LOCUST GROVE, Ga. - A famous fictional character once exclaimed, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" And while she wasn’t following a yellow brick road down to Locust Grove, the Georgia town does feature those three animals among more than a thousand others.
Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary is a nonprofit animal sanctuary located just off of Interstate 75, about 40 minutes south of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. And that’s a fitting landmark, considering the animals inside the sanctuary are truly an international bunch, ranging from lemurs of Madagascar and Japanese macaques to the prairie dogs and porcupines of North America. Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary was created in the 1970s by Jama Hedgecoth, During a visit by Good Day Atlanta in 2019, her daughter-in-law Allison explained the mission of the sanctuary.
"We want to provide a forever home to animals that need it," she says. "Whether it’s a goat, a bear, a primate, a dog or a cat, it doesn’t matter what kind of species. We’re here for them."
All of the animals taken in by the sanctuary are unable to be released into the wild; many are brought to Noah’s Ark by the Department of Natural Resources, zoos and educational institutions, and from the general public. Doc, for example, is a 500-pound Bengal tiger mix that came from a small roadside zoo.
"It was actually a miracle that they gave him to us, because he was still a cub when they had him," says Hedgecoth. "So, they still could have made money charging people to take their picture with him."
Self-guided tours of Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary are available on Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.; they are free of charge (donations encouraged) and cover about a mile throughout the habitat. Walk on the Wild Side — or WOW — tours are available for $75 for a behind-the-scenes experience. You can learn more information on tours is available by clicking here.
We spent the morning exploring Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary with Miss Magnolia Sarah Stallings, who will compete for the title of Miss Georgia this summer; Stallings has been working to bring awareness and raise money for the sanctuary. Click the video player to check out our visit!
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