A wooden post displays several other wooden signs in the shape of arrows pointing in different directions. Words are carved into the arrows, reading “Main Entrance,” “Vultures,” “Mountain Lion,” “Panther,” “Cougar,” and “Puma” in different fonts.
The Creature Conservancy houses many species of animals in order to provide education on exotic animals to better understand our environment. Bela Fischer/Daily. Buy this photo.

There might not be a zoo in Ann Arbor, but the Creature Conservancy, a non-profit zoological organization, houses a variety of rescue animals from across the country. For many University of Michigan students and community members, the conservancy is one of Ann Arbor’s hidden gems. Located on Saline Rd., the Conservancy was founded in 2005 and has since provided a safe space for visitors to see all kinds of abandoned exotic creatures — from snakes and sloths to leopards and lizards.

The mission behind the organization is simple: “conservation through education.” The Creature Conservancy currently houses more than 300 animals from across 70 different species. These animals are either taken from nearby zoos, given to the organization by prior caretakers or are invasive species. 

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Jorja Feldman, a board member and office manager for the Creature Conservancy, said the organization is small, unlike a zoo, allowing guests to forge connections with the animals by allowing the animals to interact with guests in closer proximity than most zoos and sanctuaries. The conservancy regularly hosts events that allow visitors to learn about one of the animals in a volunteer-led session in an intimate setting.

“You go to a regular zoo and you see an animal that’s in an enclosure but is about an acre out there,” Feldman said. “Our guys are up close and we try to make a special environment for each of those animals. We want to make a connection between the humans and the animals that we have there and hope for a lasting impression.”

The Creature Conservancy serves as a permanent rehabilitation center for a variety of reptiles and mammals. While the conservancy cares for many rescued animals, it does not market itself as a place to surrender injured and orphaned animals — instead, encouraging people to bring found or lost animals to nearby humane societies or rehabilitation centers

The conservancy hosts educational programs for children, students and adults in hopes to promote the care and love for animals that it’s staff shares. Interested parties can receive an hour-long presentation on animals of their choosing along guided by a wilderness educator. 

Several U-M students also help out at the conservancy, which is just a 10-minute drive away from Central Campus. In an interview with The Daily, LSA junior Karrigan Nelson, Creature Conservancy volunteer, said she is always adapting to learn how to care for the animals.

“Animal diets change depending on the season or they’re having a health problem or if they’re just … gaining a little bit too much weight or not enough weight,” Nelson said. “(I’m) a volunteer, so there’s always things to learn and always things changing.”

LSA sophomore Anna Richards, another student volunteer at Creature Conservancy, said the space has offered her a place to connect with people who really care about the animals.

“It’s definitely a great place to get to know the natural world, to see animals and have a space to be curious and to care about the wildlife,” Richards said. 

Richards said visiting the conservancy allows her to take a break from the stress of school and spend time with a variety of furry friends.

“I really look forward to just getting off campus … and honestly just being around the animals is really therapeutic,” Richards said.

Daily News Contributor India Kohn can be reached at ikohn@umich.edu