Rhinos, © Guy Standen

Win for Wildlife! Gov. Scott Vetoes Florida’s “Jurassic Park” Bill


Which is worse: an elephant in the room or rhino in the backyard? Thanks to a move by Florida Governor Rick Scott, residents of the Sunshine State won’t have to find out–at least for now. He put an end to the state’s controversial “Jurassic Park” bill on Friday, vetoing the piece of legislation that would have allowed state zoos and aquariums to lease state-owned land to conduct breeding and research on animals including giraffes, zebras and rhinos.

While rejecting HB 1117,, Gov. Scott wrote that it “lacks sufficient safeguards” to “ensure the protection of state … lands, native species and habitats.” That’s a message Defenders has been delivering to Tallahassee ever since the Florida Legislature sent the measure to Gov. Scott’s desk in March. Evidence shows that exotic animals and plants can cause serious costly damage to our public lands, and present an array of serious problems including the escape of animals, the spread of nonnative seed from feed, and potential spread of disease.

Florida ecosystems and native wildlife are already at risk from exotic species run wild. And as America saw last fall in Ohio, escaped animals may even pose a threat to people and property.

Defenders’ Laurie Macdonald said of the bill’s rejection, “Gov. Scott’s veto signals a commitment to protecting the natural Florida we all know and love. Now our public land managers can concentrate on fulfilling their mission of protecting and restoring native wildlife and habitat—without fear of an angry rhino stomping on  those plans.”

Florida panther, courtesy of USFWS

Animals like the Florida panther depend on the state’s public lands for survival.

This victory comes with a caveat – technically the state already has the authority to lease lands out to this purpose. But as Laurie warned the Tampa Bay Times, “We will be watching very closely any applications for this use.”


Thanks go out to the thousands of Defenders supporters wrote to Gov. Scott asking him to veto this misguided bill. Your efforts help protect the native wildlife that makes Florida such a unique and special place!

Learn more about how we’re working to protect Florida wildlife and habitats.