MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. – An early morning fire on Thursday killed nearly all the animals at a wildlife center in Florida, officials said.
News outlets reported the fire broke out around 3 a.m. Thursday at the Alligator and Wildlife Discovery Center in Madeira Beach, near St. Petersburg on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“We suffered from a tragic fire last night. Nearly all of the animals are gone. We are devastated,” a post on the wildlife center’s Facebook page said.
Sonny Flynn, who owns the center, told WTSP that all of the mammals inside the building died and many of the reptiles were injured. Small mammals, lizards, amphibians, turtles and tortoises, fresh and saltwater marine life, and alligators were among the 250 animals at the center.
“They didn’t deserve this. This is my whole life,” Flynn said. “They all have names, they all have personality, I come in every morning and talk to them like Dr. Dolittle.”
Flynn said about 95% of the animals at the center were “pet surrenders because people didn’t know how to take care of them, or they weren’t able to take care of them.”
Madeira Beach Fire Department Fire Chief Clint Belk told news outlets that crews were met with heavy fire and smoke at the front of the building.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause.