PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Iguanaland in Punta Gorda, home to over 1,000 reptiles, is the culmination of Ty Park’s advocacy for reptiles.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida on a Tankful: Iguanaland in Punta Gorda with a mission of education, conservation and research 

  • Over 250 species of reptiles, including critically endangered tortoises and iguanas

  • Opened in 2022 on a 12-acre site, currently utilizing 7 acres

  • Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., offers animal encounters and V.I.P. tours

“So I fell in love with reptiles because my dad gave me a little baby turtle when I was six years old,” Park said. “And since then, I’ve always had reptiles in my life.”

Like Donkey Kong, the Rhinoceros Iguana.

“He’s my dog actually,” said Park. “He used to live at the house with me.”

Park said they’ve watched TV together and shared popcorn now and then.

That was before Iguanaland opened in 2022.

Now, Donkey Kong hangs out there with the care of handler Joe Pace.

Reptiles are Pace’s passion.

“I think they’re just misunderstood, you know?” said Pace.

Pace wants people to see what he sees — a life worth celebrating.

Animal ambassadors like Ali, the Aldabra tortoise, who is 38 years old and 300 pounds. She’ll top out at 300 pounds and can live to 100.

“She’s not intimidating in the slightest. She thinks everything is food, though, so let’s go ahead and get you.”

Lead educator Anna Meyer is with the critically endangered radiated tortoises.

“Unfortunately, because they are so beautiful — you can see these stripes. This species is heavily poached for their shells,” she said.

The radiated tortoises live at Iguanaland with their Madagascar neighbors, the nearly full-grown spider tortoises, which are also critically endangered.

“So we are hoping to be able to help them reproduce,” said Meyer.

The Anegada Rock Iguana is in an even worse situation — with only 300 left in the world.

“There are only 10 of them in the USA, and we have five of them here,” she said.

Park said he welcomes the pressure to save them. He said once you love something you want to protect.