Located in John’s Pass Village in Madeira Beach, the Alligator Attraction Wildlife Learning Center is home to more than 175 animals, including pigs, sting rays, a sloth, snakes, tarantulas, a tortoise and, of course, plenty of alligators.
Walking from room to room, visitors may wonder where all these critters came from. Most of the residents at the Alligator Attraction were surrendered by owners who could no longer care for them, transferred from other rescue facilities, or they are orphaned wildlife that cannot safely be returned to their natural habitat. Some of the groups the center partners with include the SPCA, wildlife rescues and reptile rescues. Because of the ongoing needs of our resident wild and exotic animals, education and conservation are at the heart of the Alligator Attraction. Our staff is dedicated to our mission to educate guests, dispel myths, and highlight the beauty of all our residents.
A great example of an owner surrender is Sid the Sloth. He was originally purchased by a private individual in Michigan who eventually surrendered him to a local wildlife sanctuary when he could no longer care for him properly. When Alligator Attraction found out who had him, we made contact with the sanctuary and were able to bring Sid home to Madeira Beach. Then there’s Rudolph, a 27-year-old large tortoise, who happens to be one of the first residents to greet visitors. He was an abandoned pet that a Good Samaritan found and brought to the Alligator Attraction, and we took him in.
However, by far the most common animals surrendered by their owners include reptiles and pigs. “We get a lot of ball pythons and bearded dragons,” says team member Alex Bussell. “People purchase them as pets for their kids, but kids lose interest.” Alligator Attraction also currently has five pigs, Vietnamese pot belly and Juliana Teacups. Many people mistakenly think these breeds remain small but, depending on diet, they can reach weights of 250 and 300 pounds or more, respectively.
When it comes to the residents’ habitats, the Alligator Attraction does everything we can to best recreate the animals’ natural environment. For those who come from their native habitat, their enclosures are designed to mimic the same surroundings. However, even animals that lived in captivity their whole lives appreciate a more peaceful and engaging existence, as their enclosures mimic what should have been their natural surroundings. This could be the first time they experience anything close to the environment they should have been living in, as opposed to being kept in a bare, sterile cage.
So, whether a resident of the Alligator Attraction came from an owner, a rescue group or was found by the Florida Wildlife Commision, it ended up in a premier facility where it receives the best care possible. And, even better, each animal helps the center inspire people to gain a greater appreciation for different species of animals and learn about the importance of conservation.