Adventure Travel Abroad

Adventure and Wildlife Hosted by the Shark Brothers – Episode 05

Adventure and Wildlife Hosted by the Shark Brothers – Episode 05


We are the shark brothers… and this is
Adventure and Wildlife! ♫ (strong intro music) ♫ We’ve always lived on the wild side, and that’s why we call this place home… The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island coast. In this series, we explore all the good nature found here, in Florida’s premier ecotourism
destination, where our best side…
is outside. ♫ Our family roots in Southwest Florida
span over four decades. And what drew us here in the first place, is what keeps us
here today: wild nature. We live on a tributary of the Myakka River– an ancient
waterway adjoining Charlotte Harbor the Peace River and Gulf of Mexico.
To better understand the vital role that water plays in the region’s ecology and
economy, we turn to our friend Betty Staulger. An agent with the Florida Sea Grant Marine Extension Program in Charlotte County. [Betty] We’re currently standing at Ponce de Leon Park overlooking Charlotte
Harbor we’re really right at the mouth of the Peace River where it joins with
Charlotte Harbor. One of the unique things about Charlotte Harbor is its
really multiple estuaries in one and so we have the Peace River estuary, the
upper Charlotte Harbor estuary, the Myakka River estuary. As we move west we have the Gasparilla estuary and Lemon Bay Estuary… and each of these have unique
characteristics and salinities and different fish species and sea grasses
and other coastal habitats. Here in the upper harbor we have much darker water. It’s generally referred to as brown… and that’s because of the natural tannins
that any plant matter produces as leaves and grass clippings fall into the water,
those tannins get released into the water and stain it brown. It’s not
dirty, it’s just tea colored. If you were to pick up a cup of water and look through it, you would notice that you can see through it quite well. As you move
south down through Charlotte Harbor and then west out towards the Gulf you’re
going to get much higher Gulf influence, much higher salinities, much bluer water.
Other important features are the mangroves that you see in the background.
These mangroves provide canopy for our nesting birds. They also have roots that
extend into the water and provide a lot of refuge for our important fish species
and crustaceans such as blue crab which is really important to our commercial
fishery here in Charlotte Harbor. Charlotte County’s economy is largely
driven by our aquatic resources. People come here for world-class fishing,
sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, bird-watching
and all of these activities require healthy water quality, healthy habitats
and a healthy fishery. In order to ensure the health of our aquatic environment
there are a number of water monitoring programs. Some of those are designed to
make sure our beaches are healthy, so they’re very specific to that resource.
Others are designed to really just give us a long-term picture of what the water
quality in Charlotte Harbor looks like. As part of maintaining good water
quality we also like to keep an eye on what’s happening with our habitats and
also our Fish and Wildlife. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are important to a healthy estuary UNLESS we see them in excess. Activities such as
fertilizing your yard or walking your dog and not picking up after it. Things
like some agricultural activities and failing septic systems when these
nutrients enter in excess it can lead to algae blooms and so that’s, you know, one
of the challenges that most estuary systems not only Charlotte Harbor but
worldwide are experiencing. Another coastal challenge that we face is just in general — pollution. Things like plastic in the environment that can get out into the water that that just doesn’t break down and it’ll get into
smaller and smaller pieces but it never actually leaves the system. Again not
unique to Charlotte County or Charlotte Harbor but certainly something that we
need to keep an eye on. Along the Southwest Florida coast we periodically experience red tide blooms. Red tide is a naturally occurring type of algae called a dinoflagellate. There’s many dinoflagellates worldwide. This particular one that causes our red tide is toxic. Red tide forms offshore about ten to forty miles in nutrient-poor waters and what causes it to bloom scientists still aren’t quite sure, but once it does bloom
the winds and currents bring it to our coastal… our near shore waters and at
that point it interacts with the nutrients that we provide to the
estuaries and if we provide nutrients and excess, it can cause that
bloom to intensify and to stick around much longer than we’d like to see it
here. What are the unique things about Charlotte Harbor is that almost 80% of
the shoreline is in permanent preservation as part of the Charlotte
Harbor preserves State Park. This land was purchased by the state of Florida as a buffer between what’s happening on the land and the aquatic resources below it.
These buffer preserves allow water to slowly make their way to Charlotte
Harbor and in the process nutrients and other pollutants can be filtered out
before it reaches the open waters. They also, for us as users of the resource,
they provide us with this beautiful mangrove system to look at and to enjoy
so we don’t see these high rises and lots of homes and stuff when we’re out
on the water… we see this wonderful natural and wild environment and it’s
one of the things that really makes us special I think in in the state of
Florida. [Brooks] Just a few miles from the coast east of downtown Punta Gorda a rural environment unfolds. In this conservation spotlight
segment, Eva and Chris Worden share how their passion for agriculture and
education planted the seeds for this place where locally grown organic
vegetables bring the community closer together. [Eva] Community supported agriculture
is a fabulous way to ensure a food supply for a local community. Members of
a community supported agriculture farm prepay for the growing season and that
provides the farmers with working capital that’s required as basically
seed money for that season’s crop. And when the farmer has that stability of
knowing that they have the necessary capital they can make more wise
stewardship decisions. By having members of the farm we also can have lots of
exciting educational and entertaining opportunities at our property and the
farm becomes like a center for the community. When you come to our farm on a Wednesday afternoon, you get to see all different kinds of people who share the
common interest in healthy eating and in providing great food for their families
and friends. And we have events at the farm that are food based– we’ve had some
wonderful brunches, we do workshops, tours… and all of that is possible because of
the support provided by the members. Here at the farm we grow over 50 different
kinds of vegetables and we grow many different varieties of each type of
vegetable. We have three different membership options. You can either be a
member here at the farm, at the organic farm stand in Punta Gorda. We also have
the organic veggie box membership and we deliver boxes all the way from Naples up
through St. Pete. We have a third membership option which is our farmers
market membership and that is either at Sarasota or St.
Petersburg. For us it’s really enjoyable to see these families who have a long
term relationship with the farm and we also really love to meet new people and
bring them into the fold Chris and I are basically educators we
both have doctorates and mine is in ecosystem management his is in crop
science and plant nutrition I was a professor of horticulture at University
of Florida before starting this farm and Chris also taught there and we have
really been educating the whole time we’ve had this farm this will be our sixteenth season in
Punta Gorda we farm on about 55 acres of cropland the farm in total is about 85
acres we start our greenhouses and the end of the summer and we go all the way
through the winter and into May and then usually June first we’re all wrapped up
summer times are very important you know it’s a period of fallow for the crop
production we do cover crops sometimes we’ll do a legume mixed with a grass
like a Sudan grass or sorghum and then we would grow that that cover crop and
manage it through the summer to achieve you know good growth a lot of biomass so
pretty much we have a plant or a crop growing year-round on land so it’s not
sitting open to the elements you know the rain and the intense sunlight so
that that’s part of our management strategy you know that the beneficial
habitat that we create at the farm level is critical for our production system
that that really allows us to have the organic crops we rely on that more than
than anything else in our ecosystem my type of day is trying to keep everyone
going and you know in an active role I usually do a lot of the cultivation with
the tractors and some of the initial fields set up and then I’ll run some of
the irrigation systems but once we hit our production season every day has a
given task and it pretty much rolls you know it stays that way until you know
the end of May we’re always trying to improve on our irrigation methods you
know really focusing on conserving water you know as we apply it to crops it’s
come a long ways and in the controls and you know just the rate of application
and you know everything very precise you know it’s right to the plant you know
very little waste and that’s that’s that’s great you know we try to conserve
the water wherever we can and that’s based on you know the whole system
approach to things a lot of it comes from both myself and Eva being you know
hands-on and having a very good crew and our members our farm members are part of
the farm ecosystem if you will you know they support us and we provide you know
good product to them we also work with number of chefs in the area in Charlotte
County there’s the River City Grill and then
also the wyvern both of the Maine chefs there they come to the farm on
Wednesdays that pick up their vegetables and then also the vote Tech Center in
Charlotte County we have them come out to the farm and and now also at times
have vegetables that they you know from the farm that they work with over at
their at their campus Charlotte candy Florida is known for the
beautiful coast of the Gulf Islands the tarpon fishing the crabs the wonderful
beaches but there’s also this interior landscape that is so rich and diverse
and interesting our farm is located just across the street from the Babcock Webb
Wildlife Management Area which is almost 80 thousand acres of protected land and
we’re just a mile from shell Creek which is the source of water for the city of
Punta Gorda it’s a beautiful pristine waterway like
old Florida we steward the land so that we are part of the ecosystem but in a
way that is fitting in with the natural environment rather than opposed to it Charlotte County’s diverse natural
habitats are alive with animals of all shapes and sizes including some that
might surprise you lions tigers and bears are but a few of the animals that
inhabit the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Punta Gorda while it is open to the
public it’s not a zoo established in the 1970s to rescue and rehabilitate
abandoned and abused exotic animals it is a retirement and nursing home
residents here live a nurtured and peaceful existence thanks to director
Lorri Corona and her dedicated staff of volunteers and supporters Lorri we’re
here with bream e and we were fortunate enough not too long ago to help you all
move her to this new enclosure now I remember you telling us she was brought
here with her brother after the previous owner got sick yeah and sometimes people
don’t realize when siblings come in they tend to get a little aggressive with one
another and then you have to make that decision to separate them you know they
tend to adjust very well with that you know and have no problem
that’s funny cuz when we got her in here it wasn’t only but a couple minutes and
she was in her pool and you know and then we were we had the pleasure feeding
her and so I mean she seems like she’s adapted a really well yeah she really is
having a good time now at any given time how many animals would you have here
I’ve been trying to count as I go around but how many do you have you’re on site
generally around 150 and that’s including birds that we get in and also
our goats and we have all our big cats or our bears or
Lyonne exactly it can change at any moment how important is it to have the
public come out and have their support view it’s very important I mean the
support is overwhelming there’s some really amazing people we have met if it
wasn’t for them I mean this place probably wouldn’t exist at times I have
to say it is hard to be open to the public because you get a lot that don’t
understand what we are truly about and that’s the hard thing is to educate them
properly what their understanding of what we do out here we read the mission
statement of the Octagon in part it says to provide a recovery and a living
environment for abandoned and abused exotic wildlife species the recovery
part of that really struck us because animals come here with different
physical and mental issues from their from their previous owners what are some
of the things that you see when when animals arrive here when they’re
fortunate enough to arrive in I appreciate that every single animal out
here has a story whether they have been not given the proper nutrition when they
were younger and then they get here and it’s up to us to try to catch up we have
a tiger that was given a bottle for the first part of his life they did not
provide him the proper protein that he needed to grow and so his bone
structures are out of balance his digestion is out of balance so he
has a very special diet we have animals that if you even walk past with a rake
and shovel which we do around here where we’re cleaning and a lot of times they
will panic and hide and get into a corner you are trying to show them that
they’re not going to be hit with those so this is almost like in humans you
hear the term PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder why wouldn’t an animal
experience the same triggers yeah memories from bad experiences before
arriving here absolutely and they all have it and it’s just a matter of
adjusting every single animal to whatever their needs are just like you
know you have some that have eye issues you have some again I have hearing
issues mainly a lot of them have teeth issues so you know you have to adjust to
make whatever it is you can do for them to make it comfortable and then they’re
not nervous or agitated you don’t get any
state or federal funding at all right well strictly donations what you get
everything is donations generally it runs us anywhere from eight eight
thousand to ten thousand a month and that’s food medical supplies veterinary
care obviously just all-around operational expenses when it comes down
to that’s what it takes if you can speak to some of your supporters and
organizations that really help you keep this going oh my gosh and again if it
wasn’t for them there’s this I mean they have been a blessing to us all these
organizations we have Harry Chapin Food Bank that have been delivering me out to
us every week for probably 15 plus years last year we were told we fed out ninety
three thousand pounds of food meats alone yeah just meat alone and one year
and you know we get our produce from Target
that’s all food that’s not human consumable so Cheney Brothers has been
donating for about a year or two now and then we have winn-dixie off of Bay Shore
North Fort Myers that’s been donating every day for probably 25 years or so or
the founder of the Octagon Picaro your late husband yeah what do
you think inspired him to start all this Wow
Pete was always involved with animals one way or another whether it be working
on a farm there was a place in northern Florida that actually had exotic animals
that he learned a lot from as well said you know what there’s a need for this so
let’s go that direction and help animals and you found this place and became a
volunteer and that’s how you discovered octagon and met Peter right exactly
back about 27 years ago as a matter of fact I stepped in through the front
gates and I never looked back now it doesn’t take you long when you’re
walking around here I’m right there a nice shot right here and I shot your
volunteers it was how important are they to keeping this place together and up
and running oh my gosh I tell you they again a blessing because you figure a
lot of our volunteers all have full-time
jobs most of them are going to school and then have families to get home to as
well so a lot of my volunteers have been with me 10 15 20 25 years yeah really is
and this place wouldn’t exist without their dedication they’re not doing for
anything other than these animals do you find yourself getting emotionally
attached to these animals is this something that you maybe try to avoid or
is it just impossible to do that you try you get that attachment when you’ve
taken care of them so long that there’s that connection you have a job but then
I try to put up these walls too that I have to because when it comes time to
make in that decision that’s the worst part of my job here I know is when you
finally came talk to your vet and say okay it’s time and then then then we
have to euthanize you don’t talk for a couple days afterward it’s just that
eats you up inside you know but then you the other part is saying okay it’s
opening up another place for another animal that might need your help it’s
kind of ironic when you think about it because it’s all about quality of life
that’s what this place is all about exactly quality of their life and when
it comes to that point that’s probably one of the most important quality of
life decisions that you can make I’ll be a tough one
mm-hmm I mean I’ve had some heartbreaking times where you know it’s
just you don’t get over it no you don’t that’s what makes it real what’d you do
my family doesn’t understand it but it’s okay are you my octagon does yeah my
octagon family does you know you just have to wonder it so I want to ask what
is it that keeps you going the volunteers and how much this place means
to them and they care that they provide sometimes it’s families to see them how
much they enjoy this place and they get so much out of it and that just gives
you that extra boost with the animals you know by far it says walking out and
walking around and the animals recognizing you and giving you that
peace that look of peace and you know their way of saying thank you for taking
a chance and putting everything you can into keeping us going and you know you
just you sense it about them and I just step to the end we thank you for joining us and thanks
to all our special guests for sharing their knowledge and know-how to explore
our good nature log on to pure florida.com for all the
information you need to plan your getaway from the Charlotte Harbor Golf
Island coast we are the shark rose until next time
keep it wild you


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *