Bud DeYoung has been featured on Nat Geo Wild’s My Life Is a Zoo, and he actually does run a zoo on his own property in the harsh climate of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Along with fiancée “Big Cat” Carrie, Bud educates the public about animal conservation. Every single day of the year, he provides love and shelter to over 400 hundred animals in his care through wildlife and domestic rescue, including; Bengal tigers, arctic wolves, canines, and a very hungry hippo named Wallace.
Along with best-selling coauthor Cindy Martinusen Coloma, Bud documented his lifelong journey in It’s a Wild Life: How My Life Became a Zoo.
He shared his story with Animal Fair Media about his menagerie on a mission and rescue efforts, including the adoption of an orphaned chimp named Louie, which inspired his plans for a primate rescue facility!
AF: How did your life become a zoo and when first did you get involved in animal rescue?
BD: The zoo grew rapidly as Carrie and I worked together. In the process, we encountered more needs among the animals in our area. We soon began helping these critters through wildlife and domestic rescue.
AF: How have your rescue efforts evolved?
BD: In the past few years, Carrie launched her no-kill Piper’s Rescue Ranch. The rescue grew out of the zoo, from people bringing pets they didn’t want or couldn’t care for any longer. We’ve taken in chickens, turtles, iguanas . . . You name it—we’ve probably had it.
AF: What inspired your idea to build a primate rescue facility?
BD: It began when Carrie and I were having a rare night of watching television. The program was about a chimp rescue in Florida that saved the primates from medical research labs, abusive environments, and other unhealthy situations. While this rescue was doing great work, the program said that this and other facilities were completely full. During the commercial, Carrie and I looked at each other, and without discussion we both knew that somehow this would become our future.
AF: When you started researching primate facilities, what advice did you find?
BD: We were encouraged to familiarize ourselves with chimpanzees by adopting a baby chimp first. This would give us real knowledge of the primates in a healthy environment before we took on chimps that had been in bad situations. Rescued chimps often have a lot of emotional, physical, and mental issues.
AF: What were your considerations before adopting a baby chimp?
BD: Carrie and I weighed this decision long and hard. We knew it would not only be expensive but a lifelong commitment since chimps live to be around seventy-eight. During the chimpanzee’s first four to five years, our lives would completely revolve around one animal, though we had several hundred others to care for as well. Then, after these formative years, the chimpanzee would need to be with other chimps.
AF: How did Louie the chimp get so lucky to be saved?
BD: While we progressed down this path, we decided on one major condition. We didn’t want to obtain just any chimp. We wanted an orphaned chimp, one that needed us. It took six years for Louie to come into our lives. He’d been abandoned by his mother, and we knew this was our chimp.
AF: Has adopting Louie made you more determined to rescue other primates?
BD: The bond that Carrie and I have forged with Louie has only enhanced our desire to create a primate rescue facility. Around the country there are chimpanzees that need homes. Other chimps are acquired as babies, but then their owners discover they can’t be controlled and seek out new homes for them. The public perception that chimps are dangerous frustrates us to no end, because chimps are not meant to live like humans. Then there are chimps used for medical research and euthanized. All of this remains with us and drives us toward providing a haven for chimps in need.
Let’s support Bud DeYoung, his rescue zoo, and monkey business!
Click here to read three amazing chapters from It’s a Wild Life: How My Life Became a Zoo.
Click here to find out how you can visit and learn more about the DeYoung Family Zoo!