by The Editors | May 23, 2024

The Wild Ways of Florida

Dive into these nine stories about Florida's wildlife, conservation efforts and change makers.


From panther kittens and oyster farms to stolen beehives and hijacked spring water, Flamingo has rounded up nine stories about the Sunshine State’s natural beauty and the fight to preserve it. Meet Florida’s environmental change makers, such as Everglades guardian Captain Benny Blanco, great ape sanctuary founder Patti Ragan, photographer and explorer Carlton Ward Jr. and a few Southern ladies looking to let loose—by hunting invasive Burmese pythons.

A Kitten Encounter

Follow wildlife photographer Carlton Ward Jr. as he treks the Florida backcountry in search of the illusive Florida panther. With support from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Ward tracks and photographs panthers in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of the endangered species as well as to the importance of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Read Ward’s field notes about this image and how he and a team of veterinarians came across a litter of panther kittens and carried them back to their den.

The Fight for Florida’s Coral Reefs

At the nation’s largest caretaker of rescued corals, the Florida Coral Rescue Center, organizations have united in an effort to preserve what remains of the state’s coral reefs. With corals dying at rapid rates due to rising water temperatures, biologists are cultivating the organisms in captivity while researchers are racing for a cure against stony coral tissue loss disease. Learn why these colorful species are vital for the survival of marine life and how scientists are working diligently to save the Florida reefs.

Unholy Waters

Flamingo contributor Bucky McMahon followed along as “kayaktivists,” protested the renewal of a permit allowing a local High Springs family to sell more than a million gallons of water per day to Nestlé, a global food and beverage corporation that owns Zephyrhills bottled water brand. As these 20 paddlers float down the waterway towards Ginnie Springs, their signs and chants encourage the protection and restoration of this Florida treasure.

Tupelo Honey is in a Sticky Situation

Join the hunt for Panhandle gold in Wewahitchka, where family beekeeping businesses have been harvesting Tupelo honey for generations. Production of the natural amber syrup is declining each year as the unforgiving Florida weather and invasive pests lead to fewer hives. Read more about the Floridians fighting for their livelihoods, neighborhood hive heists and assassin bugs.

Miracle Under the Oaks

When the workers of the Center for Great Apes first saw Cahaya, the tiny, newborn bundle of orange fur in an orangutan enclosure, they knew a miracle had occurred. Sixty eight rescued chimpanzees and orangutans live out their days under the oak trees of Wauchula, where Patti Ragan runs a successful and peaceful sanctuary in Central Florida. Read more about the important work the center is doing, the backstory of these retired animal performers and how their youngest resident arrived.

Saving the Sea Turtles

Over the last 30 years, various sea turtle species have made a remarkable comeback, due in part to the sea turtle protective measures enacted throughout the Sunshine State. Green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles are just two species that have recovered as a result of conservation efforts by state goverment, non-profits, turtle-lovers and local residents. Read more about the important policy changes that help protect sea turtles making a daring journey from nest to sea along Florida shores.

Ladies’ Night Out

These five women aren’t afraid of creatures with sharp teeth—they bite back. Beth Koehler, Peggy Van Gorder, Anne Gorden-Vega, Donna Kalil and Amy Siewe are some of the state’s leading python hunters, making significant contributions to hunt down these invasive predators destroying South Florida’s delicate ecosystem. Read more about the important work these python hunters are doing down south to save the Florida Everglades. 

On the Line With Benny Blanco

Climb aboard a Hell’s Bay skiff with Captain Benny Blanco, expert fishing guide, activist and guardian of the Everglades, as we go deep into the Glades in search of Tarpon and of hope for Florida’s most precious ecosystem. Learn why Blanco has become an important voice calling for change and elevating threats, like saltwater invasion that is depleting vital habitat and causing a massive seagrass die-off inthe world’s largest wetland. Cast a line with Blanco, as he shares what’s really at stake.

Panhandle Oyster Revival

The once famed Apalachicola oyster virtually disappeared after years of overharvesting and other ecological issues, most notably the water war between Florida, Alabama and Georgia that changed the salinty of Apalachicola Bay and destroyed the oysters’s ecosystem. With the natural oyster harvesting industry shut down, a new generation of oyster farmers have waded into local waters. Read more about the farms popping up along the Forgotten Coast and what makes these new-fangled oysters so special (and tasty).