Our walk on the wild side was at McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary -- a very cool place in Palm Beach. They get most of their animals from government agencies that have impounded the animals as abused or neglected, or from owners with permits to possess such exotic animals. People also bring them pets they no longer want or can handle, or animals they've found injured. They return to the wild those they can, but many of the animals have been raised in captivity and could no longer survive in the wild. We got to see many of those animals up close and personal!
Zoe was brave enough to pet a baby crocodile and a snake, and hold a tortoise.
William was willing to hold ANYTHING -- including a bearded dragon, a snake, and a much larger tortoise than Zoe's!
The only animal Maya was willing to touch was a baby squirrel, which she would do only while the guide held it -- no picking up any animals for Maya! The guide told us that someone in the neighborhood had brought it by, and they were going to raise it to release into the "wild."
The squirrel wasn't the smallest things we saw -- that would have been the lizards that were EVERYWHERE (and I think William took pictures of ALL of them!).
Then there were the BIG cats, including a lion, several tigers, black leopard, a jaguar/black leopard mix, and a TINY 3-week-old Florida panther. The tiger and the black leopard were left in a Motel 6 in Orlando, and the manager called the sanctuary to come pick them up in the dead of night before any of the motel guests knew!
It was really an amazing tour. The group consisted of the 5 of us, and a dad and son, and that's it. We were able to get really close to the animals, and learned the history of each and information about their lifespans in captivity. It was a good lesson for everyone to learn, as we heard again and again about someone who got an animal when it was cute and little, and then couldn't handle it as it grew. So many ignorant people who can't see the 170 pound panther in the cuddly panther cub. I know there's something about adoption in that comment . . . .
Our last "wild thing" wasn't so wild -- a manatee mailbox at a house near our hotel. I wonder what the owner thinks of all the tourists who pile out of cars to admire "Barbara Manatee" (all you Veggie Tales fans know why the kids named her Barbara!).