Jungle Larry's African Safari / Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Tiger with Jungle Larry

Larry Tetzlaff and Bengal Tiger in Naples

During a trip in 1967, the Tetzlaff discovered Caribbean Gardens in Naples and dreamed of this subtropical jungle as a home for their animals. Unfortunately, the owner Julius Fleischmann was not interested in selling. The Tetzlaffs did not forget Naples, however, and, shortly after Fleischmann's death, the Tetzlaffs were contacted to see if they would exhibit their animals within the Gardens. They readily agreed.

Surveying the grounds, however, the Tetzlaffs then faced the challenge of carefully placing the exhibits around decades old exotic plants and trees. The magnificence of beautiful animals in such a garden proved well worth all the effort. On September 1, 1969, a wide range of the world's animals greeted the Gardens' guests for the first time.

Since that time, the tranquillity of the Gardens has inspired many successful breeding programs for some of the earth's most beautiful animals.

Zoo director Jack Hanna commented, "When you think of Jungle Larry, you think of a man and his family who literally dedicated their lives to exotic creatures of the earth." Although Larry Tetzlaff passed away in 1984, Nancy Jane Tetzlaff, their sons, and staff continued the vision of her late husband. Visitors can still see that vision today in presentations in the Safari Canyon Theater -- a technologically updated version of what Larry & Nancy did years ago with their films and live animals in schools. The concept for the new show was envisioned by their oldest son David Tetzlaff and the graphics and video were coordinated by youngest son Tim Tetzlaff.

Using all their parents taught them, sons David and Tim led the zoo through the arduous task of achieving accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the international organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare, safety, research, conservation, and education. Accreditation was first earned in 2001 and in all subsequent inspections in 2006 and 2011.

During this time, their Florida zoo flourished and became known as Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. Under the Tetzlaffs, the institution also became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. In 2005, the Tetzlaffs handed over governing authority to the Naples Zoo Board of Directors, who chose to retain the Tetzlaffs in their respective roles.

In 2006, Nancy Jane officially retired. In 2012, David made the difficult but rewarding choice to take on a new leadership role at the Central Florida Zoo, another accredited facility near Orlando. Carrying on the tradition in Naples, Tim continues to serve as Director of Conservation and Communcations. David and Tim still have the chance to work together as they both serve on the Field Conservation Committee for the AZA.

We invite you to visit and experience the programs in Naples where you Larry's early commitment to help people overcome their fear of snakes can still be seen today as visitors enjoy Jungle Larry™and Safari Jane's™ Snakes Alive! as well as seeing David's influence at Central Florida Zoo.

Building on its long history, Naples Zoo continues to support regional and international conservation field projects and participates in Species Survival Plans® for some of the world’s rarest animals – fulfilling the the dreams of a young boy from Michigan who loved animals and who taught millions of others to do the same.

We hope you've enjoyed learning a little more about our wild family and look forward to reading your favorite memories and seeing your photos.


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