THE SPECKTATOR

Animal Attraction

Local critters are stars in their own right

ALI: A resident of the Jacksonville Zoo, the African bush elephant's claim to fame is he once belonged to Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson) and lived at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for seven years before being donated to the Jacksonville Zoo in February 1997. Oh, the stories that elephant could tell (they never forget, you know?).
Kerry Speckman
BO: This black and white mixed breed made news when he was found on the Northside slashed 10 times and barely alive. After being found by a good samaritan, he was taken to Community Animal Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to repair his cuts, some of which were 3 inches deep and almost to his spine. Bo has made a full recovery, been adopted by his "forever family" and serves as the Jacksonville Humane Society's unofficial spokesdog.
Jacksonville Humane Society
BRANDON: The namesake of of Brandon Pest Control, the purebread beagle graduated from the University of Florida Department of Entomology’s termite detection canine academy, one of only six dogs in the country to do so. When he's not working, he makes personal appearances at schools and special events — and stars in the company's commercials with that damned jingle you can't get out of your head.
Brandon Pest Control
NELLIE: Not only is Nellie, a 60-year-old bottlenose dolphin currently residing at Marineland, famous for appearing on TV—including a popular 1960s commercial for Timex (“takes a licking and keeps on ticking”), she also holds the distinction of being the oldest dolphin born in human care.
Marineland
QUITO: Earlier this year, the Jacksonville Zoo lost one of its most popular residents, a silverback gorilla who died at age 31 due to cardiac failure.

 As proof of Quito's significance, he was one of 300 Jacksonville residents featured in Wayne Wood's One Spark project called "Creative Community" for his role in making the city a better place to live (FYI, Quito is the one in the bottom photo. And, yes, I am honored with my placement.)
Kerry Speckman
TONCA: Granted, the “face” of the Museum of Science and History isn’t exactly a pretty one, but Tonca is, after all, an alligator snapping turtle. The 46-year-old reptile lives in the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard at MOSH and is the guest of honor at his birthday party every July, where he is “treated” to a medical exam and annual weigh-in (last year he tipped the scales at more than 160 pounds).
Duval County Schools
"WORLD'S LARGEST RATTLESNAKE": For a shining moment in 2009, St. Johns County was home to the world's largest rattlesnake on record. The 15-foot Eastern diamondback was captured near SR 16 and I-95 and quickly gained notoriety on the Internet as the world's largest. Eventually, Snopes.com reported the snake, which actually measured just over 7-feet long, appeared larger in photos due to "forced perspective."
St. Augustine Record
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Kerry Speckman shares her unique perspective and observations on people, places and events on the First Coast and beyond. She's also the 2012 winner of Jacksonville Dancing With the Stars, so she's got that going for her.

Contact Kerry by email or follow her on Twitter.

Some may disagree, but Grumpy Cat (I mean, Grumpy Cat™) is the most famous animal in America — for the remainder of her 15 minutes of fame anyway.

While Jacksonville isn’t home to any critters quite as well-known as GC™ (real name: Tardar Sauce) who has appeared on "Good Morning America" and "Anderson Live," co-starred in a documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and has a book deal, we do have our share of famous fauna — just check the photo gallery above.

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