Big Cat Encounters in Florida

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Interesting in meeting a big cat in Florida? Whether it’s a tiger, lion or other type of big cat you’re interested in, there are a few places where you can get up close and personal with a big cat.

If you are elsewhere in the U.S. and would like to feed a tiger, check out this article on where to feed tigers in the U.S.

The following is a list of big cat encounters in Florida:

Central Florida Animal Reserve:

Address: 500 Broussard Rd, St Cloud, FL

Website: cflar.org

Established more than 20 years ago, the Central Florida Animal Reserve is a 23-acre big cat and wildlife reserve in St. Cloud that features leopards, tigers, cougars and lions.

The reserve offers big cat encounter tours during which visitors can view the various exotic big cats they have at the facility.

The reserve has six types of big cat encounter tours: a guided walking tour, a family tour, a private walking tour, an executive tour, a keeper for a day tour and a behind the scenes tour.

The Central Florida Animal Reserve is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The Central Florida Animal Reserve is governed by a 22-member Board of Trustees, chaired by Chandler Robertson of Sanford, Florida.

Zoological Wildlife Foundation:

Address: 16225 SW 172nd Ave, Miami, FL

Website: zoologicalwildlifefoundation.com

Established in 2000, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation is an organization in Miami that is dedicated to educating the public about endangered animals.

The foundation has a variety of animals in its facility, such as American alligators, leopards, monkeys, chimpanzees, flamingos, tigers, jaguars, ligers, servals, lemurs, sloth and lions.

The foundation offers various big cat encounters, such as a cougar cub encounter, a feline experience, a serval encounter, a tug-of-war big cat experience, a savannah encounter and a lion cub encounter.

In addition, the foundation also offers other animal encounters such as a sloth encounter, a primate encounter, a tamandua encounter and an owl encounter.

In 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued citations against the facility for failing to ensure the safety of animals and the public, after a lion cub bit a guest during a hands-on encounter, and for failing to maintain dangerous animals under the direct control of a handler after the facility allowed public contact with a large lion cub over 16 weeks of age.

The co-founder and president of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation is Mario Tabraue who appeared in the Netflix series Tiger King in 2020.

Emerald Coast Zoo:

Address: 5262 Deer Springs Rd, Crestview, FL

Website: www.emeraldcoastzoo.com

The Emerald Coast Zoo is a 10-acre family run zoo in Crestview that features exotic animals such as tigers, monkeys, kangaroos, giraffes, lions, zebras, sloths, bears and more.

The zoo offers a Train a Lion Encounter during which visitors can get up close to a lion while assisting a zoo keeper during a lion training session.

In addition to the lion encounter, the zoo also allows visitors to feed a giraffe, pet a sloth, feed birds, feed a bear and meet a kangaroo.

Emerald Coast Zoo is owned by Rick de Ridder and his family who purchased the park in 2017.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay:

Address: 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL

Website: buschgardens.com/tampa

Busch Gardens is a 335-acre animal theme park in Tampa that features amusement park rides, animal exhibits as well as a safari park where you can hand feed giraffes.

The various animals that can be seen at the park include rhinos, sloths, cheetahs, tigers, gorillas, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras, alligators, kangaroos and flamingos.

Inside the tiger enclosure, the park has a tiger pop up viewing hole, which is a glass enclosure that allows you to stick your head up into the tiger enclosure to see the tigers up close and personal. The tigers often nap and sit on top of the pop up, giving visitors an even closer look at these beautiful animals.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Big Cat Encounters in Florida

Sources:
Book Your Tour.” Zoological Wildlife Foundation, zoologicalwildlifefoundation.com/visit/tours/
Big Cat Encounters at CFAR.” CFAR, cflar.org/big-cat-encounters-cfar/
Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums.” Association of Zoos and Aquariums, aza.org/current-accreditation-list
Hensel, Karen and Daniel Cohen. “SW Miami-Dade Zoo Featured in ‘Tiger King’ Hit with Violations of Federal Animal Welfare Act.” WSVN, 14 Sept. 2021, wsvn.com/news/investigations/sw-miami-dade-zoo-featured-in-tiger-king-hit-with-violations-of-federal-animal-welfare-act/
Dangerous Hands-On Encounters: Customers Bitten by Big Cats: PETA Exposes Zoological Wildlife Foundation.” PETA, 15 Oct. 2021, peta.org/blog/zoological-wildlife-foundation-zwf-miami-animal-exploitation/
Judnich, Tony. “Still ‘Big Dreams’ After 30 Years.” NWF Daily News, 29 June. 2019, nwfdailynews.com/story/news/2019/06/29/still-big-dreams-after-30-years/4780834007/
Wilde, Ashleigh. “Emerald Coast Zoo Making Improvements.” NWF Daily News, 20 Sept. 2019, nwfdailynews.com/story/news/2019/09/20/emerald-coast-zoo-working-on-improvements-asking-for-help/2687673007/