4609 West Ponkan Road, Apopka 32712
Free; donations requested
Hours: By appointment only
Location: Just off SR 441 and SR 429
C.A.R.E. stands for Creating Animal Respect Education. Like Back To Nature, above, it is a scrappy little nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing abandoned animals, with an accent on “exotics.” It is also a working educational facility with a full schedule of programs on Florida wildlife that it provides for both the tourist trade and local schoolchildren, so advance reservations are a must. You will find it down a dirt road on ten acres of Florida pine woods, in a ramshackle collection of barns and volunteer-built animal pens. It’s worth seeking out.
Among the more impressive animals here are an immense Siberian tiger, a jaguar, and several gorgeous Florida panthers. There are also homelier charges like Daphney, a duck with a broken beak, and Truffles, a Vietnamese potbellied pig, who have become the best of friends.
Visitors are treated to a guided tour by a friendly and knowledgeable volunteer. You’ll learn the stories behind the animals and may even get to pet one or two. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the tour is just getting to see the obvious affection and interaction between the volunteers and their charges; it’s really something to see a panther light up and start purring when her best friend approaches the enclosure.
At press time, they were just moving to their new facility and construction was still in progress, but the plans call for one area for their “exotic” charges — Florida native wildlife such as panthers, the mischievous raccoon siblings Thelma and Louise, alligators and some impressive snapping turtles — and another for the miscellaneous abandoned pets and farm animals the organization takes under its wing. C.A.R.E. helps support itself by taking its animals to Orlando area resorts, festivals and such for educational displays. Check the web site for a calendar of upcoming public events.
Central Florida Zoological Park, Kelly Park, King’s Landing Canoe Rental, Rock Springs Run State Reserve, Wekiwa Springs State Park.
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