It is a little too crowded at the Sawgrass Nature Center and Wildlife Hospital in Coral Springs.
Increasing the size of the facility is high on the priority list for Allan Rose, the facility’s executive director. “We need a larger hospital,” he said. “We will be able to do so much more if we are able to expand.”
The center, which is located on 5 acres of land in the Sportsplex Park that was donated by the city, opened eight years ago. Rose wants to ensure that it attracts a lot more families than it currently does.
“We need more people to know about us,” Rose said. “Almost everyone who comes in loves the place, but a lot of people say ‘We didn’t know about you.’ It is time to end that. Our plan is to make this a more interesting destination for kids and families.”
Wild native animals are treated, rehabilitated and released back into the wild at the hospital. Non-releasable animals and birds are placed in the center’s permanent exhibit area. Although it is not uncommon for the center to get the occasional python, turtle or tortoise, most of the admissions are songbirds, raccoons, possums and squirrels.
“It would be good to have double the space,” said Donna Fife, hospital director and wildlife rehabilitator. “We tend to get about 500 to 600 admissions a year; that equates to about 1,000 animals. We need a bigger area for treating the animals and space to keep them quarantined.
“I think we outgrew this facility the first year itself,” Fife said. “We are in Coral Springs, but we get admissions from all over South Florida. There is the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale and Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter; we are the only facility in between.”
The facility has an assistant rehabilitator and three animal keepers. “We get considerable help from volunteers and interns, as well,” said Fife. “We get interns from countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Australia and Germany. They are here for about six to 12 weeks.”
The center offers a range of interactive educational programs for different age groups. “We would like to do more educational programs and involve more schools in them,” said Rose, who was earlier associated with the Civil Air Patrol Coral Springs Cadet Squadron and earlier founded Earth Rangers, an environmental club for children in Coral Springs. “We teach respect for the habitat and interacting with animals in a responsible manner.”
The center wants to add additional permanent nature exhibits, and an interactive children’s area for small group activities and gatherings. A self-guided nature trail through the facility’s native gardens and pond area is also part of the future plans.
The center, which has an operating budget of about $300,000, runs totally on donations, from individuals and corporations. “We are always looking for grant opportunities,” Rose said. “In five years, I want to see us more involved in educational programs that meet the standards set by the state. We also want to motivate more children to learn outside of the classroom.”
The center is located at 3000 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs. Call 954-752-9453.
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