down dessert.
T.I.G.E.R.S. has two locations on the Grand Strand – a small, free exhibit at Barefoot Landing to give prospective guests a small taste of what they can expect at the preserve as well as the main location. Both facilities offer educational programs about the various endangered species, and a portion of the proceeds go to charities dedicated to the preservation of the species, such as the Smithsonian Institution, International Elephant Foundation, Endangered Wildlife Trust, National Humane Society and other worthy organizations.
T.I.G.E.R.S. offers tours on Tuesdays and Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. For more information or to book your safari, call 843-361-4552 or visit the website at www.myrtlebeachsafari.com.
(Photo Courtesy: T.I.G.E.R.S. Preserve)