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Jungle Larry

“Jungle Larry” Tetzlaff

Before Jack Hanna, there was Lawrence "Jungle Larry" Tetzlaff. He and his wife, Nancy, called "Safari Jane," became household names in Northeast Ohio through frequent appearances on local TV, especially the "Captain Penny" kids show on WEWS Channel 5, from the 1950s to '70s.

He lived a life as big as legend as an animal trainer, expedition leader and conservationist. A Michigan native with a childhood interest in snakes and exotic animals, he attracted the attention of famed animal collector Frank "Bring 'Em Back Alive" Buck -- and a job at the 1939 World's Fair in New York -- with a paper published while he was still in college.

Jungle Larry wrestled alligators as a stand-in for Johnny Weismuller in three "Tarzan" movies and milked venomous snakes to provide serum for soldiers during World War II.

He took exotic animals to small zoos he ran at the old Puritas Springs amusement park on Cleveland's West Side, Chippewa Lake Park in Medina County, and then Cedar Point, where he opened a baby animal farm in 1964 and where his independently operated African Safari ran from 1965 to 1994.

Starting in 1969, the Teztlaffs made their winter home in Naples, Fla., and opened an exhibit at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, then known as Jungle Larry's Zoological Park.

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