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Trio negotiating to buy, reopen Kissimmee's JungleLand Zoo

Trio negotiating to buy, reopen Kissimmee's JungleLand Zoo
The iconoic alligator is gone, but the long-closed JungleLand Zoo might have a new life. (ED SACKETT / ORLANDO SENTINEL)

A trio of animal exhibitors from Tennessee and New York are in negotiations to buy and reopen the former JungleLand Zoo on US 192 in Kissimmee.

The company, Jungle Habitat Preserve, is scheduled to close today on the nearly 7-acre tract next to the Gator Motel in the heart of the W192 tourism corridor.

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President Patrick Clancy is the founder and animal curator of Jungle Habitat Zoo, a traveling exotic animal show and large animal petting zoo that has exhibited at the Florida State Fair and at county fairs across the country. Vice President Greg Malvino, who is licensed in wildlife rehabilitation, and David Glickman discussed their vision with members of the W192 Development Authority Thursday.

"Our plan is to basically revitalize what JungleLand once was, but bring it up to date and make it more of an educational facility, and basically bring the people to the animals," Malvino said. "We want to really work with what's there and use the existing infrastructure, but make it more of a natural design. We don't want to make it a concrete type zoo - we want to continue with where other zoos are going and other educational facilities, making the environments for the animals more suitable, and really creating a healthy lifestyle for them."

Aerial photo of the animal habitats at JungleLand Zoo in 1997, after Nala the Lion escaped. The new owners want to install new, naturalistic habitats.
Aerial photo of the animal habitats at JungleLand Zoo in 1997, after Nala the Lion escaped. The new owners want to install new, naturalistic habitats. (ED SACKETT / ORLANDO SENTINEL)

"We really want to try to get involved with schools and community centers, but also take advantage of the international visitors," he continued.

The deal has been in the works for months. "I'm very, very excited about this," Authority Director David Buchheit said. "To me, this is a really cool project and it shows the direction the authority is going."

The Jungleland Zoo has been closed since 2002.
The Jungleland Zoo has been closed since 2002. (Laura Kinsler)

The original zoo attraction opened in 1977 and gained notoriety as the home of a 126-foot alligator sculpture. After a succession of ownership changes and worldwide publicity in 1997 when an adult lion escaped her enclosure, the zoo permanently closed in 2002 amid allegations of animal mistreatment.

The current owner demolished the iconic alligator in 2014.

Orlando Sentinel researchers Susan Thompson and Judith Padilla contributed to this report.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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