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Scouts help thirsty animals
Chestatee Wildlife Preserve still may transfer some critters
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The owner of a wild animal park near Dahlonega says he’s grateful to everyone who came to his aid after the park ran out of water last week.

"People are still bringing us gallons of purified water for our birds and primates," said C.W. Wathen, who manages the 20-acre Chestatee Wildlife Preserve. "We’re thankful that so many have stepped up to help."

The growing list of donors now includes Cub Scout Pack 49 from Gainesville, which collected bottled water and loaded it up for delivery Tuesday.

The preserve is home to more than 250 animals, most of them exotic or endangered species such as lions, bears, antelope, bison, chimpanzees, tropical birds and rare white Siberian tigers.

Just providing them with enough water to drink takes 2,500 to 3,000 gallons per day, and more is needed for keeping the animals and their enclosures clean.

The park’s two shallow, bored wells have run dry. There’s a drilled well on the property that hasn’t been used because it only yields about three gallons per minute. But Wathen said now he’s working on getting that well back in service.

"We’ll put a big tank down there and pump at night to store the water (for use during the day)," he said. "It’s not enough to meet all our needs, but it will help."

In the meantime, the park is getting about 4,000 gallons a day by hauling water in tanks from a nearby rock quarry and from a neighboring horse farm, which is letting Wathen pump water at night when the farm isn’t using its well.

"It’s labor-intensive and inconvenient, especially since our staff is all volunteers," Wathen said. "But it has to be done."

Even when he gets his own well on line, Wathen doesn’t think he’ll have enough water to supply all of his animals, particularly the cattle and other hoofed species that consume large amounts of water.

"I still will probably have to move some livestock out of here (temporarily relocating to other wildlife facilities) until the drought situation resolves," he said.

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