Big-game hunters gearing up for a safari will likely be disappointed to learn that while there are indeed four Bengal tigers living in the Pinelands, they’re residents of Popcorn Park, a sanctuary for animals facing desperate circumstances and/or death. The Forked River refuge started small, in 1977, when it rescued and treated a raccoon caught in a leg-hold trap, giving him a home for life since he could never be released and survive.
The park’s ranks have swelled over the years. It’s now home to exotics, generally considered not native to this country, a crocodile, a West African patas monkey, three baboons (Gandalf, Aragorn and Frodo), among others. American wildlife includes bears, foxes, cougars and bobcats. Horses, pigs, goats, sheep and a llama have also found safe haven, as have peacocks, macaws and a red-tailed hawk.
For those wondering how those Bengal tigers got to the Garden State: All three came from Texas. Two were bought for a canned hunt. The other two were neglected and starved in sanctuaries that didn’t have the funds to care for them.
Popcorn Park is not currently accepting group visits. Masks must be worn and social-distancing protocols are in effect.
Big-game hunters still intent on a safari in the Pinelands would do well to beat the bushes for the Jersey Devil. The last sighting was in 2015 near Egg Harbor. Or maybe not.