Published: Jan 03, 2011 5:11 PM EST
Updated: Jan 03, 2011 2:12 PM EST

NAPLES- Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is celebrating the new year with the announcement that the Zoo welcomed 301,163 guests in 2010 -- more than any other year in its long history. "We're beyond grateful," said Naples Zoo Executive Director David Tetzlaff. "With the economy, oil spill, and hot summer affecting numbers, we were not expecting a record year on top of last year’s record year. I can’t thank the locals enough for visiting and recommending their zoo to family and friends." 2010 also marks the fifth anniversary since Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

Tetzlaff, eldest son of Zoo founders Lawrence and Nancy Jane Tetzlaff (better known as Jungle Larry and Safari Jane), attributes much of the increase to all of the new activity at the Zoo. "Thanks to our supporters, we’ve opened five feature exhibits in five years.” The most recent – the Giraffe Preview Exhibit – was created on land never seen before by Naples Zoo guests. Seven reticulated giraffe can be seen daily. Trained docents interact with visitors to educate them about not only the amazing features of the world’s tallest animals but also the recent conservation challenges they face.

During the past year alone, Naples Zoo also created a new display for fascinating smaller creatures from Poison dart frogs and Gila monsters to rarely seen wonders like Tonkin bug-eyed frogs. Visitors saw free flying birds in the Safari Canyon theater shows along with new species like the Komodo dragon and exotic venomous snakes plus a fun Summer of Seuss exhibition with fine art bronzes and nature education. The Zoo added visitor amenities like new restrooms and enhanced dining options from Wynn’s at the Zoo. And guests came out to see new babies like the two-toed sloth and African porcupines. Tetzlaff adds, “Zoo membership continues to grow. We’re welcoming record numbers of Collier residents and seeing more young children than ever before.”

Although the Zoo has been setting record-breaking attendance each year for the last five years, this year had no certainty of continuing that trend. Ongoing economy concerns, the oil spill in the Gulf, and the hottest summer on record for Naples since 1944 dropped summer attendance as much as 25% in some months. But in the end, all the new animals and activities outweighed the challenges.

This was the first winter season with Black Bear Hammock, the largest black bear habitat at an accredited zoo in the Eastern USA. That helped the Zoo set an all-time record attendance for February. And when the Zoo opened up the Giraffe Preview Exhibit months ahead of schedule, it made a record year seem possible. But that was no guarantee as Tetzlaff explains, "Even in the last few weeks, I wasn’t sure we’d top 300,000 guests. All I can say is that our donors truly made the difference. The new bear and giraffe habitats were key. They would not have been possible without caring, generous people who love animals and children."

Naples Zoo also set a record year for charitable endeavors in 2010. Naples Zoo supported 303 nonprofits, groups, and schools in raising money for their own programs through ticket and membership donations including on-site experiences for organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation children as well as the fundraiser for the local Alzheimer’s Support Network. This represents more than a 20% increase over 2010.

 

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation and education organization. Daily presentations include Alligator Bay Feeding, Snakes Alive!, Meet the Keeper Series, along with two premiere presentations: Planet Predator and Serpents: Fangs & Fiction. Both of these feature shows take place in the Safari Canyon Theater where guests see live animals from feline predators to venomous snakes along with exciting video footage. On Sundays, the Tropical Plant Trek offers guests a guided tour in the historic botanical garden. And one of the zoo’s most popular activities is the Primate Expedition Cruise where guests embark on a guided cruise through islands inhabited by monkeys, lemurs, and apes.

The all-day pay-one-price ticket includes admission to both the nationally accredited zoo and historic garden along with all shows, tours, exhibits, and the boat ride. ($19.95 adults age 13+/ $11.95 children 3 to 12, under 3 free. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age). Annual memberships and discount tickets are also available online at www.napleszoo.org. Visitors enjoy healthy meals at Wynn’s at the Zoo and shop for wild gifts in The ZOO Gift Shop. Naples Zoo welcomes guests daily from 9:00 to 5:00 with the last ticket sold at 4:00 and is located at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road across from the Coastland Center mall in the heart of Naples.

To learn more, click www.napleszoo.org or call (239) 262-5409.