By Michelle Caceres
FishHawk resident and college sophomore Jessica Roberts could spend her Saturdays at the mall or getting her nails done, but that’s just not her style. Instead, you can find Roberts at Croc Encounters in Tampa where she assists in caring for its crocodilians and its educational programs.
“I want to major in wildlife biology and this is a great opportunity to get experience in my field of learning,” said Roberts.
Croc Encounters is located at 8703 Bowles Rd. in Tampa, two miles north of the fairgrounds off U.S. Hwy 301, near the intersection of Harney Rd. and U.S. Hwy. 301.
It is home to many rescued reptiles including snakes, turtles, tortoises, lizards and crocodilians. The animals come from zoos, shelters and from pet owners throughout the country. Most creatures are exotics and those that have become accustomed to humans and would be a nuisance if released.
The wildlife preserve is open to the public for guided and self-guided tours every Saturday from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Admission is $5 ($4 with a printed coupon from its Website). Visitors learn about each species and their plight in the wild.
St. Petersburg residents Jake and Marlene Murray brought their grandsons Colin and Matthew along on a visit to the sanctuary. Jake quickly became fond of Amos, an extremely large American alligator and the first crocodilian to call Croc Encounters home. “He came running during feeding time,” laughed Jake.
Their grandkids were able to get their picture taken holding a smaller alligator.
“It would be nice if someone made a big donation to this place,” said Marlene. “These people are very dedicated to their mission and I am sure funding would help.”
If you are visiting the facility, be aware that most attractions are located outdoors, so wear mosquito repellant and closed-toed shoes. Bring cash because checks and credit cards are not accepted. Restroom facilities are not available on site.
Croc Encounters also offers outreach programs for schools, camps and birthday parties.
For more information about Croc Encounters, visit www.crocencounters.com or call 217-4400.