Ambassadors have played a priceless role in the communication and upkeep of good sentiments between nations and parties for centuries. You may be picturing a serious bespectacled man or a straight-skirted librarian type, but you’re probably not picturing anyone with four legs and fur.
That’s just who you’ll meet at the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Orlando: their “Educational Ambassadors” – a.k.a. exotic species that cannot be released back into the wild. The refuge devotes itself to the “rescue, raise, rehabilitation, and release” of Floridian wildlife, whether injured or orphaned, and those animals that can’t finish that last step instead become ambassadors to visitors. It’s the largest registered non-profit organization of its kind in Central Florida.
Current residents include Spencer the Arctic Fox, Spike the iguana, Kokomu the emu, lemurs Thumbelina and HoneyBear, bobcats Oliver and Jaggar, Nigel the squirrel, Mocha the deer, Zema the cougar, Winnie the Bald Eagle, Screech Owls Squinty and Wheems, Google the possum and Pudgy the raccoon.
If you’re passing through, consider bringing extra towels, sheets, blankets, t-shirts, bug repellent, shelled nuts, paper towels, bleach, wire, or wood to leave behind – they are always needed. A complete wishlist can be found here. If you feel inspired to help Jennifer the goat buy a hoof trimmer or some grain, you can do so here, or sponsor any of the above animals for $25.
You can book two weeks in advance and hire a group guide who will explain all about the wildlife mission ($5 per person, $50 minimum – it’s for the animals!) or just explore on your own. The BTN Wildlife Refuge is in East Orlando; its opening hours are Tuesdays through Sundays from 9am to 4pm. The 2nd Annual “Baby Squirrel Shower” will take place on July 30th. For more information, check out their newsletter. Want to stay longer? Volunteer!