In October 2019 the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) announced it would take over the Fiesta Resort in Guam and rebrand it the Crowne Plaza in 2021. IHG has extensive experience in operating hotels that cater to Japanese, Korean and Chinese guests with more than 400 hotels in their home countries. A perfect opportunity for IHG to expand into Guam.
Good news for the hotel, bad news for the big cats. Entertainment at the Fiesta was a night club act with a white lion and two servals. The act could stay but the cats would have to go. The Guam Zoo had no interest so Red Door productions reached out to the USDA and asked for help. The cats were about to become homeless and their future was not bright.
We got the call from the USDA. In 2018, at their request, we had gone to Saipan, a nearby island destroyed by a typhoon and rescued a tiger and a lion starving in a private zoo, and brought them back to a Sanctuary on the mainland. We agreed to help this time as well but it would be a bit more complicated, the hotel was already closed and under renovation and they wanted the cats out. The cats were stored in cages on the roof so we made arrangements to build a temporary holding facility at their vets office and move them. Being on street level we also hired security service to give them 24 hour protection. Transportation for the Saipan rescue was simplified by Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina Charity flying generators and food into Saipan and returning empty. The volunteered their DC 8 and flew us and the cats back to the States at no charge. This time we would have to use a commercial carrier. As time approached to leave Guam the quote given by the freight forwarder to fly in the cats changed from $24,000 to $80,000. Carolyn from USDA contacted United Airlines directly and United agreed to fly them for $12,000. The flight would stop in Honolulu to refuel and then on to Los Angeles. We made arrangements for their vet Dr Pool to make the trip with the cats and Carolyn arranged for Emma a Honolulu zoo vet to meet them at the airport for the layover. Upon arrival in Honolulu, Rio the Lion and the 2 Servals were very happy to see them both and drank two gallons of water.
Rio became a bit vocal when a stray cat wandered onto the plane, but settled when Dr Pool told him it was ok. The layover was 4 ½ hours, and then on to LAX ending their 19 hours of air travel. In Los Angeles the receiving crew provided more water and food and began their 16 hours of land travel arriving in Colorado at sunrise on April 10 to begin their new life. Rio and the Servals (Bravo and Timbo) are 6 years old. They were bought from a Florida breeder as cubs and shipped to Guam to be trained to perform. They now reside in a Sanctuary with a natural habitat and can run for the first time in their lives. Rio was particularly happy to see another lion for the first time in his life.
A happy ending and perfect example of a private public partnership to save these animals. None of this would have been possible without the concern and support of our friends. Thank You.