Before Joe "Tiger King" Exotic, Tippi Hedren was the tiger queen who set the stage for how exotic animals should be treated and loved. In the late ‘60s, a film brought her to Africa where her heart was struck with admiration for big cats and grieved at the same time for their exploitation. That’s when she decided to take a stand and aid these helpless creatures. During the ‘70s, Hedren bought a large plot of open land in north Los Angeles and created the wildlife sanctuary Shambala Preserve that would be the home to rescued animals that needed care and attention. She went on to establish The Roar Foundation in the 1980s to futher her conservation efforts. In 1981, her then-husband Marshall even directed the wildlife film Roar that starred Hedren along with her big cats. One of these lions named Cherries got a little too playful on set and wrapped his jaw around her head, but Hedren was not at all traumatized and continued her work. In fact, the film was famously dangerous, with two potentially fatal incidents and another five attacks. It was also a box-office failure.
Today, she lives on a house built on the Shambala Preserve surrounded by all of her beloved lions -- but times have changed. Hedren and her family were well known for having lions and tigers in their house; one particular lion named named Neil was known for sleeping in young Melanie's bed with her. In 2014, Hedren addressed some famous Life magazine photos documenting their lion-and-tiger lifestyle. "I cringe when I see those pictures now," she told the Daily Mail. "I have to tell you we were stupid beyond belief. We should never have taken those risks. These animals are so fast, and if they decide to go after you, nothing but a bullet to the brain will stop them."
Hedren has downsized her cat collection at Shambala, which in 1980 was said to consist of 71 lions, 20 tigers, 10 cougars, nine black panthers, four leopards, two jaguars and one tigon (a lion-tiger cross-breed). She still loves the relative handful of cats she keeps, but loves them from a distance. She has received many awards for her work from organizations such as ASCPA and Wildhaven, and has fully dedicated her life to now serving rescued animals.