Lea Jaunakais

Lea Jaunakais

Lea Jaunakais calls it Tiger World but it is the old Metrolino Wildlife Park



USDA Warns Tiger World


In 2008 Tiger World sold two white tiger cubs to Springhill Wildlife Park in Calvert, TX who was caught trying to sell the cubs in a WalMart parking lot to a carload of Mexican nationals.


In 2011 the USDA issued Tiger World an Official Warning about their practices at the facility.  At this same time they were bringing in tigers from Joe Schreibvogel’s G W Exotic Animal Park.



The following news story probably had something to do with it.



Leticia Ford and her 7-year-old son, Prince Jr., spent Friday morning at the nonprofit Tiger World reserve in Rockwell for a class field trip.While the rest of the first graders left, Ford said she and one other family stayed around for lunch.Ford said that is when a Tiger World employee offered to let them watch two tigers being loaded into this trailer for a training exercise.VIDEO: Tiger Scared StudentsFord said after the trainers put the tigers in the cage, “One of the tigers charged at the plexiglass and his head busted through, so I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to eat us.’”Ford said she and the other family ran and hid behind a cash register area as the tiger came out of the cage wearing a leash, without a trainer for several moments. But Tiger World owner Lea Jaunakais said that was not the case.She said the tiger cub came out of the cage but was on a leash being controlled by a trainer the entire time. Jaunakais said although the cubs are involved in daily training exercises, that was the first time the two 100-pound cubs had ever been put into the cage and they were a bit skittish.Ford said if that was the case, the trainers should have taken extra safety measures before inviting them to watch.Ford said, “If you don’t have something in place then you need to not take those animals out when others are around.” When asked if they would do anything differently, Jaunakais said, “The next time we do this type of training exercise we’ll ensure there are no visitors in the park.”Tiger World said none of their cats have ever escaped and no one has ever been hurt at the park.http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/tiger-cub-gets-out-of-cage-during-training-exercis/nHQBS/

Parents Release Photo After Tiger Breaks Out of Cage


Upset parents who said a tiger cub broke out of a cage just feet from their children emailed Eyewitness News a picture they say proves it.On Friday, Leticia Ford said she and her 7-year-old son, Prince Jr., were at Tiger World in Rockwell when a tiger broke out of its cage wearing a leash, but without a trainer behind it for several feet.”One of the tigers charged at the plexiglass and his head busted through, so I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to eat us,'” Ford said.Eyewitness News asked Tiger World owner Lea Jaunakais on Friday about Ford’s claim, and she said a tiger cub did not break out of the cage.She said the tiger cub stepped out of a large air vent opening on a mobile cage while being held on a leash by a trainer the entire time. Jaunakais said the tiger never escaped and was under control during the incident.But the parent’s picture showed the same cage with a smaller area of broken Plexiglas. Eyewitness News showed the picture to Tiger World employees and asked for clarification.Jaunakais was away at meetings, so Eyewitness News talked a general manager instead. The manager admitted the tiger broke through the cage and said the cage had been modified before and after the incident.In an e-mail, Jaunakais apologized for any confusion in answering intial questions and also offered an apology to both families.Eyewitness News spoke with Ford Monday, who said the apology is too late. Ford said she and her son are seeking counseling.”I can’t sleep,” she said. “I keep seeing that image over and over, that tiger breaking through that hole. I don’t know what the long -term effects will be for me, so an apology is a little too late. They should have been honest [and] upfront about what happened. They should have offered services to us to make sure we were OK, and they didn’t do that.”Tiger World employees said no other tigers have ever broken out of their cages or escaped.Tiger World is regulated by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Inspection reports revealed the tiger reserve passed an inspection in February. A representative with the USDA-APHIS said by standard procedure when an incident, complaint, or violation is reported, they follow up with an inspection within days.http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/parents-release-photo-after-tiger-breaks-out-of-ca/nHMgp/


USDA Citations


2011 Official Warning (copy coming soon)

2011 Fine for improper handling of tiger

2010 Citation issued to Tiger World

2009 Citation issued to Tiger World

2008 Citation issued to Tiger World

2008 Citation issued to Tiger World, 2nd one in 2008

2007 Citation issued to Tiger World



Lea Jaunakais Received Her “Training” at the

Metrolina Wildlife Park which lost their USDA license


Salisbury Post

ROCKWELL — Lea Jaunakais was crushed last year when the Chester County, S.C., zoning board and county commissioners, reacting to concerns from neighbors, rejected her plans to build a big cat preserve and banned exotic animals.

Now, an enthusiastic Jaunakais is glad she lost that fight and even views it as a sign from above.

“It was, ‘Wait a little longer, Lea,” she said Monday. “It was what I was supposed to do.”

Waiting longer means she will be transforming the sometimes controversial Metrolina Wildlife Park (once known as the Charlotte Metro Zoo) in Rowan County to “Tiger World,” whose focus will be big cats.

Steve Macaluso, owner of Metrolina Wildlife Park, closed his 30-acre zoo Dec. 31 and will officially be out of the business Jan. 31, Jaunakais said.

While she hasn’t bought anything yet, she added, the animals left over from Macaluso’s business become her property Feb. 1.

Jaunakais eventually expects to have up to 30 tigers, 10 lions, two leopards, a jaguar and a lynx. Tiger World also will have some primates and reptiles.

Meanwhile, Macaluso is finding “great homes,” Jaunakais said, for many of his other animals, such as a camel, ostrich, emu, grazing animals, poisonous snakes and more.

Jaunakais said Tiger World will be all about safety and providing protection for animals, visitors, employees and residents nearby.

Some of her big cats — two 400-pound adult tigers named Apollo and Boo, two 9-month-old tiger cubs dubbed Jackson and Riley and a 350-pound lioness called Icis — already are living in newly fortified pens outside the main zoo.

Her chain-link fences surrounding the newest living area for big cats are 14 feet high and sharply angled at the top. Everything is double-fenced and double-doored, meaning not one door would have to be left open by mistake, but two.

Someone will always be living on the site, she said. Surveillance cameras will be installed throughout the exhibits. All tours through Tiger World, which Jaunakais hopes to open in the summer, will be guided.

Each facility for the big cats has a lockdown section with steel doors that are able to withstand hurricane-force winds. The cats go into those sections during inclement or stormy weather so that they would pose no threat if a tree fell onto the fencing, Jaunakais said as an example.

She is also trained and certified in chemical immobilization and feline husbandry, having worked with big cats at zoos and other facilities since 1994. She has been a volunteer at this zoo for about five years and is closely acquainted with the big cats.

Jaunakais said she is exceeding all safety guidelines and has already passed two inspections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture since her own new facilities were licensed last Oct. 10.

Safety at zoos — and with tigers especially — has become a hot issue lately because of a tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo Christmas Day that left one person dead and two injured.

Jaunakais said her facility’s design and the guided tours will provide better safety and deter any visitors from taunting the animals.

“That’s what happened in San Francisco,” she said.

Overall, Tiger World will be dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, education and preservation of exotic animals, according to Jaunakais. She wants to provide the best environment in captivity for the animals and a learning experience through the guided tours for visitors.

Over the months and years to come, she envisions some $1.5 million in renovations and improvements. She may have the resources.

The 31-year-old Jaunakais splits her time each week between the rustic log house on the site and her family’s successful water quality testing business, Industrial Test Systems, in Rock Hill, S.C. She is vice president of the company.

Her father, Ivars, is a strong supporter of his daughter’s dream. He was building a tiger perch in one of the pens Monday.

Adam Horton, who will be the animal care and facility manager, also was on the site.

At first blush, it appears the zoo should be able to continue its operation at the end of Cook Road, off N.C. 152.

In an e-mail Monday to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, Planning Director Ed Muire said, “our initial impression is that this proposal will be allowed to continue operation as a non-conforming use.”

Muire added he will be in further conversations with Jaunakais about the full extent of her plans and determine whether she will need any kind of special-use permit from commissioners.

He added that the operation might also be affected by the county’s exotic animal ordinance, which is enforced through the Health Department.

Since she was 3 and watched a National Geographic television special called “Save the Tigers,” Jaunakais has been enthralled by the animals and has made their protection her life’s ambition.

She wants to establish a non-profit sanctuary. She said she is often asked why she advocates for the protection of tigers in the United States. U.S. businessmen are the No. 1 supporters of illegal trade in tiger claws, teeth and skins and things made from slaughtered tigers, she said.

“It (protection of tigers) starts right here,” she added.

Jaunakais said she studied animal behavior at Arizona State University and has worked or volunteered at zoos or wildlife parks in North Carolina, Florida and Arizona.

Jaunakais acknowledged some of the negative publicity Metrolina Wildlife Park received in the past, but she said Macaluso was about the animals first and always good-intentioned.

Sometimes “he got over his head” with his diversity of animals and also found himself understaffed, she said.

Tiger World will have a different, more educational focus with exciting, great exhibits, Jaunakais said.


What kind of rescue center would send big cats to the Baghdad Zoo?

Born Free rails against Tiger World


More USDA violations from this facility here:



Tiger World’s website blatantly promotes public contact with tiger cubs.  These pay to play schemes are the very reason that there are so many tigers who are unwanted after they have reached 12 weeks of age.  Currently USDA guidelines only allow public contact with cubs between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks so it had inadvertently led to these roadside zoos and back yard breeders pumping out liter after litter after litter, with no thought as to where they will end up.


Lions and tigers: Newborn liger on the prowl at Tiger World


For Information about Ligers and Tigons Please Visit: http://bigcatrescue.org/liger-facts

Friday, September 12, 2008 8:25 AM

By Kathy Chaffin


ROCKWELL — About seven weeks ago — just two weeks before Lily the tiger was scheduled for a tubal ligation — she gave birth to a liger.

That’s right — a half tiger, half lion resulting from Lily’s cohabitation with Fozzy, a male lion.

“We were all surprised,” said Lea Jaunakais, owner of Tiger World. Most tigers don’t give birth until age 4 or 5, she said, and Lily was only 3. Sadly though, Lily rejected her newborn after one day. That’s not uncommon for first-time tiger mothers, Jaunakais said.

But the cub — which the Tiger World staff named Lil’ Wayne — has not suffered for lack of affection. The staff at Tiger World has showered him with love.

Charlotte Cook, the volunteer manager at the nonprofit exotic animal conservation center, is particularly partial to Lil’ Wayne, who likes to follow her around. She brags regularly about how bright he is.

When he’s older and bigger, 16-pound Lil’ Wayne will join Tiger World’s other liger, Radar, in a large enclosure at the entrance to Tiger World. Radar is new to the center, located off N.C. 152, having come from an animal sanctuary in Florida.

Jaunakais was on her way back from picking up Radar from his previous owners when Tiger World staff members asked via cell phone what he looked like. In describing the 4-1/2-month-old cub, Jaunakais told them he had really big ears. “They look like radar antennae,” she said. The name stuck.

The 40-pound cub seems to have adapted well to his new surroundings. “He’s really, really friendly,” she said. “He likes the interaction with the handlers, and we’ve been working and training him to walk on lead.”

Tiger World staff reward Radar with chunks of meat during training and feed him a special milk formula three times a day from a bottle. He finishes off a bottle in just over a minute, and indicates clearly and loudly — in liger sounds — his desire for more.

Jaunakais said ligers make both lion and tiger vocalizations, including the lion’s “Oh-om” moan-like growl and the tiger’s sneeze-like “chuff.” When it comes to water, she said they swim like tigers, while lions avoid the water.

Radar has the ears and nose and dark eyes of a lion. His coat is tawny like a lion’s with diffused tiger-like stripes.

Ligers are the largest and among the most rare of big cats in the world. Some of them are born without the gene limiting growth, Jaunakais said, “and they literally become the size of both their parents combined.”

Lions can weigh up to 500 pounds and tigers can reach 600 pounds. But Jaunakais said ligers can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. The largest liger on record was just under 1,200 pounds.

It’s impossible to tell if Lil’ Wayne and Radar are missing the gene limiting their growth, she said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

All liger males and some liger females are born sterile. Jaunakais said a female will occasionally give birth after mating with a lion or a tiger. Because of their rarity, ligers have been the favorites of kings throughout history.

Radar currently shares an enclosure with a female white Bengal tiger cub named Pandora and a female lion cub named Sarabi, both around 14 weeks old. They will be leaving Tiger World soon for Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, Ariz.

Though they’re favorites of Tiger World visitors, Jaunakais said they have the opportunity to be a part of the Out of Africa Tiger Splash attraction, where they will swim with trainers. The park is spread out over 109 acres, she said, and Pandora and Sarabi will live in a 3-to-5-acre enclosure.

Jaunakais, whose family lives in Arizona, said she plans to visit them as often as she can.

Tiger World, located outside of Rockwell, is open to the public for educational, guided tours that allow visitors to see the animals interact with handlers and run, play, swim and eat.

For information on tours and rates, call 704-279-6363 or log onto www.tigerworld.us.


Financially Failing?

The 990s provided by the IRS show that Tiger World appears to keep going deeper and deeper into the red.


2010 990 IRS Tax Return for Tiger World

2009 990 IRS Tax Return for Tiger World


The very first thing they should do is stop breeding and stop bringing in more cubs from other back yard breeders.