Navigating through the world has never been an easy feat. We get so many people telling us who we should be or how we should live our lives, so much so that some people never have a chance to figure out who they really are. Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF) Co-Founder Maria Tabraue not only traverses through a literal jungle with her work, but she also wanders through the jungle of self-identity.
ZWF has educated the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity and in the wild since its inception in 2001, but for Maria, her passion for exotic animals started much earlier. “I always had a dream of owning a business one day,” Tabraue says. “I always wanted to do something eccentric, something different, where I could share my passion worldwide. That all became possible with my business partner, Mario (Tabraue). Together, we were able to build this beautiful oasis in the outskirts of Miami. Little by little, we were able to build this beautiful park.”
Maria Tabraue: The Brand
These days, Maria Tabraue and ZWF are almost synonymous: she is the park and the park is her. Even with this undisputable fact, Maria is carving her own path. Much like her partner Mario, Maria’s strength, originality and tenacity has garnered attention for not only Tabraue, but ZWF itself.
“With my creative side people see who Maria really is: the mother and the businesswomen,” she says. “I’ve become synonymous with ZWF, but this park was created to be shared and we do that in so many ways.”
Tabraue is undoubtably a visionary—and sometimes, visionaries are severely misunderstood. What many people don’t see is just how hard she works. Tabraue notes that everyday is a work in progress from the moment she gets up in the morning.
Whether it’s reading, drawing, writing down ideas, working with her team and volunteers, traveling or simply connecting and meeting new people, the queen of ZWF is always thinking of new ways to express herself and make the park even more amazing than it already is. “I can sometimes come off as bossy, but helping, growing and learning is always at the core of what I do. When I have a vision, I work really hard to bring it to fruition.”
Through it all, the businesswomen and mother somehow finds time for herself. “I’m very balanced and I always try to end my day by 6pm so that I’m able to disconnect and focus on myself. It gives me time to do things I love and spend time with my family,” Tabraue states. “If I don’t disconnect, it can become very stressful to function and keep the business afloat.”
Maria’s Fitness Journey
Another aspect of Tabraue’s life is her fitness journey, which she shares on social media. When speaking on her passion for exercising and proper nutrition she says, “You have to stay healthy in order to stay focused and in alignment with yourself. Exercising, doing yoga and meditating are ways to be present in the moment.” She goes on to say, “It’s a way of being present with myself. When I do yoga, I have clarity.”
The Beauty of the Jungle
Although it’s no secret that the ZWF director oozes beauty and glamour, this photoshoot highlighted these aspects in a way that has never been seen before. Tabraue gives all the credit to the collaborative and combined creative synergy between her and photographer Christopher Logan. “There’s a connection there—I must’ve known him in a past life,” Tabraue excitedly states.
“You have to feel comfortable with the people you work with and he’s one person that I am extremely comfortable with. When we’re in a room working together, everything just flows perfectly.” When speaking on the cover photo she says, “When you look at that photo, you’re looking at the real Maria. You’re seeing the strong, independent woman; the go-getter, the fearless woman.”
Thanks to Logan as well as her team, Tabraue is living the life she always wanted to and looks glamorous while doing it. “Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a model. I couldn’t because my parents didn’t believe it was a viable career,” she explains. “So, I’m actually making a childhood dream come true.”
Giving back is at the core of all that Maria does, and a clear example of that is Wildlife Gardens. Essentially an idea for ZWF’s expansion, Wildlife Gardens seems to be so much more. “I’ve been doing this for 21 years and I’m always trying to rebuild myself and the company with new ideas,” she says.
“I started thinking about some things I wanted to do, like using the park as a venue location. My house was remodeled in a way that it can be shared with the park, with this idea of it possibly being a rental or a bed and breakfast or a rental home for productions.” She adds, “Plus ZWF can be rented out for any milestone in your life: parties, wedding, anything at all!”
Everyday is a Work In Progress
With people finally about to live a post-lockdown life, ZWF will have plenty of visitors showing up to enjoy the exotic wildlife they offer—but just as many will show up for Tabraue for inspiration rarely found anywhere else. When speaking on what got her through tough times, she says, “If you have a dream, follow your heart and don’t give up. Everyday is a work in progress. You might fail, but get back up and try again.”
As far as what’s next for Tabraue, she says, “For me, the future is filled with a lot of projects. I see myself writing multiple books and helping women around the world be fearless.” She goes on to say, “I can’t say that I did all of this myself.
I brought the creative ideas and set them into motion, but without an amazing team and Mario, I don’t know if this dream would’ve came true.” It’s truly a jungle out there, but if we can all navigate through it like Maria Tabraue, there’s no telling what we can accomplish.
“I am a visionary and when I have a vision, I bring it to fruition. I always try to help my people and it can sometimes come off as bossy.”