Story and Photos By Georgie Hammond
When Charlie Moorcroft arrives home from his job as an equestrian trainer, his work for the day is not over. As he swings open the gate to his beautiful backyard, Moorcroft is greeted by the sounds of animals meowing, chirping, squealing and the low hum of temperature regulating lights. To visitors, the sight of the massive animal enclosures set upon his lush grass is enough to make your jaw drop, but for Moorcroft, it’s just another day of doing what he loves from the comfort of his home — all right in the heart of Wellington.
Moorcroft’s journey with animals began as a child, growing up riding at a local stable where he learned the ins and outs of taking care of and riding horses. Beyond horses, his innate interest in all animals was apparent from the start, often visiting local livestock shows as a child. He would pick out ducks, geese, pheasants, rabbits and other animals to keep at his neighbor’s farm, where he worked for them to live because of his mother’s “no-animals-in-the-house” policy. However, Moorcroft never imagined that his love for animals would one day be echoed across the world with the help of his own nonprofit organization, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation.
“I have had animals on and off my entire life. But being in the equestrian industry, my job never let me be in one place long enough to really give them the life they deserve. In 2006, my business changed in a way that allowed me to move to Wellington full time, and so I was able to start slowly, adding more animals back into my life,” Moorcroft said. “Today, I have more than 16 species of turtles, tortoises, skunks, birds, maras, cats and rabbits, all in my backyard as a part of my own collection of exotic, critically endangered and protected species.”
Moorcroft’s wide array of animals that once only fulfilled his personal passion are now gaining even more importance under his care, serving as educational ambassadors for the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation.
Established in November 2020 with a mission of introducing children and adults to global conservation issues, the nonprofit organization is inspiring people, many of whom have had the pleasure of meeting Moorcroft’s animals, to make a difference and assist in raising funds to support collaborative organizations.
“We started the foundation just as a way to bring awareness and real-life experiences to people within and beyond our community here in Wellington,” Moorcroft said. “Our goal is really to bridge the gap between kids and education, and also bring funds to other organizations that we trust so that they can also provide opportunities for kids to be involved on a local, national and global level.”
As an extension of the foundation, Moorcroft’s diverse collection of animals provides people the opportunity to learn more about the meaning and importance of conservation through hands-on experiences and Moorcroft’s knowledge. Four large, outdoor enclosures, set within the confines of his spacious backyard, make for the perfect up-close encounter with larger animals, such as the cherry head red-footed tortoise, which loves to be fed bananas and hibiscus flowers.
In a temperature-regulated room off the house, Moorcroft keeps a variety of turtles and tortoises in environments that best suit their needs, and there’s even an incubation system for the eggs they lay. As children and adults interact with and hold each animal, Moorcroft rattles off his knowledge of the species, never missing a detail and keeping his audience engaged as they watch and learn from both the animals and Moorcroft.
“We really like when people come and visit, talk about the animals, meet them and talk about conservation. We want people to understand that these animals need our help,” Moorcroft said. “We work full time, and this is our home, so it’s not a public facility and there is no admission, but we do accept donations for the foundation and other organizations that we work closely with. But whenever possible, we love having people over to meet the animals and create conversation.”
Through Moorcroft and the foundation’s two other Wellington-based board members, Louise Serio and Holly Caristo, and Executive Director Geoff Teall, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation has raised and donated funds to conservation organizations around the world, such as the TurtleRoom, the Cloud Foundation, Refuge des Tortues, the Equus Survival Trust, the Wolf Conservation Center and Florida Skunk Rescue, fulfilling the foundation’s mission on a global scale, while Moorcroft continues to love, care for and share his animals with those who visit his home.
“It all starts with a conversation. If you can’t talk about it, then you can’t do anything about it. So, my hope is to really just get the conversation started about conservation,” Moorcroft said. “Whether you come and meet my animals, or if you simply hear about us online, my wish is that it inspires you to dig deeper, do some research and see how you can help animals in your local community and beyond.”
To learn more about the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation, visit www.moorcroftconservationfoundation.org.