Birds, beasts & rum
It has finally happened: We are in crisis mode at Peace River Wildlife Center. While we rested comfortably on our laurels, the unthinkable occurred. We were dethroned as the number one thing to do in Punta Gorda on TripAdvisor, an honour we have held since time immemorial.
One of our astute board members was the first to notice we had slipped to number two, and immediately came up with a cunning plan to rectify this inconceivable situation. The plan? Telling someone else to “fix it.” As you wish, Buttercup.
Board members are a curious breed, somewhere between clowns and hyenas. They vacillate between entertaining their children and eating them. Their “children” are, of course, the staff members. I’m not picking on PRWC’s board specifically; it’s a common phenomenon in the non-profit world. I can only imagine how demanding (and occasionally delusional) the board’s commands must be in the for-profit world.
Who was responsible for this heinous act of deposition, you might ask? At the time of this writing, Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary is number two and Alligator Bay Distillers is number one. Both are worthy adversaries in the tourist attraction business—but allow me to explain why PRWC should remain your number one thing to do in Punta Gorda, or all of Charlotte County.
You definitely need to go see Octagon, but only after you have stopped by PRWC. They have large mammals the likes of which we don’t have room for here in Ponce de Leon Park. They do an amazing job of taking care of those poor animals that misguided souls thought they could keep as pets, only to realize somewhere down the road that a cute little tiger cub eventually turns into a big, ferocious tiger. (Who could have possibly seen that coming?)
Since they just had their annual open house with free admission for all, that may explain the sudden boost in the number of reviews. Not that they don’t deserve all the accolades they get, but I think we can shove then back down the list if we try harder.
But how can we compete with a rum distillery? They apparently give free samples of rum. There’s even a review that really makes it seem like the kids get free samples of rum also. I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but it just goes to show you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Except anything I tell you. That you can take to the bank. However, just like a check written on an old Snickers label, you can’t cash it.
So how do we defeat these considerable foes? We could put a lion in the pelican pond habitat to compete with Octagon, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t end well for the pelicans. And with no roof on the enclosure, it might not go too well for the people either. We could start handing out rum to every visitor like Alligator Bay, but I’m afraid the staff might get surly if they find out we are sharing their rum with the guests. Just kidding; we definitely don’t have a bottle of Captain Morgan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator in the office. Don’t look. It’s not there.
TripAdvisor ranks destinations based on reviews from people who have visited the locations. Both Octagon and PRWC have a few negative reviews. Many of those are from years ago, and the problems noted have been addressed. Some are from people who just didn’t realize what type of attraction they should have expected. I’ll be the first to admit we aren’t Disney World. Both PRWC and Octagon run organizations attempting to solve real-world problems caused by other people.
Alligator Bay has no bad reviews. Did I mention they give free rum to people? I promise not to say anything bad about them either if they send me some free rum.
PRWC is a small wildlife rehabilitation facility. Our primary goal is to treat injured, orphaned, and ill native Florida wildlife and get them back out into the wild where they belong. Our secondary goal of education is facilitated by the on-site displays with non-releasable patients, there to try to show people what these gorgeous birds look like up close, how they were injured, and what we can do to keep it from happening to others. We also have glove-trained birds that mingle with the public on the boardwalk and go out into the community during outreach events.
Located on less than half acre, PRWC has no room for the extensive habitats required for mammals. Our hope is that when the new facility is built, there will be room for at least a few of the smaller mammals. I’ve always been fond of elephants, but I may have to settle for a fox. Our docent and outreach volunteers do a wonderful job of explaining our mission and teaching others how to help the wildlife that we are increasingly displacing.
Sometimes we may forget what’s important. If we’re teaching people how to live in harmony with nature, that should be enough, right? Do we really need to be number one on TripAdvisor’s things to do list?
Yes, we do. We will embark on a mission to remind all our guests to review us after visiting like we used to. We got a little complacent for a while, but numbers one and two had better look out. We’re coming for you. And number three is not to be trifled with.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM