Dania Chimpanzee Farm
by Peter Karsner
(Yankeetown, FL & Rehoboth Beach, DE)
Peter Karsner Wrestling Alligator
Sixty-three years ago, 1949, I started working at the "Chimp Farm" as a guide for the tourists explaining the origins and habits of the various chimps, monkeys and assorted inhabitants from around the world.
The farm was also known as the Anthropoid Ape Research Foundation.
The Dennis family (close cousins of FDR)owned the compound where the main function was the extraction of blood from the adult chimps for medical research.
To attract the "Everglades Tour Boats" to dock at the compound, an alligator wrestling pit was built along with a replica of a Seminole village where a family of Seminole Indians would drive in from the Reservation west of Dania, and sit on the Chickees (platforms the Florida Indians lived on before they moved to standard housing) and sell Indian souvenirs to the boat tourists.
When I would wrestle, the hawker would tell the tourists I was the only white boy raised by the Seminoles and didn't speak English. The tips were great then and today the stories make for fun cocktail party chatter.
Now that I've reached age seventy-seven and still have all my digits, I'm content to 'grunt' a gator up to the boat to entertain my guests here on the Withlacoochee River. :o)
Note from Florida Backroads Travel:
Peter: thanks a lot for sharing this story with us. It's great to hear from somebody who was actually there, wrestled gators and survived!