STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - There are family farms all around South Mississippi. None of them feature a collection of animals like you'll find at one operation in Stone County.
About 25 years ago, Jill Lusk decided that she was going to take in exotic animals who needed tender loving care. She already had the Lazy L farm, with typical animals like cattle and horses. It was a perfect location for an animal sanctuary.
Today, a wide variety of wild animals call the sanctuary home. Lusk has an enduring love for animals and it's turned into a life long commitment.
A day on the farm begins early in the morning when the wild kingdom comes to life.
"We start feeding all the animals about eight in the morning," Lusk told us.
The animals mean everything to Jill.
"They're part of me. If they were all gone I think I would die. They're just such a big part of me" Lusk confessed.
The animal sanctuary is home to everything from gibbon apes to wolves, ring tail lemurs, tigers, and a very special chimpanzee named Ben.
"He is everyone's favorite," Lusk said. "We've had him since he was born. He's two and a half years old. We'll eventually have to put him in a cage. They're ten times as strong as a man when they get older."
Jill started out with Clydesdale horses and her passion evolved into a desire to find wild animals that were in peril and provide a safe environment for them.
"I needed to do this. I'm an animal lover. I started with just a few and realized I could get more and more. I couldn't stop," said Lusk.
The Lazy L Farm and Exotic Animal Sanctuary is located deep in the woods just southeast of Wiggins. It's not open to the public because Lusk is here to protect these animals. It's an all consuming, full time job running the farm. But for Jill Lusk, it's a labor of love.
"I don't get to go on many vacations. That's okay. To me this is a vacation," said Lusk.