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A Who's Who of Zoos - Back To Nature Wildlife Refuge

Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge
18515 East Colonial Drive, Orlando 32820
(407) 568-5138

Admission: Free. Donations requested
Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: East of central Orlando

Located incongruously next to an auto repair shop, with which it shares an office, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to the four R’s — Rescue, Raise, Rehabilitate, and Release. In the average year, it plays host to some 2,500 critters, but unlike Birds of Prey (see above), Back To Nature Wildlife Refuge takes on all comers, except common household pets like dogs and cats. The ultimate goal is to release their charges back into the wild, a goal that often proves elusive. What you will see when you visit are the animals that, for a variety of reasons, will be living out their lives in captivity. Many of the cages are marked with the nicknames and histories of their occupants.

The tales told about these animals are a litany of abuse, abandonment, stupidity, and the random cruelty of nature and (more often) mankind. There are “throw away” pets sold by unscrupulous dealers and abandoned when their owners discovered that porcupines, raccoons, and wild African cats don’t make the charming pets they’d imagined. Then there are the birds and beasts damaged by pesticides or wounded by bullets. There are also many animals orphaned in the wild or born with disabilities that would have quickly killed them had they not been rescued first. Among the more impressive residents here are cougars, bobcats, bald eagles, and a hybrid wolf. A small nursery looks after the littlest guests, including baby raccoons and fledgling birds.

Back To Nature is a labor of love of David and Carmen Shaw and a dedicated group of volunteers. Donations are requested subtly via donation boxes scattered throughout the property. Many of the animal enclosures bear the names of donors who made them possible. It is unlikely you will leave without becoming a donor.

Nearby: Fort Christmas Historical Park, Jungle Adventures, Orlando Wetlands Park.

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