ABOVE: Animal curator, Ken Purvee Jr., digs to retrieve eggs laid by the Sulcata tortoise eating the cactus.
Decades ago, they could never have known that their work breeding insects for scientific research would lead them down a path of exotic animal conservancy.
After years of rescuing and caring for a cross-section of reptiles and other animals, the Purvee family of Eustis formalized Crazy Critters Conservancy in 2018, Now the non-profit cares for over 300 turtles, tortoises and other animals.
Animals are brought to the Conservancy for a variety of reasons. Owners of exotic animals may find themselves unable to continue caring for their pets. Other animals may suffer from neglect, illness or injury. Also, healthy animals of invasive species are brought to the facility to prevent euthanization.
The care is not simple. Each species of turtle, for example, requires its different husbandry. Nature-like enclosures are provided for the animals, and newly received animals are quarantined. Some birds and reptiles live for over 75 years, so the Purvees’ commitment to the animals’ lifelong care required the younger generation of the family to get onboard.
ABOVE: This iguana, an invasive species, came to Crazy Critters as an adult.
In addition to 30 species of turtles, Crazy Critters serves as a forever home for a number of geckos, skinks, monitors, dragons, and birds. While only a few of the turtle species are endangered, 16 species of animals at the facility are considered at risk of becoming endangered due to international trade.
“A few species such as the Florida box turtle and Florida softshell turtle, are protected native species and for conservation strictly. We will always release the majority of those offspring in order to help the wild populations,” said Cherrice Purvee, president of Crazy Critters, Inc. Over 100 offspring have been hatched at Crazy Critters.
“We feel it is important for us to protect them to ensure that the next generation will be able to have them.” said Cherrice of about why they chose turtles as the focus of their animal conservancy. “The fact that they have been on earth for over 220 million years, yet so many are becoming extinct or near extinct, is something we can not ignore.”
ABOVE: Animals, like these African Sulcata tortoises, are kept in enclosures as close to natural settings as possible.
After selling all of their toys--boats, vintage cars, trailers---the Purvees used the proceeds to fund construction of a Crazy Plants Nursery greenhouse in 2017. To goal was to grow the exotic plants needed to feed the growing number of animals. Now the conservancy hosts plant sale fundraisers throughout the year to help fund the vet bills, daily care and enclosures the animals require. One local small business, Hometown Market in Eustis, helps by providing the facility steeply discounted produce and additional donations are always needed.
Crazy Critters Inc. does not provide tours to the public, but more information on the conservancy is available here. Sign up for the free Mount Dora Buzz' monthly updates here.For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, visit the area's websiteand download the area's free mobile app.