Yes, he talks to the animals. Michael Sandlofer, director of the Fair at Fenway South's petting zoo and camel rides, isn't a veterinarian as Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy played in the movie "Dr. Doolittle," but he is an internationally famous conservationist with accomplishments near and dear to the State of Florida.
Michael was a Navy Seal diver before taking his passion for animals to a new level. In 1981, he rescued the first great sperm whale from a prolonged stranding, and later made subsequent whale rescues in Newfoundland and off Baja California.
He is credited with being the first to release a captive-born manatee back into the wild, called upon for this task by marine conservationists for his work with whales and his invention of a special harness to rescue marine mammals. He patented this harness that has helped to safely rescue many other animals. Giving away the rights to the harness free of charge, Michael was later awarded the 1984 Rolex Award for Enterprise.
He has evolved from a conservationist to an entertainer and has operated a circus, frontier show, wolf show and petting zoo, educating fair attendees that the fair's petting zoo features many of the animals that built America, including several that were saved from extinction, including the Texas Longhorn.
The Camel Corps, a camel ride offered to adults and children, features information about the historic Camel Corps of the U.S. Army. Michael passionately details the mission of this little known corps in use by the Army before the Civil War.
"These are just some of the great animals that helped us build our country," Michael said. "They played an important role in surveying the Southwest."
Other animals that built the country can be found in the petting zoo, too, which features animals from six of the seven continents. Michael, who is still active in animal conservation and education, just rescued several wolves from fur farms over the past year.
"We take them in and care for them," he said. "Animals should be treated with respect; we do our share to help as many as we can."
He added that working at fairs and events throughout the country has enabled him to bring his conservation message to the masses while also presenting the message in an entertaining environment.
"There are so many animals with a rich history right here at the fair," he said. "I hope the people will come and learn about these beautiful creatures we share the earth with."
The Fair at Fenway South will be in town for one more weekend, from Nov. 14 to 17, at the Boston Red Sox's 106-acre Spring Training and Player Development Complex, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers before rolling on to its next stop. Fair hours will be from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and noon to midnight on weekends.
"Our focus is on packing the event with family-friendly entertainment for all ages," said Ron Weber, general manager of the event. "There is something for everyone to see and enjoy, including a huge carnival midway, delicious food, games, free live entertainment and shows, including the Flying Pages Circus, A Grizzly Experience, the Banana Derby, a full petting zoo and so much more."
The fair also features a unique exotic-animal exhibit where attendees can see tigers, birds and dozens of creatures normally only found in the best zoos in the U.S. These attractions are open during all fair hours.
All shows are free with fair admission.
More fun to expect at the fair
Wade Shows, one of the largest carnival companies in North America, has brought its rides and attractions to the midway at the event. Many of the rides appear each year at the Florida State Fair and were brought exclusively to Fort Myers by the producers of the event. Rides include the Crazy Cat Coaster, one of the largest portable roller coasters in North America, the Fireball, which swings riders high above the midway, and the 100-foot-tall Giant Wheel. There are also plenty of rides for the younger kids to enjoy.
Admission to the fair is as low as $3 per person with a two-for-one admission discount available online at FairAtFenway.com. Pay-One-Price unlimited rides wristbands are also available on the website for $25 each. Individual ride tickets may also be purchased at the event. For more information, visit FairAtFenway.com.