The nonprofit Wonder Gardens is launching the Robert & Deborah Blain Otter Grotto, marking the return of otters to its family of rescued animals.
“This $250,000 otter exhibit will be a children’s playground, within a stateof the-art otter habitat. We are overjoyed to welcome rescued otters to the Wonder Gardens, and we are so grateful to Bob and Deb Blain for making this possible,” said David Rahahe-tih Webb, president and C.E.O of the Wonder Gardens.
The exhibit will feature a clear acrylic tunnel and a play-cave for children to explore, while otters play and swim around guests. Clear viewing domes will allow children and adults to interact with the otters through the cave-walls. The cave will be wheelchair accessible. The spacious and interactive exhibit will have no caging, but instead will be made of see-through acrylic across the entire front. The water level will be above ground, enabling visitors to see the otters’ natural behaviors. The sides and back of the exhibit will be naturalistic rockwork with otter slides, waterfalls and plantings.
“This is really exciting for us, as the exhibit will put the Wonder Gardens on the map and add much-needed free-play opportunities for children here,” said Mr. Webb.
Otters, which are among the most popular animals with zoo and aquarium goers, were historically part of the Wonder Gardens, but have been absent for several years. As the charitable organization works toward professional accreditation, animal welfare has become the top priority, and the openair exhibit will house up to three rescued and non-releasable American river otters. Pending permitting, the exhibit is expected to open to the public this fall.
The Wonder Gardens has seen an historic month of March, with nearly half a million dollars in revenue. Under the leadership of Mr. Webb and its Board of Directors, the Wonder Gardens is undergoing a period of unprecedented growth in spite of the pandemic, which forced it to cancel its annual fundraiser. With record-setting visitation and revenue, the Wonder Gardens is focusing on beautification of the 85-year-old site, while improving the guest experience, operations and animal care.
The Wonder Gardens is a charitable zoological park and botanical garden and is home to rescued birds and reptiles nestled among the sprawling banyan trees and plantings. While preserving the best of this site’s history, the nonprofit is caring for more than 300 resident animals, upgrading wildlife enclosures, growing the botanical beauty of the property, delivering education programs and events and engaging the community to enjoy this jewel in historic downtown Bonita Springs. The educational value of the site is important in that it tells a story about other area’s environment and unique wildlife.
Located at 27180 Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs, Wonder Gardens stands as one of the few remaining cornerstones of Old Florida, an enduring symbol of the history of the region, as well as a resource for learning about the environment and wildlife. For more information, call 239-992-2591 or visit www.wondergardens.org. ¦