Gulf Breeze Zoo Update

Information and discussion about the ZOO and the Lighthouse Private Christian Academy inside the Zoo
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Kenny Wilder
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Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:53 am

Pensacola News Journal
January 27, 2010


Zoo finding its way back to business

Kimberly Blair
kblair@pnj.com

The hoots and chirps of howler monkeys bantering with gibbons blended with the roar and back-up warning signal of a bulldozer widening a moat at the zoo in Gulf Breeze.

Despite the commotion, the zoo was eerily devoid of human creatures as new zoo director Glenn Goodman and zoo founder Pat Quinn toured the grounds to assess the work needed to reopen the zoo.

Formerly known as The Zoo of Northwest Florida, the 25-year-old facility closed last August because of financial problems precipitated by damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis the next year.

Eric Mogensen bought it from the local owner, Animal Park Inc., in December. The new owner also owns Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Va., and Reston Zoo near Washington, D.C.

"Our main objective is to get the zoo open by mid-February. We want to get the people back," Goodman, 47, said as he surveyed the empty primate island from a pedestrian boardwalk.

After the soft opening next month, a grand opening will be scheduled for sometime in spring. Hours of operation and ticket prices have yet to be determined.

When the zoo closed, about half of the 38 employees were let go. Others were laid off after the sale.

Quinn, an Animal Park partner, was retained as director of media relations.

"I'm very, very happy the zoo was purchased and will continue," said Quinn, who is working closely with the new owner during the transition. "This has been a passion and lifelong dream of mine to have a zoo in this area."

Goodman said ambitious plans are under way.

"Our master plan goes in 10 different directions," he said. "The options and possibilities are endless."

Visitors will see many of the animals, with a few popular faces missing.

Bobby Switzer, another principal in Animal Park Inc., said animals on loan — including the orangutan family and one male gorilla — were sent back to their owners after the zoo closed. The mother and baby orangutan are together on a private preserve in Connecticut.

Larry the Lion, the zoo's mascot of 20 years, died of old age before Mogensen purchased the zoo.

"The chimps are all there. There's one giraffe, hoof stock and camels are all there, and they're bringing the petting zoo back even bigger and better," Switzer said.

The zoo's new faces include New Guinea singing dogs — the rarest of all dogs. They belt out soprano howls that sound like clarinets.

And Goodman said more new animals are on their way, including another giraffe.

Already, a great deal of clean-up has occurred on the zoo property.

Dead and hurricane-damaged trees have been cleared, and landscaping is being spruced up.

A chain-link fence is being replaced with a sturdier and eye-appealing wooden fence. A gift shop and train station snack bar are getting face-lifts.

The snake house is being turned into a family picnic pavilion.

Many of the popular zoo programs, such as zoo camps and Zoo Lights have been tabled until Goodman can assess whether or not to continue them.

The docent program was disbanded, but Goodman said a new volunteer program may be created.

Goodman also said there are no plans to turn the Gulf Breeze Zoo into a drive-thru Safari Park, similar to the Natural Bridge park, although all ideas are on the table.

Goodman started his 21-year career as an elephant trainer and progressed through the ranks of zookeeper and curator, learning the business along the way.

He's worked at King's Dominion near Richmond, Va., and Zoo Atlanta. He left Atlanta to become general manager of Mogensen's Reston Zoo from 2001 to 2005. Most recently, he worked as general curator of the animal department of Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga.

"That's a theme park and this is a zoo," he said about why he left. "My heart was more into this. I like this zoo, and I want to see it opened back up and see it succeed."

Switzer said it was sad to close the zoo, but he thinks it's in good hands now.

"I think it's going be a nicer and happier place when it's reopened," he said.

Additional Facts

Want to go?
The Gulf Breeze zoo is set to reopen in mid-February. An exact date and time, hours of operation and ticket prices have yet to be decided.

A new Web site, www.gulfbreezezoo.org is under construction. Once it's up, you can check it out for updates or call 932-2229.
Last edited by Kenny Wilder on Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
Kenny Wilder
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Sandstomper
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Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:30 am

Shame on me! It has taken me 7 years to get off my behind and go to our spectacular zoo. My wife and I visited a couple of weeks ago and had a blast. The facility is well maintained and staffed with very delightful folks. The "residents" were colorful, entertaining and very appreciative of the treats we purchased for them.

Don't be fooled by the street view of The Zoo. It is much larger than it appears from Hwy. 98. I will do the train ride next time as we didn't know the lay of the land going for our first visit.

I encourage anyone who hasn't visited to do so and provide your support. It too is another gem in the Navarre area.
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dilbuina
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Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:05 am

A friend of mine wants to volunteer to save the wildlife around Chicago, IL.. Where can she start? We both live in the suburbs of Chicago and want to know where she can start to save the wildlife around here. She wants to make a difference. Where can she go to start helping out the wildlife?
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Last edited by dilbuina on Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Kenny Wilder
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Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:43 am

The Illinois Wildlife Rescue would be a great place to volunteer your time and money.

Illinois Wildlife Rescue
http://wildlife.rescueme.org/Illinois
Kenny Wilder
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AngelGirl
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Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:35 am

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Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 BSB
PaulWilliam80
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Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:53 am

What an awesome experience and Thank you so much for sharing!
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