Peter Renzo is the president of the SABRE Foundation, which stands for “Siberians Are Becoming Rapidly Extinct”. His tiger sanctuary in located at Stagecoach, Nevada. All his tigers are human imprinted and he does that so the general public can relate. I was told that this approach is very effective in educating the public about tigers. Visit his website http://www.sabrefoundationinc.org/ to see picture of those beautiful cats feed by hand. Peter is now one of the most experienced tiger behaviorists in the world.
Interview by Stephen Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself?
I grew up in New York and New Jersey on the East coast. While when most children were interested in riding their bikes or playing baseball, I was always interested in animals especially wild animals. As I grew older this strange obsession for dangerous wild animals eventually became my life’s profession.
How and when did you get involved with tigers?
I remember this very special event as if it were yesterday. I had a friend who wanted me to meet his friend who was a big cat doctor. When we met he was in a cage with a big lion. The doctor asked me what my name was, I answered, “Peter”, and he invited me in to pet his lion. Although I wanted to pet the lion, I was apprehensive. I answered him, “I’ve heard that lions sometimes eat their trainers.” He responded with, “Is that what you are afraid of?” I said, “yes”. His reply was, “come in and pet the lion, because if he decides to eat you, you will never feel the bite that kills you.” At the time I didn’t know by the expression on his face whether he was serious or not. In spite of the fact that I thought it was very dangerous, I went in to the cage and pet the lion. Right then and there I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Tell us about Sabre Foundation.
Sabre Foundation stands for SIBERIANS ARE BECOMING RAPIDLY EXTENCT. I had a huge Siberian tiger that was over 1,000 pounds. I decided to call him Sabre after the prehistoric Sabre Tooth tiger. He was very unusual because he was raised with my daughter Nancy. She used to ride him or lead him with a chain with him towering over her. The pictures are on my web site www.sabrefoundation.org In 2000 he got cancer and died. It was at this time I realized that beautiful cats like Sabre don’t just belong to me; they belong to the whole world. And I needed to do something for the big cats to make a difference. Thus the formation of the Sabre Foundation. Before Sabre passed on I bred him to my female Siberian tiger, Sasha. She gave me two huge male tigers Thunder and Thor. They also have gentle personalities like their father. They will be used for breeding to increase the already critically endangered Siberian tigers from becoming extinct.
What is one mistaken perception about the big cats?
One mistaken perception about big cats is that they make good pets. When we train big cats we spend all the time and I mean ALL the time with them. We call this human imprinting. The animal tolerates us and accepts discipline, it can also be very affectionate, much like your common every day housecat. However make no mistake about it with all the imprinting and training the animal is still a tiger and extremely dangerous. The old saying you can take the tiger out of the jungle but you cannot take the jungle out the tiger, IS TRUE.
How do you get funding for your foundation?
Our funding comes from individuals loving big exotic cats. It comes from people that come to visit us at our facility and see our tigers and ourselves. Donations!
Talk to us about Sheba.
Sheba was an African Black Leopard. She was a very special cat. She had an exceptional personality and was very gentle with everyone who came in contact with her. She was the only leopard ever allowed into Wal-Mart Stores for pictures with children. She worked for over 17 years in public flawlessly without incident. Her pictures were taken by people from around the world. She worked all the time to help support her larger brothers and sisters at the compound. Sadly she died last year at the age of 23 in my arms. She was loved by all who knew her.
How many cats do you have, and name them.
We have six tigers, four Siberians and two Bengal whites. Thunder, Thor, Sita, Lita, Snow Man, Ice Lady.
If our readers want to help or sponsor, how can they contact you?
We just moved to a new location. It cost allot to run a facility properly. If people want to help they can send donations to: Sabre Foundation 5205 Boyer Lane, Stagecoach, NV 89429 or call and leave a message 1-775-200-5218.
What are your leisure time activities?
When you are a big cat trainer, there is very little leisure time. Training and caring for big cats is a 24/7 occupation 365 days a year. However when I do get free time I like to work out and keep fit, go out with my friends and enjoy a good meal.
For more details and to support the foundation, visit www.sabrefoundationinc.org