Just a short drive from Riverview is a sanctuary where a number of exotic animals make their home.
Elmira's Wildlife Sanctuary, located at 13910 Seminole Trail in Wimauma, is a nonprofit corporation devoted to providing loving care, life management and enrichment to exotic and wild animals in need of a home.
Within the sanctuary, visitors can meet Juno, the gray wolf, Elmo, the brown lemur, Boris and Ginger, a duo of Spanish lynx and the most endangered cat in the world, as well as a menagerie of cougars, tigers, bears, leopards, bobcats, lions and bears.
Emira's Wildlife Sanctuary, which located to Wimauma in 2008, is supported solely by members and private contributions. There are no paid employees. It's staffed entirely by volunteers like Edie Nagele who said she took one look at the sanctuary's white tigers and was promptly hooked.
"I've been a volunteer now for almost six years," said Nagele. "It's such a beautiful place and these animals are so gorgeous."
This past year the sanctuary grew to include four more bears, a cougar, and eight tigers (including twin cubs, Cort and Lexi) that were displaced from a sanctuary closed down by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.
Most of the animals come from other sanctuaries, which have to close due to financial or legal reasons, or simply have too many animals.
In addition to caring for these exotic animals, the sanctuary provides educational opportunities to increase community awareness of these animals' needs.
The sanctuary offers tours every Saturday at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tours are $15 for adults, $7.50 for children up to 12 years old and $10 for senior citizens 65 and up. Private tours are available for $50 and group tours are offered for groups of 10 or more for $10 per person.
In addition, kids can have birthday parties at the sanctuary. A party with the child's favorite animal cake and a private tour costs $27.50 per child with a minimum of 10 children.
Memberships in the sanctuary are offered as well beginning at $25.
The sanctuary is always looking for good volunteers to help out with the animals.
To reach the sanctuary, take U.S 301 south of Sun City Center. Take a right on River Road south of Little Manatee River State Park, and then take the second right to reach Seminole Trail.
For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-776-8975.