SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. – More than a decade ago, a Sumter County woman began her lifelong mission to protect and give neglected and abused animals a caring home.
At Chase Animal Rescue Sanctuary in Webster dozens of different exotic animals including a pair of possums, some pigs, tortoises, a 3 legged deer, two antelopes and about four kinds of lemurs and a few cockatoos live together.
“I’ve always rescued animals and then we bought this piece of property about 14 years ago, (it) took us a couple of years to get it fenced in and up and running,” Nina Plail, founder of the sanctuary, said.
Nina brought the first lemur-- a one-eyed female named Tracie-- to the rescue 7 years ago from another sanctuary that had to close.
“People would come and see ‘Oh, you have a lemur’ word would kind of get around, other people who had lemurs and didn’t want them would call,” Plail said.
Eventually, more lemurs came to live at the sanctuary and have also had their own families here, something Plail hopes will continue.
"These animals have a terrible plight right now. They are pretty much becoming extinct. A lot of studies have shown that there's nothing that can be done at this point to stop that. So a lot of the lemurs you met today will have only have places like this to exist," she said.
On the property, the barn house was turned into a lemur play center. About 4 acres of the sanctuary is an open habitat area that allows the lemurs to be in a natural habitat.
“Each family of lemurs gets 1 day a week where they get to come out here and be themselves and go way up in the trees and jump around,” said Plail’s son, Jason Chase.
Chase has also become part of the team that helps keep the sanctuary running.
“Our mission is about the individual animal. So anyone animal that has had a poor fate due to abuse, neglect, having their baby stolen and sold, what we try to do is get that individual animal and give it back a life,” Plail said.
Plail shares that mission with Jason and 45 volunteers.
Chase Animal Rescue Sanctuary has about 100 animals, among them several Marmoset monkeys, considered to be the smallest in the world.
For Plail, the Sanctuary is a place she felt she was destined to create.
“This is my purpose. Sometimes I think it’s a gift, sometimes I think it’s a curse, but either way, it’s my purpose, it’s what I have to do while I’m on this Earth," Plail said.
Plail said she hopes her son will eventually take over the sanctuary.