My name is Larysa Switlyk and I’m a certified public accountant who is now a professional hunter. I have self produced and hosted a hunting TV show that has been in rotation on national and international television for the past ten years. In addition to producing a television show, I also run a consulting agency called Unleashed Global Adventures that books clients on hunting and fishing trips I’ve personally done and filmed. I reside in Sarasota, Florida, where I have lived since 2002, and I am a board member of the Safari Club International Tampa Florida Chapter. Every year the Chapter donates to wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian services. This year the Chapter was asked by one of our members Angie Hall, a 2017 Diana Award Winner, to donate to the Myakka Elephant Ranch to help in their efforts of expanding their facility as well as clean up from the recent Hurricane Ian.
I had the honor of presenting the Chapter’s $500 donation to the Myakka Elephant Ranch in March 2023. It was amazing to see first-hand how impactful their operation is and how well they take care of their elephants. Through these donations and people paying for personal experiences such as grooming the elephants, the ranch raises enough money to care for them as well as send a large donation to Africa in association with the International Elephant Foundation. This money goes towards protecting these elephant’s native habitats and setting up anti-poaching units to protect them from being killed for their ivory. Almost 100 elephants per a day are being poached in Africa for their Ivory. In 1930 there were over 10 million elephants in Africa and today there are only approximately 350,000-400,000 African Elephants left. The Asian Elephant is far more endangered with only around 40,000 left. Something needs to be done before they go extinct!
After presenting the Chapter’s donation, I surprised everyone with an additional matching donation from my new nonprofit Unleashed Outdoor Education & Wildlife Conservation Inc. which was a pleasant surprise to everyone there! The mission of my new nonprofit is to empower people through the outdoors, and to preserve and protect the future of wildlife.
Myakka Elephant Ranch does an exceptional job letting you experience these majestic creatures up close and personal! You can book different experiences like helping to bathe them, have an educational encounter where you learn how they behave in the wild, and get up close and personal photos with them (you can even take a selfie). The staff at the ranch teaches you the difference between the Asian and African Elephants, struggles that they face, and what conservationists are doing to protect them.
The most important thing an experience like this will have is to give the patrons of the ranch a lifelong memory, especially the young children, about how critical it is to ensure that these magnificent creatures never disappear from the Earth. Educating everyone on how important the conservation of elephants is for the survival of the species will help spread the message to even more people. Spreading this knowledge will help influence permanent change.
I was so happy as I watched about 60 attendees, who were there for the educational encounter, take their turns capturing family photos with the elephants and touching their trunks and heads. I could see every single person in the shed have their own personal and unique connection with the elephants. The kid’s faces lit up, while their parents and grandparents were able to share those family moments and turn them into memories.
Elephants don’t have sweat glands so in order to stay hydrated, and keep their skin healthy and stay cool, they need to go in water every day or bathe. I was able to partake in the African Elephant’s daily bath along with the other attendees who booked the VIP spa experience. You could literally see the joy in the elephant’s eyes when everyone was taking turns scrubbing their skin with big soapy brushes. When one side was done, she would happily turn around to start the other side. This particular elephant would purr like a large cat when you would scrub her to show she was relaxed and enjoying it.
Visiting the Myakka Elephant Ranch is truly a special encounter which I feel helps solidify what visitors learned today in the hopes that they spread the word that elephants do need desperate help to preserve them! I know the experience changed me personally and it felt good knowing I am a part of their conservation efforts.
This truly is a once in a lifetime experience and with everyone’s efforts I hope everyone will get a chance to experience this close encounter with elephants.
Myakka Elephant Ranch is a non-profit conservation center located in Bradenton, Florida. They strive to educate their guests on elephant conservation while providing a memorable once in a lifetime experience. I truly hope everyone will get a chance to experience it! I can’t believe this hidden gem was in my own backyard.
For more information: https://www.myakkaelephantranch.org