Carl Bovard says he has always had a passion for animals. Bovard runs Single Vision Inc., a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary in Melrose, Florida, that focuses on educating the public about endangered species and land preservation. Bovard brought an endangered Florida panther and a bobcat to the Green Drinks Anniversary Party for Cinema Verde, Gainesville’s Environmental Film and Arts Festival, at Prairie Creek Lodge on December 1.
Bovard said his love of animals began while spending time as a child on his grandfather’s farm. “My grandfather really had a love for animals that he passed on to me.” One meaningful lesson his grandfather taught him was respect for animals, he said.
After graduating from high school, Bovard set out to become a veterinarian. While attending Indiana University he worked at a veterinary clinic, but said he disliked having to euthanize animals on a regular basis.
Bovard said that in college he was involved in a traffic accident when the motorcycle he was driving slammed into a car at 70 miles per hour and he was struck by SUV. Among his injuries were punctured lungs and a period of blindness that was a result of blood rushing into his head from the collision.
Even in this state, Bovard said he continued thinking about animals. “When I was laying in the hospital bed being blind, the only thing I thought about was getting out and seeing some animals,” Bovard said.
Bovard’s sight returned, he finished college with a biology degree, and went to work at SeaWorld in Orlando. As a member of the SeaWorld team, he worked in the education and animal care departments where he did manatee rescue and rehab work, he said.
While working at Jungleland in Kissimmee, Florida, he met a private big cat owner who introduced him to her 600-pound Bengal tiger. He worked as a volunteer with her animals, then, years later, when a tiger she owned gave birth to two baby tigers, he adopted them.
At his property in Melrose, Bovard now has a total of eight big cats, including Siberian and Bengal Tigers. In the wild these animals are severely endangered with three subspecies now already extinct, he said, adding that the two biggest problems facing tigers globally are habitat destruction and poaching.
During a December 16th appearance on New4Jax’s Morning Show, Bovard also called attention to the endangered species in his home state of Florida. “This Florida panther,” he said pointing to the animal accompanying him in the television studio, “is one of the most endangered cats in the whole world.” Less than 100 individuals now remain, he said, adding that the situation recently prompted the state to import Texas cougars in an effort to strengthen the gene pool.
Bovard hosts groups from schools and churches at his sanctuary, which he says gives people an opportunity to get up close to the animals. In addition to endangered big cats, he keeps lemurs, alligators, and Prevost squirrels. He hopes to pass on his passion for animals by offering visitors a chance to watch him feed and interact with the animals, he said.
Bovard seeks funding through donations and foundations to continue the care provided through his non-profit organization, Single Vision, Inc. He holds open house most Sundays and some Saturdays and welcomes visitors who enjoy meeting the big cats and animals in his care. Be sure to call first: 904-377-7993.
“It’s a hard thing to try to protect an animal on the other side of the world, but through education, I’m trying.” Bovard said his core message is focused on how critically the animals are endangered in the wild, and how we can better care for them in captivity.