The Florida International Teaching Zoo(FITZ) traces its origins to The Marion Nature Park(MNP.) The Marion Nature Park was founded in 1989, at a Belleview, Florida Flea Market. The dubious founders of MNP started a regional wildlife 'Gator- Rattler ' attraction. (Like none ever existed in the Sunshine State) Dr. Mark Wilson, DVM was contracted to provide veterinary care to MNP. Through Dr. Wilson, breeding pairs of Florida Panthers, Jaguars, and a couple of tigers were added to MNP. Soon MNP became Dr. Wilson's responsibility. The Dubious MNP founders were “bought out” and MNP soon became a respected Zoological Institution. The Collection grew to over 300 animals of 60 plus species.(including a Big Giraffe.) MNP emphasized African patas monkeys, Ne'Ne' geese, Baird's Tapirs, and their signature species Black Jaguars. MNP became One of Three North American that successfully reproduced Black Jaguars.
In 1994, The Marion Nature Park joined forces with the Marion Community Technical Education Center to offer A Unique
Hands -On ,professionally instructed One Year Zoo Animal Management Program. The Zoo School program grew in respect and enrollment to become a premier zoological teaching institution.
MNP evolved into FITZ when it became a 501-C-3 Not for profit Tax exempt Corporation. Due to real estate concerns, Dr. Wilson, DVM discontinued FITZ operation in 2005 and semi- retired to Sumter County Florida and continued FITZ work with Patas Monkey colony reproduction,Jaguars, Ne'Ne' geese, and African Addax antelope.
After much haranguing by Professional Zoo Managers to revive FITZ/MNP's innovative Zoo School Program, The FITZ Board and Dr. Wilson, DVM constructed The Current Florida International Teaching Zoo in Bushnell, Florida.
Utilizing the modern zoo philosophy of Guided Interactive Public Tours in an Total Immersion Zoo Environment FITZ began the Training of The Next Generation of Professional Zoo Animal Care Givers. FITZ continues to specialize in endangered species that are GOOD Management ” TYPE” species for the zoo students' learning.
“If you can breed pit bulls, you can breed zoo lions and tigers” Dr. Wilson, DVM says “ But Jaguar reproduction in captivity is daunting. And Jags are smart, formidable, magnificent cats.” FITZ emphasizes Jaguars, Ne'Ne' geese, Broad Snout Caimen, Spotted Hyenas, and African Patas Monkey Colony Management while displaying rare endangered/ mammals, reptiles, and bird species in a 10,000 square foot Free Flight Future Aviary. Future FITZ areas will include Bongo and Addax Antelope and Rhino yards.
All this while FITZ Zoo Students Educate The Public and feed and clean and build and enrich and learn about THE FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL TEACHING ZOO'S Animal Charges.