Saving the Zoo… Romelia Farms Wildlife Preserve

Romelia Farms Wildlife Preserve is located on a historic property in Merritt Island that dates back to the 1890’s. It first operated as a navel orange grove, and later went on to become one of Florida’s first alligator ranches. When Jeremy and Lina Graves first inquired about the property in late 2020, it certainly wasn’t because they had any interest in buying a zoo. In fact, the only thing they were interested in was leasing the barn as a wedding venue. However, when they found out about the now-former owner’s intention to sell the land and send the animals living on it to auction, they decided they had to act quickly if they were going to save the lives of those animals.

On July 29th, 2021, the Graves family finalized the purchase of the property and not only turned the organization into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but turned it into a wildlife preserve that’s dedicated to providing the utmost care for the 150+ animals who call it home. On day one they realized the conditions in which the animals were living was less than ideal. Belle, the property fox, for example, was living in a concrete block pit that formerly housed alligators. Whenever it rained the pit would fill with water due to a lack of a roof over the enclosure, resulting in her living in inches of water with no dry area or covering to escape the elements. Louie and Lola, the beloved property sloths, were hanging from a fence over a former alligator pit next door to Belle, affording them no cover from the elements and no way to get to the ground- something that’s imperative for sloths. Upon seeing this, the Graves immediately began implementing a variety of necessary and overdue changes.

Adjusting diets, rebuilding enclosures, restoring pasture land, and improving the overall experience are just the first items on a very long checklist. While Belle, Louie, and Lola have already received new enclosures, there are many changes that still need to be made in order to properly care for these animals. The next item on that long checklist is to build new enclosures that will house two camels, a kangaroo, a wallaby, a mini zebu, a zonkey, and an ostrich. To help raise the necessary funds for the enclosures, Romelia Farms is hosting a Casino Gala on December 18th, 2021 that will include blackjack, craps, and roulette tables, a live auction hosted by Sheriff Wayne Ivey, and (of course) lots of adorable farm and exotic animals. For sponsorship information please send a message to or email Janna Perez at

Lina and Jeremy Graves