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A Home To Big Cats And Raccoons Recovers After Hurricane Irma

Volunteer Michelle Augustyn greets one of a twin white tigers during Kowiachobee Animal Preserve, that is located in a residential area of Golden Gate Estates in Naples, Fla.

Cassi Alexandra for NPR


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Volunteer Michelle Augustyn greets one of a twin white tigers during Kowiachobee Animal Preserve, that is located in a residential area of Golden Gate Estates in Naples, Fla.

Cassi Alexandra for NPR

John and Grace Slaby met 19 years ago on an animal safety most like a one they possess and work now. The 5-acre Kowiachobee Animal Preserve in Naples, Fla., binds some-more than 100 animals — from a 6-year-old African lion named Shaumbay to a raccoon named Dexter.

Last month, Kowiachobee was strike by a eye of Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm. After an already soppy season, a whirly combined some-more flooding on a property. Grace and John, along with many volunteers, are now repair cages shop-worn by a storm.

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“We had anywhere from a feet to a foot-and-half of H2O opposite a whole property,” says 50-year-old John.

Irma’s trail was indeterminate before it done landfall. Forecasters creatively approaching Florida’s Atlantic seashore to take a brunt of a storm, though Naples, on a Gulf Coast, was strike directly as a whirly changed north from a Florida Keys.

Zahara a zebra takes a mangle break, and a baby alligator and associate Kowiachobee proprietor lays out in a sun. John Slaby prepares food for a large cats. He says a safety is still operative toward operative to get behind to normal.

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“My mother is traumatized,” John says. “The whirly was still distracted and Grace was already observant she didn’t wish to go by something like it again.”

“She [said], ‘Let’s sell a place and leave,’ ” he continues. “Definitely a misfortune charge we’ve been by and we’ve been by a lot of them.”

Grace, 63, worked for 9 years during another trickery in Naples before assembly John in 1998. In 2000, they started building their possess preserve, that non-stop a year later. Grace and John live in a home during a preserve, and their days revolve around a animals.

A wall in John and Grace Slaby’s home reflects their passion. “If you’re going to do this kind of thing … you’re not going to have a life outward of it,” John says.

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“If you’re going to do this kind of thing … you’re not going to have a life outward of it,” John says. “It unequivocally consumes all we do.”

They have no paid employees, though about a dozen unchanging volunteers assistance them with bland operations from animal caring to bureau operations. Another 20 to 30 volunteers assistance with disaster recovery, off-site visits and other village events.

Kowiachobee was built to learn elementary-school-age children in their community, and while it does rescue and rehabilitate animals, a goal is to yield recognition on issues associated to animal caring and charge of outlandish breeds.

“There’s a lot [of] opposite things that we teach,” John says. “But with a elementary-age kids, we concentration on perplexing to assistance a kids know animals in ubiquitous and a changes that start in animals due to a evolutionary process, like we know medium and meridian and food source.”

Co-directors Grace and John Slaby live in a home on a Kowiachobee Animal Preserve in Naples, Fla.

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They mostly concentration on genetics, and John uses livestock, privately horses, to illustrate this concept.

“I learn kids about a story of a equine and a changes that a horses have left by over thousands of years due to manipulative tact and formulating a opposite breeds of horses,” he explains.

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Now, he is operative to re-create a protected space for those animals. The volume of assistance indispensable to make it by a charge grows quickly, John says. “We can get by with dual or 3 people a day during a week [but] we literally need a tiny army to purify adult a disaster that’s out there right now.”

Dexter a raccoon peers out of his cage. Benny and Joon, common marmosets, eat a snack. Volunteer Tim Greiser plays with Sabeena during a break.

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In a week following a storm, a safety had no electricity, singular phone use and a abating supply of gasoline. They used generators to run refrigerators that stored a animals’ food and purify H2O given a floods brought in infested water. Kowiachobee has used a amicable media accounts to call for volunteers and donations as it tries to get behind to normal.

“You have a tough time bouncing back,” John says. “It pushes to a verge where you’re only like, ‘I give up.’ You don’t wish to give up. You unequivocally have to puncture down low and say, ‘You know what, I’m not gonna let this kick me. We’re gonna come back, and we’re gonna come behind stronger.’ “

Cassi Alexandra is an eccentric photographer who splits her time between Orlando, Fla., and Brooklyn, N.Y.