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Billie Swamp Safari staff remains busy caring for animals during closure for COVID-19 crisis

Tre Huntoon feeds Francesca the Capybara as they wait for guests to return to Billie Swamp Safari on the Big Cypress Reservation. (Courtesy photo)

While it has been more than a month since the Seminole Tribe closed Billie Swamp Safari on the Big Cypress Reservation out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 virus, a handful of staff members have remained busy caring for all of the animals that call the safari park home.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to share animal encounters with our guests, but our animals still need our utmost attention,” said Melissa Sherman, Operations manager. “We have hundreds of animals in our 2,200-acre safari wildlife preserve that need to be fed and looked after on a daily basis.”

Each day, five staff members from the park’s animal care department attend to more than 250 animals who are on exhibit in enclosures and over 100 more in the safari preserve.

“We have a diverse group of animals in enclosures ranging from birds to mammals to snakes,” Sherman said.

More than 120 birds are on display, including two newly hatched macaws, and lorikeets. Among the many mammals include a Florida panther, timber wolf, Florida black bear, grizzly bear, opossum and capybara. The 50-plus cold blooded animals featured include crocodiles, American alligators and snapping turtles.

“During normal business days when the park is open, guests can typically have a lorikeet feeding encounter,” Sherman said. “To that end, we must continue to condition the lorikeets with interaction from our handlers to prevent stress.”

The wildlife preserve features such animals as zebras, water buffalo, bison, red deer, feral hogs, ostrich, panthers and bears.

“Each one of our animal family deserves the best possible care that we can provide – we love all of them,” Sherman said. “We can’t wait for the day when our guests can return to enjoy these beautiful creatures.”

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