Williston group raises funds to care for exotic wildlife
Ranch owner Patricia Zerbini, left, directs Luke, an Asian elephant, at Two Tails Ranch in Williston as he poses with David Diaz, 18. All About Elephants Inc. will hold a fundraiser at the ranch for Elephant Appreciation Day on Sept. 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By Kelsey Grentzer, Correspondent
Friday, September 14, 2012
After a day of meeting new people and showing off his skills, Luke is ready to call it a day. He makes his way to the barn door and waits patiently for someone to let him in.
Luke, a 12,000-pound Asian elephant, paints artwork for an audience and poses for pictures with visitors every day except for Thursday, his day off.
He is one of four elephants that will meet guests on Sept. 22 at Two Tails Ranch in Williston during Elephant Appreciation Day, the first fundraiser of its kind.
"He's a star in himself," said Patricia Zerbini, the owner of Two Tails Ranch.
The 27-year-old pachyderm has lived at Two Tails Ranch since 1987, when he was acquired as a 2-year-old from private owners who were housing him at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.
Alani McDeavitt, 4, feeds a carrot to Luke, an Asian elephant, at Two Tails Ranch in Williston on Sept. 8 while ranch owner Patricia Zerbini guides her. All About Elephants Inc. will hold a fundraiser at the ranch for Elephant Appreciation Day on Sept. 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Proceeds from the event will support the ranch and the care of its animals.
Zerbini said the average elephant at the facility consumes about 250 to 400 pounds of food each day.
Zerbini, who is the ninth generation in her family to work with exotic animals, said she opened the ranch to the public and started All About Elephants as a way to create better training and care management programs for elephants, and to educate people about the animals.
People often come to the ranch with misconceptions about animals in captivity, and assumptions that they are always better off in the wild, she said. But the elephant population in the wild is dwindling rapidly and elephants live longer in captivity, she said.
"As the human population continues to increase, there's less and less land mass for those animals," she said.