THE NATURE PARK
The nature park and botanical gardens are
home to more than 350 animals – from alligators
to a zebra.
Visitors can get up close and personal at the
petting farm, where they can meet dwarf
Nigerian goats, Hampton the mini pig and
African porcupines that are always ready to
accept a snack.
Raccoons, kinkajous, lemurs and a baby sloth
are just a few of the creatures that co-exist in this
4-½ acre park. And don’t forget to check out the
ecolab, where you’ll see native and exotic snakes,
skinks and a variety of other odd insects and
Wildlife Center Assistant Director Jason
Paszkiewicz led us on an educational tour of the
facility, noting there are currently more than 350
specimens, including birds, reptiles, mammals
and amphibians at the Center.
Paszkiewicz has been the assistant director for
five years. He is originally from Maryland and was
a volunteer bird rescuer before moving to
He said that 90 percent of the animals at the
Center are unwanted exotic pets or Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission
“The birds are the number one thing we take
in,” Jason said. “And turtles –because people get
them when they’re tiny, and they think they’re
going to always stay small.”
Three aviaries provide homes for a wide variety
of birds, iguanas, tortoises and turtles. Food and
birdseed are available for purchase at the Nature
Center. A gator slough hosts several five-foot
Florida gators that give a very impressive feeding
“We feed them raw beef and chicken from the
dock every Saturday, and they can jump pretty
high,” Jason said.
There’s also a prehistoric “dinosaur park,” a
butterfly garden and a picnic area.
Peacocks, goats, birds, alligators,
camels, turtles, even kinkajous
live at the Shell Factory.