Collier County animal preserve struggles during coronavirus pandemic

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jackie Winchester
Credit: WINK News

A Collier County animal preserve is taking a hit because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kowiachobee Animal Preserve is home to dozens of animals, and like many non-profits, the sanctuary survives on donations, less of which are coming in now.

Its owners are even having a hard time finding supplies for some of their animals.

Dozens of unique and exotic animals live in the preserve on the outskirts of Collier County.

“It’s become a little bit of an isolated community,” said owner Jonathan Slaby.

Volunteers are noticeably absent, “because the colleges have got shut down, that also means we have less help.”

Slaby said the coronavirus also makes it more difficult to get supplies.

“We go through a lot of bleach and a lot of soap,” he said.

Food for the big cats is also harder to come by. Some weigh more than 400 pounds.

“Tigers eat anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds a day,” Slaby said.

“I’m actually having to go out and buy meat on a weekly basis … before I’d just have to go buy meat once or twice a year.”

The pandemic has forced the preserve to close, canceling events and educational showings.

“It’s all about preserving wildlife, educating the public, because animals are disappearing everywhere across the planet,” said Jim Nesci with the preserve.

Slaby said he worries about bouncing back from having to shut down, a real concern for any non-profit.

“How do you generate business when no one can afford to do any business?”

But Slaby said the animals will be fine together as we wait for normalcy to return.

Even though a tiger at the Bronx Zoo test positive for COVID-19, Slaby said he’s not worried for his animals, as they’ve had limited contact with people.

For more information on Kowiachobee Animal Preserve or to make a donation, click here.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.