Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve Not Evacuated Because of Santa Clarita Fire

Lily Tomlin, Tippi Hedren and Shere Khan
Frank W. Ockenfels

When Hedren began acquiring lions that had been bred and raised throughout the U.S. as pets — often in despicable conditions — she initially housed them in her former Sherman Oaks house. She eventually boarded them at what is now Shambala Preserve, a big-cat sanctuary, in some of the 40-plus compounds on its 72 acres. “Pretty soon, the board was more than the mortgage,” she recalls, “so we bought the place.” Hedren began living in a cottage on the property in 1976.

Contrary to widespread reports, the massive Santa Clarita Valley Sand Fire, which has scorched 33,000 acres and threatens more, has not forced an evacuation of Tippi Hedren's 72-acre Shambala Preserve, a big cat sanctuary in Acton, Calif., that the legendary Hitchcock blonde has operated for decades.

On Sunday, photos and video showed the fire was extremely close to the Shambala property, and reports indicated that the 86-year-old star of 1963's The Birds was packing up the animals and planning to seek a safe haven elsewhere — information subsequently tweeted by Hedren's daughter, actress Melanie Griffith.

But on Monday, Hedren's publicist Harlan Boll told The Hollywood Reporter that Hedren was notified by firemen that it was, in fact, not yet necessary for her or the animals to leave the sanctuary, and so they have remained on the premises, prepared to evacuate if they are told it's necessary.

Hedren first encountered a pride of lions in 1969 while working in Africa on the movie Satan's Harvest and has been smitten with big cats ever since. She, her then-husband Noel Marshall and Griffith made a film, 1981's Roar, to increase awareness of the endangered species. Hedren began living in a cottage on the property that is now Shambala in 1976 and grew to love its inhabitants "more than my next breath," she told THR in 2013.

In 1983, she established the nonprofit Roar Foundation, and Shambala has been a center for big-cat care and research ever since, protecting animals that never could be returned to the wild, and subsisting on gifts from private donors like herself. Hedren — who runs Shambala with longtime associate Chris Gallucci and with help from volunteers like her friend Lily Tomlin — doesn't take a salary for her efforts.