Deep Dive with @SafariSammie

For this week’s Deep Dive Series, we’re interviewing animal caretaker and content creator, @SafariSammie.

@SafariSammie with one of the cats she takes care of.

@SafariSammie (or Sammie!) is an animal caretaker at Single Vision, a wildlife education facility.  She amassed a huge following on multiple platforms by sharing content of the animals she works with.  Namely (as the picture on the left suggests) big cats.  Most of her content is showing off these elegant animals and reminding us that all cats – even the big ones – are pretty similar.  The office cat ladies interviewed @SafariSammie about how she started working with big cats, what inspired her to start creating content, her advice for content creators, and more!

Keep reading this Deep Dive to follow this creator’s inspiring story. Make sure to tune in every Thursday at 5pm CT on our @ClapperCreator account to listen to the bonus questions that will only be available on our live radio show: Clapper Talks.

Tell us a little more about yourself! What does a day in your life look like?

I just graduated from UF, so that was a really big thing for me and my experience as an animal caretaker.  I’ve always loved animals, since I was a little kid.  I never thought working with big cats was possible, until I was 16 years old and started volunteering at a facility and working around big cats.  Since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else except work with big cats.  And although I do work with a bunch of other exotic animals, those guys are obviously my passion. I couldn’t be more thrilled with where I’m at now. 

A little bit about the day in my life, though: at Single Vision we have a lot of tasks to do. My day pretty much consists of what I showed you guys on the Instagram takeover the other day. We do a lot of cleaning, we do a lot of feeding, running around making sure the animals are okay, that they’ve got fresh water, fresh food, clean enclosures. Then at the end of the day I get to spend some time with the animals, as you guys get to see. That’s pretty much it!

How did you get involved with working with big cats and exotic animals? It’s not a traditional career path!

I didn’t go into it thinking “I’m going to work with big cats every day.”  My whole life I was set on being a veterinarian.  A little bit later into my high school career I found you could be an exotic veterinarian, previously I didn’t know that was an option.  You need over 3,000 hours of volunteer experience before applying to vet school after getting your degree.  I knew I needed to start early, and I ended up volunteer for a place not far from my high school.  All I’d ever seen growing up was at the zoo, where they’re no contact or protected contact and you see them through fence.  I had no idea full contact, what I do now, was even possible.  I saw my first boss hugging big cats, and I was pretty much set on that was what I wanted to do.   

What are some of the dangers that come with working with big cats?  What are some of the highlights?

They are still wild animals. They’re not pets and are not meant to be pets. They still have all of their instincts and there’s a lot that goes into bonding with them. It’s very different for a caretaker they see everyday: they are by no means domesticated or friendly towards strangers. Having a relationship is important but so is being able to read and understand their behavior. Because at the end of the day, they are wild animals. Every day I go into the enclosure with them, there is always a risk. Even though they love me and might not mean to hurt me, it is still possible they could. And people may call me crazy, but I feel like everything is going to be a risk whether you do it or not. I am a professional, I do have a license to work with the animals the way I do, everyone I work with is licensed. So that kind of mitigates the risk in some way.

Tell us a little more about these animals. Where are they before they come to the educational facility?  Are they always as sweet as they seem in your videos?

As an educational facility, we have different kinds of ways of getting the animals.  We do rehomes, we do rescues, and we also work with educational facilities like ours.  With having as many animals as we do, they all have their own stories.  For example, Timba and Vanti, the big white lions I always post, they came to us from a facility down in Miami who rescued their parents from a hunting preserve.  Now, instead of being hunted for educational purposes, we have a little pride of lions! 

Once these guys go extinct in the wild, if there is not a stable population of them in captivity then they’re just not going to be on earth anymore.  Poaching is still an issue, as well as habitat loss.  As an educational facility, we take in these animals to help educate the public.  We do tours and 100% of the profit from the tours goes right back into the animals.  But if people don’t come out and see these animals or see videos of them, how can they care about them?  So that’s another huge thing and another huge reason why I post the things that I do.  It’s important to educate the public and to have people care about them.  So we can do something about it.

So, when did you join Clapper? How did your journey as a creator begin?

So I joined Clapper a few months ago. I’m actually relatively new to the app. And as for a content creator, I’m also sort of new to that as well.  First and foremost, I’m an animal caretaker before I’m a content creator.  I just started posting videos and one of them went viral a year and a half, maybe two years ago now.  Even though I’m a professional animal caretaker, I’ve been so successful on social media that I’m completely a volunteer for the animals.  So I don’t get any money from that facility, they don’t pay me.  Social media has allowed me to share the animals, be a huge advocate, and help people care more.

I had no intention of being an influencer, I don’t consider myself famous – the animals are famous, I’m not!

What first inspired you to start filming the animals you work with?

Essentially I was taking pictures just for me to keep and maybe my grandkids later down the line to look at because it is a really unique thing to do.  Not many people get to hug a jaguar!  Eventually, I was like, “these guys do pretty cute things, let me start filming them.”  One day I logged back onto TikTok and a video had 2 million views.  It just kind of evolved from there.  As for taking videos of them…I just film what they do.  A lot of people who don’t get this experience don’t really know what they’re like or what their personality is like.  People don’t realize they have the ability to care for their human caretakers or that they do cute things like making biscuits. No one’s probably heard a jaguar roar or a leopard roar. So a lot of the things I’m able to catch on video, I like to share with people who may not get the chance to see it. I’m really grateful for everything.  We’re in Melrose, FL, and social media helped us grow to the point where we’re getting a good amount of people out to visit us.

What’s your process for creating your content? You can’t exactly cue them!

It’s basically out of pure chance. After I’m done working for the day – after we’re doing cleaning and feeding and any general tasks we have to do – I go and spend time with the animals.  I just film them and whatever I catch on camera is what goes online. In my opinion, they’re pretty cute whatever they do! Especially with feeding videos, that’s how I get them to roar. We’re strong believers in playing with them, in getting them enrichment. I like to give them catnip – like little cats like catnip, big cats like catnip. I also give them things like watermelons, Christmas trees during Christmas, pumpkins during Halloween. They go swimming in their pool, and they like to chase balls around. It is a struggle though because obviously I want to be in the moment, sometimes I forget to film some cute things. But I’ll post videos and feel like they didn’t do anything, and those videos go viral. To me it’s a boring video, but people like it.

What do you enjoy most about Clapper? In what ways do you feel like Clapper needs improvement?

I really like that Clapper is an all-adult app. I feel like, because of that, there’s a lot more positivity. We don’t get as many negative comments over here and I really appreciate that. I find with younger audiences it’s really easy to find some negative comments or comments that might not fit well with the videos I post. So I really like that about Clapper.

As for improvement, I know you guys don’t go crazy with the hashtags…but I like to add hashtags! That would be my only thing. But from my experience on Clapper, I like all the interactive stuff that you guys do. It’s a nice space and it enables creativity, and you guys are all inclusive. And I love these Talks that you guys do and that you always have a Live going. I also like how interactive the team is – because you guys are on it! You’re talking to the users and you want to feature different creators, and that’s important. I feel like you guys are a great team.

What advice would you give new creators that want to be successful on Clapper?

Just stick with it.  I think that with a lot of these platforms and a lot of these content creators, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like you aren’t getting many views or that you should give up.  Like I said, I fell into content creation, but if people are passionate about content creation I’d say stick with it.  Make sure you’re uploading your videos to Clapper!  And just, see where the passion takes you.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know @SafariSammie– if you haven’t already, go give her a follow! To read meet @charltonharley, check out last week’s Deep Dive.