My grandson James enjoys studying animals. So on our way to Washington DC, we took a brief detour to Jacksonville, Florida. There we visited 3 wildlife parks.
The first was White Oak Conservation north of Jacksonville on the Georgia border. It is a privately run affair that specializes in okapis, rhinos, cheetahs, and other endangered species. They have a beautiful, well-run, plantation-style layout.
The first part of the tour unfortunately dealt with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Something I have little interest in, and a subject that bored my grandson. The second part was a minibus ride through the vast wildlife pastures.
It is impossible to overstate how impressive this sanctuary really is. The fields are large and the wildlife is healthy, and well-cared for. White Oak has a large number of rhinos and we spent half of the tour time observing and talking about the 3 varieties they have at the sanctuary: white, black, and Indian.
When the guide was asked how many rhinos they have? He responded that he wasn’t allowed to divulge that info. But he didn’t say why.
The tour is expensive, but worth every cent. James got to pet rhinos and feed giraffes. He also learned a lot about the various animals at the facility. The only drawback: we were unable to see the okapis. A major disappointment for me.
There were only 10 individuals on our tour and the the animal portion lasted approximately 2 hrs. This activity is highly recommended.
Next we visited the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Refuge, located a few miles east of the Jacksonville airport. We attended the night feeding of about 20 large cats, mostly Siberian tigers. The cages are crudely constructed and relatively small. But the tigers appeared healthy. It is a one-way facility. Once an animal arrives, it is there for life.
The nightly feeding involved distributing meat to the cats. This activity attracted a fairly large crowd. Unfortunately, the feeders seemed to enjoy teasing the cats in order to get them to roar. I found this distasteful. It’s too bad the Catty Shack doesn’t have the same financial resources as White Oak. Skip this activity unless you really want to see Siberian Tigers.
We also visited the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. We were rushed for time, but we were able to observe some animals which are not common in zoos: an okapi, bonobos, a komodo dragon, and lowland gorillas. All the animals looked healthy and the zoo appeared to be well-run.
I was particularly impressed with the bonobo area. In involved climbing facilities and elaborate running tunnels. Bonobos are Great Apes and a close relative of the chimpanzee.
As far as zoos go, the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden is worth a visit.
My grandson had a great time perusing the various wildlife facilities in the Jacksonville FL area.