By: Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service – FL
Listen to this story with Defenders’ Laurie Macdonald on the Public News Service.
TAMPA, Fla. – Living next to a state-owned park in Florida might lead its neighbors to expect they would be living next to native species. However, they might see more exotic critters if a bill passed on Friday by the Florida Legislature is signed into law.
HB 1117, known as the Jurassic Park Bill, would allow 16 state zoos and aquariums to lease state-owned land to conduct research on animals including giraffes, zebras and rhinos.
The bill’s supporters say it will help preserve endangered species in places such as Africa. However, Laurie MacDonald, Defenders of Wildlife’s Florida director, questions their reasoning.
“I am just astonished people who care about conservation of species on other continents would want to put non-natives on our public lands.”
MacDonald and other opponents of the bill say allowing the non-native animals will endanger other species and pose some property risks, as well as placing additional demands on the state’s wildlife resource employees at a time when funding is scarce.
Dave Sumpter, who heads the group Wildlands Conservation, is concerned that allowing exotic species to be housed on public lands also will disturb long-term plans to link the natural travel corridors for native species such as bears – or even lure native species into problem behaviors.
“If you have a block of land that’s got to be contained specifically to hold zebras, it also won’t allow for passing of our native species, like deer.”
The Jurassic Park Bill also allows for exotic, non-native birds. Sumpter notes the inability to contain winged animals means they’re likely to escape the designated habitat. Opponents also question why public lands should be available where private lands could be used instead.
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. Its text is online at flasenate.gov.