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Shell Factory celebrates 15 years of the Nature Park

By Staff | Jul 17, 2019

Years ago, the Shell Factory opened its Nature Park as a way to bring more people to the iconic attraction and to rescue animals that would likely have been destroyed otherwise.

Today, it is one of the most important parts of the Shell Factory’s existence, home to more than 400 animals from around the world.

This past weekend, the Shell Factory opened its gates to everyone to celebrate 15 years as a rescue and educational foundation.

From 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., visitors this past weekend got free admission, got to feed the animals that normally the public doesn’t get to feed, had “close encounters” with the animals, and enjoyed some birthday cake for themselves and the animals.

Much of the same is expected this weekend, with free admission to the Nature Park on Saturday and Sunday, and with a different lineup of animal feedings, including the gators.

Karen Schneider, nature park director since 2011, said this is a golden opportunity to see the place and what they’re about and hopefully collect some donations for the foundation.

“Little by little over the years since I’ve been here (2008) it started to become a rescue. We started noticing a need. People were calling with exotic animals they couldn’t place anymore in zoos because they can’t accept personal pets,” Schneider said.

Today, the nature park has more than 400 animals, many of them birds, especially parrots, but also some interesting mammals, too.

Schneider said that parrots and their like are the most common, again because owners don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they get one.

“Many of these birds live 80 or 90 years, and after a while, it gets to be that it’s not going to work out,” Schneider said.

Yaimarah Avila, of Lehigh Acres, came with her family for the first time and loved to see all the animals.

“I like this place. I would definitely go again. I like the cockatoos, they’re so adorable,” Avila said, not knowing that she will likely be able to see the same ones when she’s much older.

Nikki Lacasse, of Fort Myers, tried to speak through the screeching of the birds and said while they come to the Shell Factory often, she didn’t know this was going on.

“We come once every couple of months and we didn’t know this was happening. I love the birds and the baby skunk,” Lacasse said. “It’s a great place and what they do here is amazing.”

Rhyley Sandquist, who was with Lacasse and came from Arizona, liked what he saw from the Shell Factory in general, but especially the birds in the Nature Park.

There’s more to come.

All month kids can register free to win a field trip for an entire Lee County school class. Fundraisers will be held for rescue animals that have special dietary needs and habitats.

There will be raffle to win a Yeti cooler with “17 bottles of booze” a $599 value, ($30/ticket) and for a pair of Bayside Cruiser bikes ($20/ticket).

Also, for $100 you and a guest can schedule a private evening tour and a meet-and-greet with Sid and Sylvia the sloths.

The Shell Factory is at 16554 N Cleveland Ave., North Fort Myers.