Lions Tigers & Bears (LTB) was founded in 2002, by Bobbi Brink. When asked why she started Lions Tigers & Bears, she often replies, “After witnessing the heart-breaking phenomenon known as the “exotic animal trade” and seeing the victims of this business, I was compelled to do what I could to help these animals. I have spent many sleepless nights picturing the tortured lives these cats end up living. The places where these marvelous animals are kept are truly disgusting – sometimes in places you would least expect, such as in miserable holding cells with no sunlight or windows, living in cages so small they barely have room to stand up or turn around. Many live in basements, never seeing the outdoors or smelling fresh air. I have seen 10 or more cats crowded together in a small enclosure, where they restlessly pace in filth and fight each other for scraps of food. Some starve to death.”
LTB is located just outside of Alpine, California on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest in beautiful San Diego County. Located at an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet, we are situated in an idyllic area that provides peace and tranquility for our rescued animal residents to live out the rest of their lives with dignity in a safe and caring environment.
The total sanctuary property is 93 acres in size. Twenty acres are currently developed with species-specific habitats for our big cats and bears. We have plenty of room to grow and provide more lifetime homes to abused and abandoned exotic animals in need of a better tomorrow.
LTB is home to a variety of rescued animals. These animals include lions, tigers, black bears, bobcats, a mountain lion, leopard, Himalayan black bears, grizzly bears, llamas, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, a miniature horse, miniature donkey, peacocks, and a macaw!
Our sanctuary has administrative offices, a volunteer office, feed room, barn, a pasture and an on-site medical facility.
Occasionally history is viewed from the present working back in time. Often we start at the beginning and end at the present. But the best way to understand the history of the LTB ranch is to start somewhere in the middle. Starting with undoubtedly one of the most famous owners of this property, Elihu Granville Martin, most frequently know as Granny.
Granny Martin was first and foremost a Vaquero of grand style (Vaquero is Spanish for cowboy), who lived through the last era of self-sufficiency and knew that most of those who lived in the back country had to make for themselves what they needed for life. In this part of the state he was known as the last of the Vaqueros. He was especially celebrated on a statewide level as a fine reata maker, bit and spur maker, blacksmith, silversmith, horse trainer, and much more. He often referred to himself as a “jack of all trades and master of none”. The legacy of Granny continues to live on locally, as the annual Descanso Vaquero days are dedicated to his honor. You may wonder why start with Granny? It is through his recollections and writing that we have a better understanding of the history of the ranch.
There is an old adobe structure on the ranch. Part of the inside is what currently houses our feed room and volunteer office. Not too long ago, an old bottle was found in the wall of the adobe. In the bottle were some documents, one which included a handwritten history of the ranch as recalled by Granny. What a wonderful discovery! Living in the “information age” of computers, it is easy to forget that not too long ago, history was truly passed down from generation to generation, and documentation was written (by hand) to record it as well. What follows is the early history of the ranch, from Granny’s own written words.
Ranch History – The Early Years
As written on September 25th 1971, when Granny was 75 ½ years old. “I Granville Martin bought this ranch in 1948. It was about to wash away as the roof was all but gone so I have put a new south wall on the kitchen and re-roofed the whole house. This is the last of the early adobes built around Descanso.”
But who owned the ranch prior to Granny?
“Monroe Johnson told me the main part of this house was built after the close of the C.W. (Civil War) possibly 1866 by Silvines Gillette.”
“When Silvines died in 1876, John Combs moved in”
The grave of Silvines Gillette is still located just a few steps from the old adobe and the site of our current office. Mr. Gillette had several children, one who was name Lula.
“Chas. Griffin married Lula and when the place was almost lost for taxes Chas. Moved in in 1910”
It was in 1948 that Granny acquired the ranch.
Ranch History – The Present
The ranch remained in the Martin family until 2003. It was then that Bobbi, with the invaluable help of her husband Mark, purchased the ranch which they have made their home as well as the animals’ lifetime home. Ironically, Mark who was born and raised in San Diego, CA never owned an animal before Bobbi moved back from Texas.
All that changed after Bobbi filled their home with animals and was still flying back and forth to Texas to help other big cats. While in the process of getting all the necessary permits and paperwork together to start LTB, Bobbi & Mark spent many weekends walking different properties, but never seemed to find quite the perfect piece of land.
There were so many challenges, although looking back, it seems as though life opened a new door with each special cry for help. When Bobbi brought LTB’s first tigers from Texas: Raja & Natasha, Bobbi & Mark had property in escrow, but could not build anything there at that point in time. Bobbi had a friend who knew a woman, Elizabeth Nunnery, also know as Cis, with an incredible piece of property. Bobbi approached her about housing Natasha and Raja there temporarily. It turned out Cis is the granddaughter of Granny Martin. She agreed and they began constructing a temporary habitat, getting all the permits and arranging travel for the cats. It started with a modest 24’ x 24’ habitat — and a hose. Bobbi would bring meat up daily in a cooler for them. Bobbi thought it was possible Natasha could be pregnant and sure enough, she was.
After watching Bobbi’s dedication to the animals, Cis decided to sell the perfect piece of property to Bobbi & Mark. The ranch that LTB now calls home!
Of course there is no way of knowing what Granny Martin would think of actual lions, tigers and bears living on the property. But one thing is certain and that is that the spirit of Granny lives on.
Bobbi, Mark, and all the volunteers of Lions Tigers & Bears share the same passion, commitment, and devotion to doing what is right and helping a cause just as Granny did.
Thank you Granny for leaving us the bottle, the history, and your legend. Thank you Cis – for without you LTB would not exist where it does today.
When a cat weighs 500 pounds, it’s usually easier to bring the doctor to the cat than the other way around. That is why Lions Tigers & Bears, has established an on-site, state of the art medical care facility.
By keeping the animals on the ranch and not having to transport them off site for medical care, we are able to maintain control over the setting, creating a safer environment for the animals, and eliminating much of the stress these animals experience as a result of the medical procedures.
Our vets are able to do procedures here on the ranch and in addition, we are able to offer interns and veterinary students an opportunity to assist the veterinarians, possibly performing their first blood draw, teeth cleaning, or microchipping. It’s our way of making sure these animals and others who come after them have access to expert medical care.
What does it mean to be Accredited?
Lions Tigers & Bears is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and the American Sanctuary Association (ASA). These organization set exceptionally high standards of care for sanctuaries across the country and throughout the world, to ensure that the physiological and psychological needs of rescued animals are met.
We are often asked the question “What does being accredited mean?”
Being accredited means we, as a sanctuary, abide by the stringent standards of care set forth by these accrediting bodies to ensure the animals in our charge receive the most comprehensive care possible. True accredited sanctuaries will never buy, sell, breed, or trade any of the animals in their care.
- True accredited sanctuaries do not breed.
- Do not allow contact with their animals, including photo opportunities with young cubs.
- Do not sell or trade animals.
- Ensure each animal receives species-specific specialized care, including a nutritious diet, routine medical examinations and preventative veterinary care.
- Recognize that the needs of the animals come first and foremost.
Before making a contribution to any charity, please make sure they are accredited – then you can rest assured that YOU are part of the solution – making a real difference.