Jessica Harper and Gunnar Heuberger

At one time or another, we’ve all wanted to walk on the wild side of life. Let the animal out, so to speak.
About 125 local residents were recently given that opportunity at a safari-themed cocktail party hosted by Broadmoor Resort resident Gayle Beshears as a benefit for Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, the only zoological licensed big cat facility in Colorado.
The evening, complete with valet service by Heuberger Motors, paired an extensive wine tasting, courtesy of Erin Collins, owner of Vintage’s Wine & Spirits, with a sumptuous buffet provided by Michelle Talarico and Kathy Dreiling of Cravings — all self-proclaimed animal lovers.
Keeping with the overall theme, guests in animal prints and safari gear nibbled on tropical fruits and indulged in almond stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, tender curried vegetables, beef and lemongrass skewers, as well as poached pears stuffed with gorgonzola and walnuts drizzled with port.
The largest draws of the evening, however, were Pandora and Tutt, two 500-pound Bengal tigers, and 5-month-old baby caracals Zuri and Kitwana, who appeared with their handlers to help educate guests on the plight of big cats throughout the world and the immediate needs of the local facility.
Featured guests included King Sooper’s Regional Manager Kevin Olson, together with managers Ken Nutt, Joe Yanez, Charlie Ames, Karen Ledbetter and District Executive Assistant Tess Bustamento, who recently initiated a program to provide the 120 feline residents with 40,000-pounds of meat each month, saving the facility more than $180,000 annually.
To date, all 10 Colorado Springs, Monument and Castle Rock stores have joined in the effort to feed the cats.
So what is the 17-acre wildlife center going to do with the money it saves?
Refurbish existing habitats, said Executive Director Nick Sculac, which was the goal of the Walk on the Wild Side event. By night’s end, 42 of the needed 58 cinder block dens were underwritten, with completion scheduled prior to year’s end.
Stepping up to help with the refurbishing project were Andi Chernushin, Kristin Freeland, Susan Conde, Jon David and Elizabeth Epstein, Gaylord and Vickie Smith, and Carolyn Kruse.
Angela Kruse adopted one of the cats, and Allen and Holly Oliphant provided further sponsorship of the enrichment area.
For more information about the center, its tours and educational programs, visit or call 761-1120.