Saved by the Ranch

Zebras, llamas and more find sanctuary on the Big Island.

Ann Goody, animal rescuer.

Photo: Kirk Aeder, Courtesy of Three Ring Ranch

Every morning after feeding time, Tia, an African Grey parrot, dips a toilet paper roll in her water bowl, creates a spit wad, and then whistles for Kela the rottweiler to come near her cage. She whacks him, and he falls for it each time.

No, Tia isn’t a member of a circus; she’s a resident of Three Ring Ranch near Kailua-Kona. The exotic animal sanctuary is home to roughly 125 creatures who were either seized by the state Department of Agriculture, brought there by the Hawaiian Humane Society, or were voluntarily turned in by their owners—who, in return, are spared a hefty fine.

Zoe is the only known blonde zebra in the world.

Photo: Kirk Aeder, Courtesy of Three Ring Ranch

Tia’s counterparts include nearly 30 species of birds, two llamas, a Nigerian dwarf goat, and Sampson, an 80-pound African tortoise.

How Three Ring came to be involves an unfavorable chance encounter from the heavens. In June 1997, Ann Goody, the sanctuary’s curator, was standing in her driveway when she was struck in the face by lightning. “I got picked up and tossed,” says Goody. She lost a large section of her brain and faced a long, difficult recovery.

At the time, she had been working on her dissertation to receive a doctorate in health care administration. Her husband Norm asked what she needed to stay motivated. “I don’t know why but I said, ‘a zebra,’” recalls Ann. “It was a joke because I didn’t think he could find one.”

Well, he did. The Molokai Ranch Wildlife Park was closing, so Ann, who had worked extensively with animals on a volunteer basis in Big Bear, Calif., went through a rigorous process and received the licenses and permits necessary to open the only accredited sanctuary in Hawaii. To date, it’s also only one of a handful of dually accredited sanctuaries in the nation.

The couple’s 5-acre lot became the sanctuary’s grounds, and today, aviaries, wetlands, four ponds, a rehabilitation area, and an animal hospital surround the Goody’s large one-story home.

Exotic animals that pose a threat to Hawaii’s ecology only remain at the sanctuary for a short while before they get shipped elsewhere. Native animals are brought in for rehabilitation and released. Those that can’t return to the wild—like Birdie, a ne-ne- who suffered multiple skull factures after she was hit by a golf ball—stay as educational animals.

More than 6,400 children have come to the sanctuary for private tours.  “It means a great deal for a boy or girl to learn how to pick up an animal because their lives are now changed,” says Goody.

To arrange a tour of the ranch, visit or call (808) 331-8778.