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Gatorland Receives Animal Collection from Everglades Wonder Gardens


Transfer includes giant alligators & crocodiles, scarlet ibis, Florida white-tailed deer, and much more

Gatorland is pleased to announce the acquisition of over 70 animals from the recently closed, family-owned Florida theme park, Everglades Wonder Gardens.

Related: Cold-Blooded Fun at Orlando’s Gatorland Theme Park

The transfer from the Bonita Springs animal sanctuary encompasses a wide variety of Florida wildlife including giant alligators, raccoons, scarlet ibis, bobcats, huge pythons and boa constrictors, rattlesnakes, white-tailed deer, and American Crocodiles including “Bonecrusher, ” a giant measuring over fourteen feet.

In 1936, Lester Piper opened the Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs with the hope of educating people about Florida’s vanishing wildlife and providing a rescue facility for injured animals.   Lester’s grandson, David Piper, grew up in the park and took over the reins when his grandfather passed away in 1992.  The historic roadside attraction continued to thrill guests with their collection of giant reptiles and unique attractions until recently when David and his wife, Dawn, announced they would be moving to Georgia for health reasons. 

“Our families have known each other for well over 50 years, ” says Mark McHugh, Gatorland’s President & CEO.  “Two pioneer outdoorsmen, Owen Godwin and Lester Piper, started very similar attractions with similar philosophies of sharing the wonder of Florida’s plants and animals with locals and tourists.  So it is truly an honor to bring so many of the Everglades Wonder Garden’s beautiful animals to Gatorland where they can carry on the Piper family’s dream of entertaining and educating visitors.”

Internationally recognized photographer John Brady and his family will take over operations of the Everglades Wonder Gardens in the Historic District of Bonita Springs.  The new operators will focus on the botanical gardens, which has some of the most unique species of both native and exotic specimens from South America.  The history and heritage of the gardens is of great importance to the community, and Brady will continue to uphold its legacy through operation of a museum in the main building.

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