Persistence and an inability to take no for an answer on the part of Shazir “Shizzy” Haque, developer of By By Allen Turner, The News Reporter
Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue, resulted in a television and movie star being on hand in Fair Bluff Saturday to help about 60 other volunteers with development of the first of 11 planned habitats on the former Fair Bluff Motors property.
Canadian-born actress Jessica Parker Kennedy played in the CW’s “Secret Circle” and “The Flash” series, and in the Starz original “Black Sails.” She’s also appeared in the “Supergirl” TV series and the 2018 movies “Cam” and “Deep Murder.” But Saturday she was in Fair Bluff lending elbow grease to the wild cat sanctuary project.
Kennedy said she has always been a lover of animals and, because of that, Haque contacted her on Instagram to ask whether she would take his telephone call. “He was extremely persuasive,” she said. “He doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.” While she and Haque share a major love of animals, Kennedy said, “He’s the brains behind figuring out how to do something like this.”
Saturday was only the most recent of several days in which volunteers converged on the sanctuary site, and Kennedy flew into North Carolina from Los Angeles to take part. Other volunteer workdays are planned.
This weekend, volunteers concentrated on finishing an enclosed animal habitat, the first of 11 planned for the facility, and constructing platforms for the animals that will be included as part of the habitat. Kennedy wielded a power hammer to help drive nails into the platforms.
Haque, who is based in Greensboro but who plans to live in Fair Bluff full time when the sanctuary opens around August of 2020, says the project is on schedule. Clearing and de-stumping of one large lot that was previously forested has been completed and de-stumping efforts are continuing on an adjoining lot, in large measure due to financial assistance the non-profit venture is receiving from the Columbus Jobs Foundation.
Haque expects P&W Fencing Company to install the first 20 feet of a perimeter fence that will surround the entire property in about three weeks, after which inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be called in. If those inspectors like the construction of the first 20 feet of fencing and the first animal habitat, construction of the rest of the fence and other animal habitats will be completed.
The property has already cleared environmental hurdles imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as receiving zoning approvals from the Town of Fair Bluff. The USDA inspection process is the next step in the process.
The sanctuary will be located on about 50 acres donated by Capital Investments of Fair Bluff on the former Fair Bluff Motors property that was decimated in Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.
It already has four full-time employees funded through the N.C. Works program at Southeastern Community College and when it opens next year Shizzy’s intends to hire 10-20 full time employees and 30-50 unpaid volunteers.
The facility will be devoted primarily to big cats such as tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards, as well as black bears and wolves. While his group works primarily with a good mix of both predatory and prey animals, Haque says they don’t turn any animals away. “For example,” Haque says, “we recently got a call to rescue a cow.” The group has even been involved in the rescue of 86 dogs and cats from all over the United States.
There will be 16-foot fences around the animal enclosures – more than the required 12-foot fences – and additional eight-foot fence around the perimeter of the entire property, so Haque said that safety concerns and any potential fears about animals escaping are unfounded. He envisions his sanctuary as becoming a major tourist attraction which will help Fair Bluff recover after being devastated from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.