“Meet” the Conservancy’s Ambassador Animals

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center is home to many different animals. These individuals serve as ambassadors for their species as they help educate diverse audiences on the importance of Southwest Florida’s water, land, and wildlife for future generations.

Horatio, our ambassador red-tailed hawk, has been with the Conservancy since 2004 after he fell from his nest and suffered a wing injury. The injury was unable to fully heal, which resulted in his inability to fly. Unable to survive in the wild without full flight capabilities, he became a permanent resident at the Conservancy.

Horatio now resides in the von Arx Wildlife Hospital’s outdoor exhibit where our educators share his story to teach audiences of all ages about the importance of red-tailed hawks in our ecosystem and to share tips on how the public can protect our native wildlifein Southwest Florida.

Olive, the Conservancy’s resident barred owl, inspires our educators to share ways that people can be more mindful when living alongside native wildlife. While it might seem like no big deal to throw your apple core or banana peel on the side of the road, these food scraps attract small critters such as rats to the scene. If they are frequenting roadsides for furry snacks, birds of prey, like Olive, become susceptible to car strikes.

It’s always best to leave no trace, and to pack out what you pack in!

The Conservancy’s ambassador birds of prey are regularly given enrichment opportunities in order to change up their environment and make their feeding times more interactive.

Our reptiles also partake in enrichment programs. Yellow rat snakes, like Sheldon, enjoy spending time in the trees, as well as on the ground. Sheldon’s enclosure is equipped for him to be able to slither or climb as he pleases, but our team will also add to, or change his environment, to keep him alert and engaged.

Snake enrichment can include adding sensory objects, obstacle courses, feeding devices, and more. Diamondback terrapins are semi-aquatic turtles specially adapted for life in brackish water. Their broad webbed feet allow them to navigate through our estuaries with ease as they hunt for food or seek a mate. These turtles also require exposure to natural sunlight for their energy and shell health.

In addition to the specialized lighting in her enclosure, Muffin, the Conservancy’s terrapin ambassador, is brought outside several times each week in a portable enclosure where she has access to sun (or shade),water or crawl-outs, and sometimes even food! This is another form of enrichment that our team engages in with our resident wildlife in order to provide the best possible care for these permanent ambassador animals.

While the Conservancy Nature Center is still closed to the public, we are excited to share that we are in the final stages of construction. Upon reopening later this year, members and guests will once again have the opportunity to visit our wildlife ambassadors. In addition, the Conservancy is excited to introduce our newly expanded Dalton Discovery Center which will include the new John & Carol Walter Discovery Wing, featuring an Invasive Species Gallery and digital Climate Change Gallery.

Visit our website at Conservancy.org and sign up for our monthly newsletters to stay in the loop on our reopening and future events

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