Top 5: Zoos and Wildlife Parks in Florida

by Samantha DiMauro

Mar 25, 2015

A Green Mamba at the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford © Rain0975 | Flickr

North America

Florida is known for sunny skies, warm weather and sandy beaches, and people aren’t the only creatures attracted to such prime real estate. Exotic animals make Florida their home, from the Everglades to Sanibel Island, and wildlife professionals have created refuges, safaris and sanctuaries to showcase, treat and love our animal friends, both native and from around the globe.


Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The Central Florida Zoo is home to more than 500 animals representing 205 different species, including domestic animals, reptiles and exotic mammals like giraffes and rhinos. In 2014, they welcomed a little buddy known as the fossa (pronounced fu-sa), an animal most closely related to the mongoose and civet, hailing from Madagascar.


Lion Country Safari

Florida’s only drive-through wildlife preserve has more than 900 animals from South America, Africa, India and other regions of the world. You’ll see tortoise, zebra, llamas and ostriches, and more exotic creatures like nyala and impala. The lions of Lion Country are kept separately from the rest of the animals in the Gorongosa Reserve.


McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary

This non-profit sanctuary is dedicated to rehabilitating injured and orphaned wild animals, from squirrels and owls to bobcats and foxes. They also house 22 large cats. Visitors are required to make a reservation for a guided tour, and meet the 200 animals housed at McCarthy’s.


Zoological Wildlife Foundation

One of the top wildlife tours in Miami, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation is a five-acre zoo offering intimate guided tours where you get the chance to meet, interact and feed animals like camels, lemurs and toucans. You’ll see hundreds of animals on your tour, including the elusive liger. Reservations for tours are required.


Gulf World Marine Park

This park in Panama City is home to incredible sea creatures like dolphins, sea lions and sharks, and also hosts exhibits showcasing penguins, flamingos, sea turtles and more. Visitors also have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, where your new dolphin best friend will tote you around and give you kisses.



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