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Sarasota Jungle Gardens February 25, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Nature, Travel & Leisure.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens, one of the oldest tourist attractions in the area, called our names one day ~ we packed a picnic lunch and headed down the Tamiami Trail to visit with a few four-legged and feathered friends.

The barren American Alligator exhibit didn’t impress us much ~ just a concrete pool,  three enormous  banana leaves floating on the surface, and the resident gator, “Attitude.”  

I sighed, thinking that the rest of the Gardens would be the same. 

Not so.

Around the next bend, we saw crocodiles in enclosures with grass and palm trees to frolic on and under. 

While admiring their toothy grins, we heard a cacophony of sound.

We wandered over and found 20  delightful jeweled-toned parrots  hanging around . . . nibbling on sponge cake, watching the sun bake, and posing with tourists covered in oil. 

Did I pose with a parrot?  Of course!

I held out my arm and a gorgeous red and yellow parrot – an obvious parrothead – grabbed my shirt with its talons. 

Eye to eye, up close and personal, we engaged in a few pleasantries:


“Hello,” replied my feathered friend.

“You’re a pretty bird!”

Nodding in agreement, he replied, “Pretty Bird.”

I encouraged Pretty Bird to sing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” with me.  No luck. 

He demurred ~  jumping onto the waiting docent’s arm, rolling on his back, and waiting for his belly rub! 

Too cute!

Around the next bend, we were surrounded in a sea of pink . . .  Flamingos that were almost, but not quite, as tall as I am. 

The flock wandered in and around camera-toting tourists as if they owned the place. 

Oh, wait, I guess they do.    

The path continued through jungle paths filled with hundreds of species of palm trees ~ pygmy palms, date palms, coconut palms, and even majestic Royal Palms, with trunks so smooth they look as if they are made of concrete.

During the course of our trek, we saw turtles, and lizards, and snakes.  We admired screech owls, and barn owls, and great horned owls. 

We watched a bird show, complete with a 73-year-old cockatoo riding a bicycle on a “high wire,” and another playing “Three Card Monty.” 

We sat in the front row for a reptile show, during which Attitude the Alligator demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T and displayed A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E  when her trainer slipped a noose  past her nostrils and around her jaws for her weekly scrub down:

Splish Splash . . . we all got a bath! 

The trainer used a long-handled brush to scrub algae off Attitude’s hide.  In the wild, the algae acts as camouflage. 

After the show (and communal bath and shower), we had a chance to pet Crank ~ a four-year-old alligator with a belly as soft as a baby’s butt.

The best part of the day arrived when we stumbled upon the Ring Tailed Lemurs ~ three adults (Paul-a, Ringo, and Jude) and twin babies, about 5 weeks old. 

As soon as we saw those rascals in motion, we started singing the theme song from Madagascar . . . “I like to move it, move it.”  

Next Up . . .  Bottoms Up!

No Rules.  Just write!

What about you? 

Are you a fan of zoos that keep animals in captivity for educational and recreational purposes?  Or do you want to fling open the gates and cry out, “Fly, my pretties!  Fly!”

What is your favorite animal to watch in the wild or enjoy in tamer surroundings?  {Hint:  my favorite starts with the letter “Z”}


1. Cindy - February 25, 2011

Love it, your smile with Pretty Bird is infectious 🙂

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Even better than the grinning gator? 😀

2. Rosa - February 25, 2011

Sounds like you had a wonderful time! And I love that you tried to get the parrot to sing Jimmy Buffet with you!! Thanks for the smile!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Thanks, Rosa!

If I had a pet parrot, I would teach him or her all my favorite Buffet songs! 😀

3. Carol Ann Hoel - February 25, 2011

What an entertaining day! Florida is full of such great places. My favorite theme park was Sea World. My husband and I used to get season passes and spend many weekends there, topped off with dinner at a particular restaurant in the park. Sea lions were my favorite animal at Sea World. The sea lion show was wonderful. My grandson once asked me if the sea lion was really a person dressed up! Ha! Talk about good acting. The sea lions were fabulous. Blessings to you, Nancy…

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Thanks, Carol Ann.

We always enjoyed the shows at Sea World. On our first visit, we ate at Al E. Gator’s restaurant!

Animals have so much character and charm, especially when they are well cared for and content.

4. barb19 - February 25, 2011

It looks like you had a fabulous time at the zoo; I love the photos of Pretty Bird – he is magnificent!
This post is just up my street, being passionate about animals as I am!
I think my fav animals to watch must be the chimps, because they inter-act with humans so well.
Great post!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Thanks, Barb. We had tons of fun.

Zoos with animals kept in tiny cages, where they have no room to roam, bother me. I much prefer to see animals in more natural environments ~ like at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

Fortunately, more zoos and tourist attractions are doing just that. Instead of leaving animals in a concrete box, they allow them to wander around natural vegetation. Yay!

Of course, some of the animals (like the lions and tigers) probably still miss the thrill of the hunting.

We also want to visit Busch Gardens in Tampa where lots of “wild” animals roam around.

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Monkeys, gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, apes . . . all fascinate me.

I love when animals show us what they can do!

5. Cities of the Mind - February 25, 2011

This looks like so much fun!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Connor ~ For your next road trip . . . head to the Sunshine State. It’s warm in winter and inviting the rest of the year! 😀

6. suzicate - February 25, 2011

Alligators scare the crap out of me, but love the parrot and the flamingo…just beautiful!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Alligators are not aggressive. Crocodiles are far more ornery.

But I wouldn’t want either one wandering into my backyard. 😀

7. Clar http://Clarbojahn.wordpress.com/ - February 25, 2011

What a wonderful day! so glad you enjoyed it.

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Thanks, Clar. We had such fun. Always nice when experiences exceed our expectations!

8. Maggie - February 25, 2011

I enjoy zoos, but I know the animals probably don’t enjoy being captive. I think animals should only be kept in zoos if they’re endangered and if they have enough room to stretch their legs.

But I’m glad you had a nice time!

nrhatch - February 25, 2011

Thanks, Maggie. The stretching of their legs is key for me too.

When we went to the Philadelphia Zoo, the tigers and lions just paced back and forth in small concrete cages. Very sad. I think the Zoo has improved since then.

There’s a trade off whenever we place education and recreation above the natural desires of animals.

On the one hand, having zoos may instill a love of nature in wee ones. That’s a positive. On the other hand, I’d rather see all animals who can fend for themselves in the wild stay on their home turf.

Zoos that rehabilitate animals are the best ~ releasing those that can be released, and caring for those who can no longer live in the wild.

9. linda - February 25, 2011

Sometimes I think the animals are better off in the zoo because they won’t get eaten any other animals but they never look too happy. So I am not sure how I feel about zoo’s. Obviously all of them aren’t so great and that’s sad. Those parrots are so interesting. I love birds.

nrhatch - February 26, 2011

I tell myself that Tigger is better off as an indoor cat where he won’t get eaten by other animals . . . but I wonder if he would rate FREEDOM higher than SAFETY?

I know he likes being indoors when it’s cold and raining . . . and also at dinnertime. 🙂

10. eof737 - February 26, 2011

You took some amazing photos on your outing. The parrots are priceless and that alligator too! Were you concerned when the parrot perched on your arm? Great photos! 🙂

nrhatch - February 26, 2011

Good question, Eliz. I’d never had a bird perch on my arm before, so I was curious/concerned/nervous about what it would feel like. Also being that close to its beak gave me cause for pause.

I figured they wouldn’t offer the opportunity if their birds attacked visitors with vicious intent. I decided to “Just Do It!” 🙂

11. granny1947 - February 26, 2011

Lovely pictures NR….what a beautiful bird…you are brave…I am a bit wary of parrots.

nrhatch - February 26, 2011

Wary is the word I would use.

I saw an opportunity that appealed to me, immediately grew “wary” and started tossing out the “what ifs” (what if it bites me? scratches me? poops on me?), then I started to talk myself out of engaging in the experience.

But I stopped myself: “Wait! Instead of giving in to “fear” . . . just do it!” So I did.

The best thing about the experience ~ feeling the “fear” and doing it anyway. I’m going to use the same approach this year to go parasailing. 😀

12. Piglet in Portugal - February 27, 2011

I “respect” the trainer of Mr Alligator needs a medal!!!

nrhatch - February 27, 2011

They actually allow a youngster from the audience to enter the cage to help brush Attitude’s back.

Well-fed alligators aren’t too aggressive. 🙂

But they don’t like to do tricks!

13. crazygoangirl - March 3, 2011

Fun post…enjoyed the pictures 🙂

I love animals and so it’s hard for me to see them in captivity. Having said that, the best Zoos do a great job of taking care of their animals and since for some, it’s the only safe space on the planet, I’ve learnt to live with it. I would hate to see species disappear at the alarming rate they are today, without knowing that us humans gave it our best shot at keeping them alive.

One of the things on my Bucket List is to see a tiger in the wild. Every time I think this gorgeous animal is on the brink of extinction, I just want to cry.

nrhatch - March 3, 2011

I want to cry about any number of animals threatened by man greed and disinterest ~ polar bears, baby seals, gray wolves, black bears, the Florida panther, elephants, apes, tigers . . .

The list goes on and on and on.

As long as the animals in zoos are not stuck in teeny tiny cages, my sadness at their captive state is balance out by the enjoyment and education opportunities presented.

Thanks, crazygoangirl

crazygoangirl - March 4, 2011

So true! Have you watched Last Chance to See, a BBC series with Stephen Fry? It’s an interesting look at some of the world’s species on the brink of extinction.

nrhatch - March 4, 2011

We haven’t seen that. We watch Nature documentaries frequently . . . I’ll add it to our queue. Thanks.

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