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Donated Christmas trees become toys for lions and tigers

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TWC News: Donated Christmas trees become toys for lions and tigers
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CHARLOTTE -- The new year is here and for many, that means it's time to start taking down Christmas decorations. As you box up the lights and ornaments, one Charlotte-area facility is hoping that instead of throwing your tree to the curb, you'll donate it to tigers.

"You know, it's quite unusual. Most people throw their tree curbside or just take it to the dump, to the landfill,” said Lea Jaunakais, owner of Tiger World in Rockwell.

She says their annual recycling of Christmas trees and giving them to the lions and tigers is her favorite time of year.

"Tear them up, drag them around, they sleep with them, they snuggle, they mark them, they do all kinds of fun things with them,” she said.

It's something so simple, but it provides hours of entertainment and exercise for these animals.

"But it's the smell and the scent and it's something new and different, and it's what we call enrichment for these animals in captivity,” said Jaunakais. “It enriches their life, exercise, they get invigorated."

It's fun for not only the animals, but also for donors and visitors who come to watch.

"We usually bring a group of people out here and watch them give them the trees and go crazy,” said Keith Koldzbaek, who came from Concord.

Koldzbaek dropped off five trees this weekend, that he got from a Christmas tree stand that was closing.

"Everybody likes to watch somebody play, and it's fun to watch the big cats play,” he said.

Donating is easy. All you have to do is bring your tree.

"It's got to be ornament free, it's got to be tinsel free, and it can't have any kind of chemicals or flocking on the tree. So it's got to just be a natural, live tree and removed of all ornamentation,” said Jaunakais.

And to help with the cost of the holidays, for a donated tree, you get one free admission.

"It's great when the community can get involved and help us enrich these animals lives,” she said.

To learn more about donating your Christmas tree to Tiger World, visit their website.

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