Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine HO15

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 139 of 211

E veryone knows that a dog is a man's best friend, but Charlie Sammut of Salinas stood that notion on its ear. For many years, his best friend was a lion. Yes, a lion. As in "King of the Jungle." His name was Josef. Sammut has always loved exotic pets. The son of hard-working Maltese immi- grants who built and operated the Laurel Inn on North Main Street, he's maintained a menagerie of uncommon creatures since boyhood. Boas, pythons, sharks, parrots, alligators and rats, in addition to more mainstream pets such as cats and horses, tried his par- ents' patience. In fact, caring for animals was his first vocation choice: he studied Animal Health Technology at Hartnell College while working at a veterinary clinic. However, his career path took a different arc. He adopted his first big cat while employed as an officer with the Seaside Police Department. "Sam was an older cougar," Sammut recalls. "His owners didn't want him and he was living in a garage. I made arrange- ments to adopt him." That was the begin- ning of what would for Sammut become yet another career change. Soon after Sam came along, Sammut adopted a lion cub, the one named Josef. "Josef was a very special cat," he says, "very safe to be around. My kids could—and did—ride him." The collec- tion of animals grew, and Wild Things animal sanctuary was created as a way to educate the public about these precious creatures. One day, a friend who was an animal trainer for film and TV asked if Sammut and Josef would like to appear in a television commercial to be filmed in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. "I was getting paid to play with my best friend in a warm sunny place," Sammut says. He launched a new career as an animal wrangler for film and 138 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • H O L I D A Y 2 0 1 5 In addition to the popular lions and tigers at the Zoo, there are at least four African elephants, who belong to the nonprofit Elephants of Africa Rescue Society (EARS). The elephants are retired entertainers who now mingle with zebras and camels. Zoo owner Charlie Sammut snuggles with Josef the lion, inspiration for Wild Things sanctuary. Photo: Barry Bland Photo: Courtesy of Monterey Zoo

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Carmel Magazine - Carmel Magazine HO15