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Dave's Wild Life

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Being born the son of Jungle Larry™ & Safari Jane™ (Lawrence and Nancy Jane Tetzlaff) certainly built the foundation for David Tetzlaff’s wild life. As a child he petted his first python at six weeks of age, helped raise dozens of big cats, and by the age of 10 had already been to Africa twice. David is a 1981 graduate of Naples High School and abandoned college plans to focus on his passion of working with big cats. By his mid-20s he had created an act of 17 leopards, one of the largest ever. The Tetzlaff family began leasing the Naples Zoo land in 1969, back when you had to drive to Fort Myers to get a McDonald’s hamburger. For 25 years the Tetzlaffs split their time between the Naples operation and their animal facility inside Ohio’s sprawling Cedar Point Amusement Park. In 1994 they chose to devote their efforts full-time here in Naples. Since then the zoo has grown considerably, become a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and earned accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. These changes have brought considerable public support to the zoo. When development threatened the sale of the land in 2004, Collier County residents voted to purchase the land under the zoo, preserving the historic garden and the Tetzlaff family’s work for generations to come. No social media accounts; readers can reach me at