The group, consisting of five students from an FGCU Civic Engagement course, will be building a new cage that will be home to between six to 10 extremely endangered yellow napes Amazon parrots. They hope that the new cage will help restore a piece of Florida history.
“I’m a big environmental enthusiast, but it’s more about the Wonder Gardens than just the birds,” said senior Environmental Studies major, Nico Klabunde. “It’s a historical landmark set in downtown Bonita Springs. It’s got a great Floridian history. All the animals there are endangered or being rehabilitated. It’s not just about the birds, it’s about improving the park as a whole. The birds are just one step toward bringing it back to its former roadside attraction glory.”
A historical roadside attraction established in 1936, the Everglades Wonder Gardens used to be a sanctuary for wildlife, ranging from Florida panthers to exotic birds. After a brief period of inactivity due to the sanctuary’s overcrowding and underfunding, the attraction is back open after being purchased by photographer John Brady in 2013.
Klabunde is joined by FGCU students Connor Flanagan, Amanda Shawless and Cecillia Paana, who all hope to keep the project alive after the cage is complete.
“We’re clearing the area, acquiring the materials, then actually building the cage for these birds,” said senior Connor Flanagan, “but it’s about more than that. This is a piece of Florida history, it’s educational and it’s a cool place. We want to help preserve it.”
The group estimates that the new cage to be done by mid-August and hopes that the new cage will help the parrots act as ambassadors for their species.
“About 90 percent of the birds’ wild population has been wiped out in the past 10 years or so,” Klabunde said. “We’re trying to set these birds in a safe area so they can act as ambassadors for their species so people know just how quickly their population levels are dropping.”
The group estimates the new cage to be done by mid-August.
“It’s wonderful for us to have FGCU students here working alongside our staff,” said Executive Director of the Everglades Wonder Gardens, Janet Martin. “The new parrot enclosure is the second large new project, following the expansion of the alligator habitat earlier this month.”
The Everglades Wonder Gardens is located off of Old Highway 41 in Bonita Springs and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.