An interview with Nancy Jane Tetzlaff

September 2002

Col. Lawrence "Jungle Larry" and Nancy "Safari Jane" Tetzlaff came to Cedar Point in 1964 with a baby animal farm. A year later, Safari Island was born. Safari Island, and later Jungle Larry's African Safari, entertained millions of park guests during the Tetzlaff's 30-year stay at Cedar Point. Now, Nancy Jane, along with her sons David and Tim, operate Caribbean Gardens, the Zoo in Naples, where they continue the vision of Jungle Larry through expanded exhibits and educational activities. Nancy Jane recently took time to talk with us about her time at Cedar Point and what she's up to now.

What led to the creation of Jungle Larry's Safari Island at Cedar Point?
In 1964, a dock strike in Europe stopped the Earthquake ride from arriving. They contacted us to try animals on that slab of concrete. We developed the baby animal farm with domestic animals. In 1965, we opened Safari Island.

Jungle Larry's first started at Cedar Point as an extra cost attraction. Later it was included in park admission. What led to that decision?
The park decided to go to pay-one-price and we were included.

In 1969, tiglons were born at Cedar Point. How significant was that event in the animal world?
They were the only multiple births and also the only males. One female, two males.

Safari Canyon is one of the featured attractions at Caribbean Gardens in Naples, Florida. I recall a Safari Canyon at Cedar Point as well, that featured wildlife talks. How did Safari Canyon come about at Cedar Point?
We needed another presentation area besides the arena for more close-up talks with our guests.

How important is it to feature these educational opportunities?
Extremely important. Conservation is vital.

What led to Jungle Larry's African Safari leaving Cedar Point after the 1994 season?
I finished my 30th summer in 1994 and felt that was a good time to say, thank you, it's been great, but we wish to stay in Naples. The park was being built up around us and we could not expand.

Did the increasing development of the area surrounding Jungle Larry's Safari Island and later Jungle Larry's African Safari cause any problems for the animals?
They were able to completely ignore the rides. In fact, if a ride malfunctioned, they would get up and watch. Abnormal noises alerted them. Due to safety and cleanliness, the park never sleeps. Cleaners and safety crews work on the rides throughout the night. We felt it was time to keep the animals in the peace and quiet of the Naples location.

What have you been up to since you left Cedar Point to be in Naples full time?
Actually, I have been trying to retire. Now in a semi-retirement state, given up my state board, regional, and local board positions. Working on starting other organizations like our homeowners association and want to start an osteoporosis support group in southwest Florida. Do some volunteer work, etc. Try to do the things I never had time to do when working full time.

Your son, David, was quoted as saying, "An animal show is a different thing now. We need to teach people to respect animals for what they are, not what we've trained them to be." In 1995, David decided that he no longer wanted to do big cat shows. What are animal shows like today compared to the shows from 10 years ago?
The animals are not performers. They come up and do what they want to do under David's supervision. He is in the canyon with them. They do some natural behaviors such as, leopards love to climb, so David designed the canyon with ledges and trees for them. We have eight large monitors in the canyon with wildlife footage from around the world. Guests see the animal in the wild and then the live animals within 12-food of them. Education is important. We encourage people to get involved with select animal groups that really do good for the cause.

I'm sure even trained animals are often unpredictable. Were there any humorous events that occurred because of this?
Too many to even start. One of the latest accomplishments which our guests appreciated was the young tiger and a dog we adopted living together. We didn't want the tiger to be along. The dog bullied the tiger. Had to separate at feeding time. This lasted almost two years when we felt the tiger might become the dominant one. Animals concentrate on things we may overlook and, of course, take advantage of the situation which may end up humorous.

Where did the name "Safari Jane" come from?
Before I met Larry, he had a man working for him called Safari Jack. Larry was scheduled to do a full day entertainment at a mall and the newspaper ads read Jungle Larry and Safari Jane. So, the name was created before I came into the picture. Jungle Larry and Safari Jane are copyrighted names.