SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Jungle Gardens is one of the reasons the Suncoast is a great place to call home. It is a great place to visit this Father's Day weekend. Dads and Grand Dads get in free Saturday and Sunday with a paid admission. Its attracts thousands of visitors every year..
Krista Foster, Marketing Coordinator says, "We do 4 daily animal shows and after every show you get to touch one of the animals that was in the show."
Those include birds, alligators and snakes.
Jungle Gardens is one of oldest ,if not the oldest tourist attraction still operating in Florida.
CEO Chris Lavick says, "It started out as a banana orchid on 15 acres and it developed into a plan to develop it from subtropical to tropical and bring in plants and trees for a botanical park. It opened in 1939 on New Years Eve. They had flamingos whose descendants are still here today.
Chris says, "We do have 24 flamingos on the property and we are the only place left in the state of fl where you can hand feed flamingos. Some of these birds are descendents of the original flamingos that were here in the 1930s."
They had other had exotic birds, and like today, the birds gave shows. the most famous a cockatoo named Frosty"
Jungle Gardens Educator Jordan Miller says, "Frosty was hatched Folsom Prison where\ he was there he was part of the inmates program. Inmates taught him his different behaviors like unicycling on a high wire. "
Frosty appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Today Show. He's now 82 and still performing.
Some very famous people have visited.
Lavick says, "Albert Einstein was here he was a resident of Lido Beach and visited our park several times. Eleanor Roosevelt also visited, although she referred to it as the snake farm in her journal."
Schools from all over Florida bring their students here. And Jungle Gardens sends Educators into class rooms to teach about the environment , birds and animals.
Jordan Miller says, "We have a lot of emphases on environmentalism . Children learn to protect the environment so they can protect it when they get older."
Hurricane Irma hit the gardens hard, but it also opened up new vistas covered by jungle vegetation and in rebuilding they were able to install state of the art enclosures.
Lavick says, "We have zoo mesh enclosures, stronger than a chain link fence, you can barely see. Not even flies can see it. You can see the m poke thru the screen."
And all the improvements since the hurricane make jungle gardens more beautiful than ever. It is one of the things that makes the Suncoast a great place to call home.
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