LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — There are goats, miniature horses, pot-bellied pigs, emus and an ostrich. Desert tortoises, burros, koi fish, turkeys, and you might even spot a llama on the pen out back. But mostly, there are parrots.
A walk through Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary will put a smile on your face.
Manager Jennifer Langford volunteered for 15 months before taking over operations three months ago. She wants more people to know about the place, located in the northwest valley at 8103 Racel St., just east of Durango Road.
“I just feel like this is a very serene place. You don’t feel like you’re in Vegas when you’re here. I would say 90% of Vegas doesn’t even know that we’re here,” she said.
She said cockatoos are the most common animal at the sanctuary — a “forever home” for abused, neglected or abandoned animals of all sorts.
“Cockatoos are like having a 2- to 3-year-old for 80 years. They’re very loud, they’re destructive, and there’s a lot that goes into their care that people really don’t do the research before they get one,” Langford said. She introduced Ray-Ray, the sanctuary’s “ambassador bird” that gets out for visits and events.
“She’s just super sweet. One of our super sweet babies who loves snuggles and loves,” Langford said.
Polly Pocket, a 5-year-old Nigerian dwarf goat, also gets a lot of love from visitors. About a dozen fun-loving goats romp around a pen in the center of the sanctuary.
But there’s plenty of work to go with the play. Langford is preparing for a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., welcoming visitors for half price ($5) to help get the word out about this special place. Kids under 3 years will be admitted free. Trick-or-treating, animal encounters, games and snacks are planned. Kids are encouraged to wear costumes.
Proceeds from the event will raise funds to build a new enclosure for some of the animals — and possibly lead to a steady flow of visitors as people discover everything the sanctuary has to offer.
The sanctuary offers special rates for school field trips. Part of the message the sanctuary delivers is responsible pet ownership.
On a recent visit, two visitors said the ostrich and the emus were their favorites. Anna and Cameron marveled at the animals’ feet and noted the similarities to long-extinct dinosaurs.
“We were just looking it up and they’re like — not sure if it’s correct — but they’re like very close to velociraptors,” Anna said. “They look like dinosaurs. It was really cool to see them that close.”
Another visitor, Marianne, had been to Gilcrease before and was back to see the goats. She got an up-close introduction as Langford showed her how they like to be petted.
Langford is always looking for partners, whether it’s for building supplies or resources to help feed the animals.
“I just want people to be able to come, spend the day with the animals, bring your lunch. We have picnic tables, we have interactions with the animals. We just want Vegas to know that there are opportunities here to be a part of our program,” Langford said.
Gilcrease Nature Sanctuary is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The sanctuary normally charges $10 admission, with individual and family memberships available.