Freddy the alligator is having a moment. The oldest resident of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is clearly enjoying his expansive swamp home at Busch’s new facility, which opened last month. Freddy, who has been a resident of the sanctuary for the past 40 years, has never had a home quite like this.
“We have nearly tripled our size,” says executive director Amy Kight. “We now have 5 acres just for rehab and 10 acres for education. We have the ability to educate more people and help more animals in need.”
The new facility—formally named Busch Wildlife Sanctuary at Abramson & Schlaggar Reserve—sits on 19.4 acres on Rocky Pines Road in Jupiter Farms. Purchased in 2021, the property was finally ready for occupancy in September, as sanctuary staff began moving its 200 resident animals into their new, expanded habitats. The property not only provides plenty of room for the animals, but it also houses a spacious welcome and environmental education center, an education amphitheater, and a (much larger) rehabilitation complex where animals receive medical treatment and rehabilitative care.
Busch Wildlife Sanctuary was founded in 1983 with the mission to “rescue, rehab, release, and educate.” Last year, the sanctuary provided free medical and rehabilitative care to more than 5,000 injured wild animals and conducted over 1,000 educational programs on its 6 acres of land off Central Boulevard, where it had been housed since inception. Now, with three times the space at the new site, the potential to expand everything from medical care for more animals to community programs and partnerships, has grown exponentially.
While Kight is thrilled to see the vision for the new facility finally come to life, the path to completion wasn’t always smooth. “From permitting to trying to get money, at times we had what seemed like insurmountable challenges,” she says. “This project really should have died many times, and it was the community who saved it.”
She points to a majestic oak tree on-site as an example. The property, which had been bulldozed prior to construction, needed landscaping to provide shade for the animals as well as improved aesthetics for visitors. The cost of that one oak tree, says Kight, was $10,000. So she launched the “Jupiter Farms Challenge,” a local donation drive, to raise money for the tree. And the community responded. Says Kight: “Homes all over Jupiter Farms had yard signs that read ‘I donated to Busch Wildlife.’ We wanted to raise enough money for one oak tree, and we raised enough to buy four.”
Surprisingly, Kight says relocating the animals was the least challenging part of the move: “We’ve been training our animals on moving for years in case of things like hurricanes.” Smaller animals were moved in cages, while the larger ones like bears and panthers were given a sedative so they could be transported at night while asleep, when the roads were empty, so as not to disturb them—or startle passersby. “Nobody wants to be on the road when a black bear wakes up in the back of truck,” Kight says with a laugh.
Visit the new Busch Wildlife Sanctuary seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 17855 Rocky Pines Road, Jupiter Farms; buschwildlife.org; 561.575.3399