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Review for Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Lake Monroe, FL, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I love to watch the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens grow, and live up to its name. As a volunteer for over 18 years, I have seen the animal enclosures change so much, with the animals given the kinds of homes they are comfortable in, and which resemble their native habitats. For people that are disappointed in not seeing an animal, our keepers provide our animals access to dens if the animals show signs of stress. This is very important for their overall health. It is probably also one of the reasons the Central Florida Zoo has been successful in breeding some species where other zoos have not.
I have watched the boardwalks and concrete paths make moving through the zoo much easier - and I use a walker, so I know what that means to our guests with strollers and wheelchairs. The shady paths also have benches for those needing to take a break. And small children can usually see the animals without having to be lifted up to see over solid fences, as I have seen in other zoos. The gardens are changing and expanding all the time; there is always something new to see.
I visited the zoo before moving to Florida, and did not think I would ever return. We walked "in the wetlands", literally, on bark/mulch paths that were wet, and saw animal enclosures that needed to be replaced. But after moving to Florida, one day as a substitute teacher, I came on a field trip to the Central Florida Zoo. I heard that Jack Hanna had started his zoo experience as a director here. After having experienced 12 years as a docent at the Columbus Zoo, and knowing Jack, I knew what he had done there, and saw the possibilities for this small zoo. Everything I wanted to see happen, and more, has been accomplished, and more expansion and renovations are in the works. I can't wait!
I love the stress on conservation education that the staff teaches us to pass on to the guests. And the friendliness of the keepers is one thing I cherish. It is one thing I watch for, as we use our annual membership at other reciprocal zoos and wildlife parks. If I have a question and there is not a docent available, I try to ask a keeper. If they do not respond, I am disappointed, as I have never had a keeper refuse to answer my questions at the Central Florida Zoo. The lessons taught at the Herpetarium in the outdoor enclosure are wonderful examples.
My favorite thing to do as a docent is the Night Hikes for members, and the Wild Night camp-overs for scouts. Either giving a tour, or educating with an animal, in the zoo in the dark, is something I never got to do before. The responses from guests are wonderful!
I also love bringing friends and family, as they love our zoo, too. Our granddaughter especially likes the Splash play area, and the otters. It seems there is always something new to do at the Zoo!

Role:  Volunteer