17 April, 2019
Imagine a world with no more wild animals: no elephants, no giraffes or lions.
To some people, that thought is too terrible for words. So, they are doing something about it.
Being surrounded by wild animals -- feeding them and caring for them -- is all Tiffany Soechting has wanted to do with her life.
And that is exactly what she does!
Soechting is the human "mother" to the 500 animals that live on her family's wildlife farm in San Antonio, Texas.
At the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, she cares for creatures from around the world. They come from every continent except Antarctica. Soechting says she loves them all. However, the giraffes occupy a special place in her heart. Buddy the giraffe and his twin brother Wasswa live at the wildlife ranch.
Buddy and Wasswa are one of just nine sets of twin giraffes born at zoos around the world. After getting some media attention, Soechting launched the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help protect giraffes living in the wild.
Buddy and Wasswa belong to a sub-group of giraffes known as reticulated giraffes. The animals are native to East Africa. Tiffany Soechting says wildlife experts are concerned about their shrinking numbers.
"And reticulated giraffes ... their population in the last 15 years has declined by 80 percent. I was very blessed that I made connections with five of those researchers that took the giraffes up to a level that they are classified as vulnerable."
Here, Soechting is talking about organizations that follow the condition of animal populations and rate their standing in the wild. On this rating scale, "vulnerable" is worse than "near threatened" but better than "endangered."
One such organization is the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which publishes a Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN claims that currently 26,500 animal species are at risk of disappearing forever. So, it is good news when an animal is removed from the endangered list. That is what happened with reticulated giraffes.
At her Texas wild ranch, Tiffany Soechting wears many hats, meaning she does many different jobs. In addition to her business and animal care duties, she also holds monthly classes, where she teaches school children about the animals.
The ranch is also open to the public. Over 500 animals -- including some endangered species -- live there.
Visitors not only learn about all the creatures, they also get a chance to interact with them. And the animals are not against that. For them, people and special vehicles used on the ranch are part of their natural environment.
Soechting explains that most of the animals were born and raised on the ranch.
"For the most part, the majority of them are born and raised here. And even if we bring them in, like if we bring a new male in, the whole rest of the herd is comfortable with what's going on."
The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is part conservatory, part educational center and part animal park. But for her, the ranch is just home. And it has been for many generations.
"My husband is the fifth generation. We raised both of our boys on the ranch. Now my oldest son had a son just last night. So, now the seventh generation lives on the Wildlife Ranch as well."
As the animals walk peacefully around the grounds, it is easy to forget that San Antonio, a busy city, is just a few minutes away. Tiffany Soechting and the 500 animals do not seem to give it a second thought.
I'm Anna Matteo.
Anush Avetisyan reported this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow edited it.
Words in This Story
ranch – n. a large farm especially in the U.S. where animals (such as cattle, horses, and sheep) are raised
twin – n. either one of two babies that are born at the same time to the same mother
zoo – n. a place where many kinds of animals are kept so that people can see them
decline – v. to become lower in amount or less in number
blessed – adj. bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune
vulnerable – adj. open to attack, harm, or damage
conservation – n. a careful preservation and protection of something
comfortable – adj. not having any physically unpleasant feelings : experiencing physical comfort : allowing you to be relaxed : causing no worries, difficulty, or uncertainty