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What Does The Miami Wilds Water Park Mean For The Environment? 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

The Miami Zoo’s Miami Wilds Water Park is set to be constructed in South Florida’s Pine Rocklands. This area is the last 2% of an ecosystem which is still one of the largests hotspots for biodiversity in Florida. This location also houses many animals which are endemic to Florida, meaning they are not found in any other ecosystem on the planet. The construction of this theme park will set all of these animals on the risk of extinction in the wild. 

The area around the Miami Zoo is already considered to be a critical ecosystem in South Florida. The Miami Zoo’s own Communications Director has also spoken out against this project: “I must ask, how can the zoo profess to have conservation as a main pillar, yet allow for this project to continue on its own property? It is the definition of hypocrisy!”  Due to the backlash, the mayor has delayed the vote and it will be decided in the near future, although no date has been officially confirmed. There are seven animals that are facing extinction:

Bartram’s Scrub-Hairstreak Butterfly 

This butterfly has been given a federal designation for endangered species by the National Park Service. The main factor causing its endangerment is habitat loss and destruction. Due to urbanization much of its original habitat in Miami-Dade County has been lost, leaving the Pine Rocklands as its last saving grace. 

Florida Leafwing Butterfly 

This species is endemic to extreme south Florida, meaning that it can only be found in the Everglades and the Pine Rocklands. Due to habitat fragmentation of the Pine Rocklands this butterfly has also received a federal endangerment designation

Eastern Indigo Snake 

The Eastern Indigo Snake cannot survive in wetland habitats due to their semi-flooded status, instead this animal prefers wooded and dry land making the Pine Rocklands one of its only available habitats in South Florida. Due to the demand for snakes as pets this animal’s population has severely dwindled making it a rare sight. However, they are only considered to have a decreasing population, meaning they may have a risk of becoming endangered in the future.

Florida Bonneted Bat

The Bonneted Bat, also known as the Mastiff Bat has an international designation of critically endangered, and is endemic to south Florida. This animal is rarely seen and federally designated as endangered by the state of Florida. 

Miami Tiger Beetle

The Miami Tiger Beetle is also a rare and endangered species that is endemic to the Pine Rocklands and other South Florida habitats. It has become threatened due to inadequate habitat management.

Florida Panther

The Florida Panther has been considered an endangered animal that is native to Florida since before the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. Today there are an estimated 100-200 adult panthers left in Florida. The Pine Rocklands are one of their last habitats, and any more destruction could cause this animal to go extinct in the wild.

Gopher Tortoise

The Gopher Tortoise is a federally threatened animal, meaning that it is not yet endangered but well on its way to being so. The main problems this animal faces are habitat fragmentation due to draining and construction in the Pine Rocklands and climate change.

Carolina Gutfreund is a second year honors student double majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a dual concentration in Environmental Science and Policy and Social Relations and Policy. She is a climate advocate and the Treasurer of the Botanical Gardens Club at USF. She plans to work for the EPA when she is older. She has been published by the USF honors college, Thread magazine, and the Library of Congress.