As many of our readers have probably gathered from viewing our blog entries, our daughter Emily is an enthusiastic animal lover. We choose to encourage her interest in wildlife by exposing her to animal encounters at reputable facilities that house wildlife. One of the most unforgettable encounters Emily has been able to experience was at Two Tails Ranch in Williston, Florida. This unique sanctuary is a must-see destination for elephant lovers and those who are concerned about elephant conservation.

Sanctuary for Elephants
Founded in 1984 by Theodore Svertesky and Patricia L. Zerbini, the ranch is a privately-owned facility that has provided either permanent or temporary shelter to over 250 elephants throughout the years. Some were rescued from abusive situations. Others were in need of a place to stay while their exhibits at other facilities were being renovated. Others needed help with behavior, physical problems, or simply needed a peaceful retirement home. Some even came to the ranch to escape natural disasters, such as hurricanes. All are met with open arms by the caring staff. They’re in an ideal climate since it’s similar to the countries where these species originate. The live oaks, green grass, and wildlife provide a serene setting in which the elephants can thrive.

Tour of an Elephant Ranch
Patricia Zerbini began the facility’s educational programs, All About Elephants, Inc., in 2008. The private tours offered through this group are spectacular. We signed Emily up for her elephant encounter in advance (reservation is mandatory). If you’d like to experience an elephant encounter, contact the ranch prior to visiting.

Learning about Elephants
The experience took over two hours, complete with an informational presentation explaining fascinating facts about elephants, as well as letting participants know current news about elephants around the world.

An Elephant that Paints
Included in the tour is an amazing opportunity to watch an elephant paint a picture! The elephant who painted during Emily’s encounter painted in beautiful shades of purple.

Meeting an Asian Elephant
If you’re involved in this special encounter, you’ll also be able to have your picture taken sitting on an elephant’s leg, hand feed an elephant, and top it off with an elephant ride. When Emily was posing for her picture with an Asian elephant, his large ear swayed back and forth, bopping her in the head and causing her to giggle. It was a magically memorable moment!

Feeding Elephants a Healthy Snack

Aside from Emily’s personal time with the elephant, our whole family was able to get in on the action. We were each able to feed an elephant carrots. When we held out a carrot to an elephant, he would reach down with his trunk and take it right from our hands! What an incredible feeling it was to interact so closely with such an intelligent, gentle, and magnificent being.

More than Elephants at the Ranch
Patricia then proceeded to take our group on a tour of the rest of the ranch. we were able to see and learn more about the other exotic animals at the ranch. We enjoyed learning about the emu, ostrich, zebras, camel, and tortoises that live at the facility.

Asian Elephants: An Endangered Species
We felt honored to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience to interact with an endangered species. Under current US laws, breeding of elephants here is illegal. In their native lands, elephants are still being hunted for their ivory, and human settlements are encroaching on their natural habitats. We were thankful to be able to help those who are working to spread awareness and care for these amazing creatures. For anyone seeking to learn more in-depth information about elephants or have an up-close elephant encounter, I would highly recommend a visit to Two Tails Ranch. Check out the link to discover ways you can support the ranch.

What: Two Tails Ranch
Where: 18655 NE 81st St, Williston, FL 32696
Cost: Admission to the ranch is $10.00 for those ages 2-9, $20 for those aged 10+, and free for those under age two.
Animal Encounter Costs: Hand feedings cost $5 and photo opportunities are $25 per person. An extreme elephant encounter is $200 per person.