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It’s a wild world: Gulf Breeze Zoo celebrates 30 years

It’s a wild world: Gulf Breeze Zoo celebrates 30 years
Published: Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 13:10 PM.

It’s been 30 years since the Gulf Breeze Zoo first opened and it’s still going strong.With the summer season in swing and a No. 1 rating on Trip Advisor as the best attraction in Gulf Breeze, there should be no problem keeping the parking lot full.

Published: Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 13:10 PM.

GULF BREEZE — It’s been 30 years since the Gulf Breeze Zoo first opened and it’s still going strong.

With the summer season in swing and a No. 1 rating on Trip Advisor as the best attraction in Gulf Breeze, there should be no problem keeping the parking lot full.

“Since new management took over in 2010, we’ve had a more personal feel,” said Megan Heiden-reich, the zoo’s lead keeper. “There’s an understanding of a symbiosis with the community. One doesn’t exist without the other. We really try to make our guests a priority.”

The zoo has continued to expand its offerings with daily activities and special events held throughout the year.

>>> Click here to see photos from the Gulf Breeze Zoo

Later this month, the zoo will celebrate World Giraffe Day with a special Meet-a-Keeper talk where guests can learn more about giraffes and even see Gamba — the baby giraffe and one of the newest members of the zoo — get bottle fed.

Although the zoo has had to decrease it’s staff — there are now about a dozen zoo keepers compared to 38 in 2009 under the previous ownership — there hasn’t been a decrease in interaction with guests.

“I’ve been fortunate to visit a lot of different zoos throughout the county,” Heidenreich said. “I don’t think you get this level of attention anywhere else.”

It isn’t just another attraction for tourists. Locals regularly support the zoo throughout the year with record numbers at every event this past year, said Valerie Pennock, the zoo’s marketing director.

“It’s been years since I’ve been here,” said Gilton Bell of Pensacola. “It’s really impressive.”

Being a part of the zoo’s milestone is gratifying, Heidenreich said.

“We’ve had a lot of guests visit throughout their lives saying it’s the best it’s ever been,” she added. “Working here feeds the soul more than anything else.”

The zoo was originally opened in May 1984 by local busi-nessmen Pat Quinn, Bobby Switzer, Bill Pullum and Dr. Jim Potter. Virginia Safari Park of Natural Bridge, Va., bought it in December 2010.

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Tour the zoo like a pro
First time at the zoo? Follow these tips to make your wild adventure a success
*Spring for the train ride — The 15-minute train ride might be extra, but it’s certainly worth it with a closer look at chimpanzees, gorillas and the huge Nile hippos.
*Schedule a be-hind the scenes tour — One of the Behind the Scenes Animals Tours you can get up close and personal with the animals with a personal animal care profes-sional.
*Read the signs — Check for the Meet-a-Keeper talks held throughout the day to learn more about the animals and get premier photoops. The times are posted in the train sta-tion.
*Stay for lunch — The Giraffeteria serves delicious amusement park fare such as burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders. While you can’t bring food or drink in the zoo, there is a shaded picnic pavilion the zoo parking lot.
 

 

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Jennie McKeon at 850-315-4432 orjmckeon@nwfdailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @JennyMnwfdn.




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Gulf Breeze Zoo News

ARCHIVED ZOO NEWS
 

GULF BREEZE ZOO WELCOMES BABY GIRAFFE!


The newest addition to Gulf Breeze Zoo certainly doesn’t fall short of expectations. New mom Gabby, an 11-year-old reticulated giraffe, gave birth to her first calf and the Zoo is asking for the community’s help in naming him.

The 5’8’’ male calf was born on Nov. 10. A naming contest for the giraffe will be held beginning Dec. 9and will run through Dec. 30. The winning name will be announced Jan. 1. Contest winners will receive a behind the scenes tour to meet the entire giraffe family.  Names may be submitted on the Gulf Breeze Zoo’s Facebook and a website link will be available as well.

Source: 

Navarre Press







GULF BREEZE ZOO WELCOMES BABY HIPPO!


The Gulf Breeze Zoo welcomed a baby Nile hippopotamus last week. Mother Cleopatra gave birth to a healthy calf weighing approximately 65 pounds. Both mother and calf are in excellent condition and remain on exhibit for viewing.

However, because of the protective nature of hippo mothers, zookeepers have been unable to identify the sex of the calf.

Zookeepers are asking for assistance in naming the new hippo calf. To see a list of names and cast your vote, visit Gulf Breeze Zoo’s Facebook page (facebook.com/GulfBreezeZoo).

Source: Navarre Press




PAT QUINN'S LEGACY - ZOO BECOMES KEY RECOURCE FOR NW FLORIDA

Frequent laughter punctuated the night as Pat Quinn's friends and family came out to play last Saturday and celebrate the founder of what is now the Gulf Breeze Zoo. Quinn's determination to bring a zoological park to the Pensacola area began in 1960 and was an uphill battle. "I drove around in a '47 Plymouth that I took the back seat out of and put a jackass in the back seat with his tail hanging out one end of the car and his head out the other side." Quinn recounted. Quinn would take his "menagerie," which included a donkey and a chimpanzee, to area schools. "People donated pennies and nickels to help start a zoo, and that is how it all began," added Quinn. Quinn's pure will and determination were noticed by several friends who became his financial backers 

Source: Navarre Press






OTTER ARTIST PAINT PICTURES

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=9120419

GULF BREEZE ZOO PROVIDES TOYS FOR TOYS FOR TOTS

Gulf Breeze Zoo has partnered with Toys For Tots to assist in providing Christmas gifts for children in need in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.  In addition to providing $3000 worth of toys, the Zoo offered free admission to its November 23rd ZooLights event with the donation of an appropriate toy to Toys For Tots; resulting in over 850 toys being collected.  In addition to the light displays, the fun filled night included local Marines greeting guests, visits from Santa Claus and the Chick-Fil-A Cow, train rides and the unveiling of over 10,000 new lights that were added for this year’s festivities.“We were very pleased with the turn out,” stated Kayte Wanko, zoo director “and plan to host Toys For Tots in the coming years as well.”  Wanko says that the zoo is hoping to expand their involvement in assisting with area children in need next year by providing other necessary items in addition to the toys. ZooLights continues throughout the month of December.  For additional event dates and times please visit the website,www.gulfbreezezoo.org

For questions or photo ops please contact: Kayte Wanko




  RWANDA AND KIGALI REUNITED!

After 8 months of care by zoo staff, Kigali the Western Lowland Gorilla has been reunited with his mother. Rwanda, a 27 year-old Western Lowland Gorilla, gave birth on January 23, 2012. Due to complications during and after the birth, the infant was delivered via Cesarean Section. Zoo officials made the difficult decision to assign the initial rearing of the infant to animal care staff. "It has been the goal since day one to reunite the family," says Desiree Hager, Assistant Curator. "The fact that we were able to do it in such a short amount of time makes our entire staff really proud, and even more importantly, has made our gorillas extremely happy." From the start, the zoo was excited to share the experience of caring for the infant gorilla with its guests, allowing them to watch the gorilla-rearing team as they spent 24 hours a day teaching the infant everything he would need to know to return to his troop. Kigali and Rwanda have spent the last few months becoming reacquainted in the zoo's ape house, away from the eyes of guests. According to Kayte Wanko, Zoo Director, "The reintroduction process was one that had to be kept more private, it was an emotional experience for the gorillas." The emotion doesn't stop there. Zoo staff members are overjoyed that the two are doing so well together. "Watching Rwanda and Kigali play together on the island is something there are no words to describe. It is exactly the way it should be." said Tenielle Welch, Curator. The zoo's Director, Kayte Wanko, would like to extend her congratulations and appreciation to her dedicated team of staff members, "This was not an easy job. It took time, effort, flexibility, patience and personal strength on the parts of everyone involved. We've also had some great input from some very knowledgeable people along the way and would like to thank them for their involvement as well."

PHOTO CREDITS FOR KIGALI - JANET FIKARA special thanks to Janet Fikar for sharing some of her amazing photos with us. Kigali, who is celebrating his half birthday at the zoo on Monday (7/23/12), has certainly grown quite a bit over the last 6 months. Keeper Candice Dillon spends time with him on Gulf Breeze Zoo's ape island helping the little gorilla learn how to maneuver around, preparing him for his return to his troop.

BABY GORILLA BORN AT GULF BREEZE ZOO

Rwanda, a 25-year old Western Lowland Gorilla, gave birth to a 5 pound baby boy on Monday January 23, 2012.  This is Gulf Breeze Zoo’s first gorilla birth.  A team of zoo staff members began 24 hour observations on the gorilla five weeks prior to the birth and were thrilled Sunday night when she began to show signs of labor.  After 12 hours of labor, it was decided by the zoo’s veterinarian, and direct consultation with other zoo professionals, that medical intervention was necessary and a Caesarian Section was performed. 

Rwanda’s surgery was successful and she is continuing to recover.  The zoo veterinarian and staff will continue 24 hour observations until she is ready to return to her yard; that date was tentatively set for Monday, January 30.

Rwanda was unable to produce milk and displayed behaviors that were a potential threat to her offspring, which is not unusual for first-time and hand reared mothers of all species.  As a result, the gorilla infant will remain with zoo staff until he is able to return to his troop. At this time he is robust and thriving on round-the-clock care.

After confirming the pregnancy in early June, zoo officials made contact with several other zoological facilities which readily shared their experiences and have continued to assist. Gulf Breeze Zoo would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the staff at those facilities for their time and knowledge.


NEW AFRICAN WHITE RHINO EXHIBIT NOW OPEN! | SEPT. 17

 Join Gulf Breeze Zoo as it celebrates National Rhino Day by welcoming 2 new African white rhinos! Stop by and check out the transport crates used to bring these two lovely cows (female rhinos are called cows) all the way from South Africa to our zoo. There will be crafts and games and a special stop on the train ride for great photo ops. Zoo keepers will be on hand all day to answer questions about the magnificent animals.



SQUIRREL MONKEY EXHIBIT NOW OPEN!
| JULY 20

Gulf Breeze Zoo is proud to announce the opening of its 2nd new exhibit this summer!South American squirrel monkeys (28 of them to be exact) have swung in and made them selves at home in their spacious new habitat. Squirrel Monkeys are small primates that live gregariously in the middle layer of the rain forest. Their small size and golden color helped to earn them the name Squirrel Monkey (their goofy antics probably played a part in it as well). This exhibit is the first of three that will utilize the section of property once occupied by the Japanese Gardens. A new clouded leopard habitat as well as a VERY large walk through free flight aviary are in the works to finish up the area next year.





COME SEE WHAT'S NEW! KING VULTURE & TRAIN

Come visit Victoria the King Vulture during a live Animal Interaction! Gulf Breeze Zoo has a new train! Brighter, quieter and ready to go!





AUSTRALIAN BUDGIERY
 Visit the brand new free flight aviary filled with 300+ brilliantly colored Australian budgies. Be amazed as the parakeet sized beauties fly all around. Purchase a "Budgie stick treat" and enjoy these wild birds up close as they land on and around you to enjoy their treat.

BEHIND THE SCENES ANIMAL TOURS

Have you ever wanted to pet the most dangerous animal in Africa? How about feed a dinosaur? Or maybe a lap full of bunnies is more your style. Join us for an exciting behind the scenes adventure and make your wildest dreams come true!    



IN THE MEDIA...

NAVARRE BEACH SANDSCULPTING FESTIVAL | SEPT 23-25
Master sand sculptors create a sand exhibit welcoming guests to Navarre Beach, and highlighting area attractions.

GULF BREEZE ZOO DEBUTS TWO WHITE RHINOS
Watch the video and read the article by Cory Pippin, posted on Fox10TV.com on September 19, 2011. 



LOCALS, TOURISTS BRING ZOO ROARING BACK TO LIFE

Read the article by Richard McVay and view the photos by John Blackie, posted on PNJ.com on August 30, 2011.

GULF BREEZE ZOO WELCOMES NEW MONKEY BUSINESS

Read the article and watch the video posted on WEARTV.com on July 21, 2011.




GULF BREEZE ZOO OFFERS SOMETHING NEW: KING VULTURE AND COATIMUNDI


Read the article posted on Fox10TV.com on July 6, 2011.


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