Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cool zoo. Who knew?

GAINESVILLE — Tucked away on the campus of Santa Fe Community College is a place where people can not only learn about animals but learn from them.

At the Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo, visitors are treated to the sight of about 70 species from the most remote corners of the earth, including African leopard tortoises, South American guanacos (similar to llamas) and Matschie's tree kangaroos from New Guinea.

"The focus here is a little bit different," said Jack Brown, who teaches zoo animal technology and has served as zoo director since 1985. "We try to provide an atmosphere that people aren't likely to find anywhere else."

As the name implies, the zoo functions as a hands-on learning center for young people eyeing a career in the business. The 110 student workers from the zoo animal technology program do everything from conducting guided tours to cleaning cages.

"One of the first things they learn is that it's often very hard work that has little glamor to it," Brown said. "But if they are dedicated, there are plenty of personal rewards to be had."

Visitors to the sprawling 10-acre nature center will find plenty of rewards as well.

About three-quarters of the species inhabiting the zoo can be found only in the most elite U.S. zoos. Some animals, like the Perdido Key beach mouse and the Matschie's tree kangaroo, are rarely seen in the wild.

Youngsters will certainly enjoy many of the zoo's features, including up-close interaction with ocelots by way of a special glass viewing area designed into the animals' habitat.

Another popular tour stop is the reptile house, which contains several species of snakes and tortoises and even a couple of poison arrow frogs from Costa Rica.

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

If you go

The Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo is on the college's northwest campus at 3000 NW 83rd St. in Gainesville. The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. except Halloween Eve, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and during semester breaks. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children 4-12 and seniors. Weekday visits require a guided tour, which must be scheduled three days in advance. Call Anita Courtot at (352) 395-5601 or e-mail On Saturdays and Sundays, no reservations are needed; tours are conducted about every 30 minutes. For information, call (352) 395-5604.

Cool zoo. Who knew? 06/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 6:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida TaxWatch calls out $180 million of questionable spending in state budget


    Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee thinktank, has released its annual "budget turkey" list that calls on Gov. Rick Scott to veto nearly $180 million in special projects tucked into the budget, mostly in transportation.

    Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch's vice president for research, presents the organization's 2017 turkey list.
  2. U.S. plans first test of ICBM intercept, with North Korea on mind


    WASHINGTON — Preparing for North Korea's growing threat, the Pentagon will try to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile for the first time in a test next week. The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S. homeland, officials said Friday

    n this May 21 file photo people watch a TV news program showing a file image of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. With North Korea's nuclear missile threat in mind, the Pentagon is planning a missile defense test next week that for the first time will target an intercontinental-range missile.
  3. A breakdown of the proposed new state budget by the Florida Association of Counties.
  4. Gradebook podcast: Budgets, pre-k, achievement gap and more


    As classes let out across Florida, school district leaders continue to analyze how they're going to balance their budgets given the constraints proposed by state lawmakers.  Reporter Jeff Solochek and editor Tom Tobin discuss the concerns district finance officials are raising as they look at the budget while …

  5. Boehner: Trump's term 'disaster,' aside from foreign affairs


    WASHINGTON — Former House Speaker John Boehner says that aside from international affairs and foreign policy, President Donald Trump's time in office has so far been a "complete disaster."

    John Boehner said he's been friends with Trump for 15 years, but still has a hard time envisioning him as president.