TBT: Brevard Zoo Approaches 20th Anniversary

By  //  September 19, 2013

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THROW BACK THURSDAY

ABOVE VIDEO: With hammer and nails at the ready, the local community began construction of Brevard Zoo, making their dream a reality. In March of 1994, the zoo opened its gates to the public.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Brevard Zoo began with a small group of people with a big dream of building a world-class facility that would serve as a conservation hub where people could gather to learn about animals.

A place to escape from the urban world and get closer to nature, to be reminded of the diversity of the life with which we share this planet.

Frank Vega

Frank Vega

They had the vision, but now they needed the resources. Frank Vega,  a former publisher of Florida Today, recruited several community leaders and the dream started to take shape. Executives from the major aerospace companies formed teams to work on architectural designs as well as to provide the labor for the new Zoo. A. Duda and Sons generously donated the land – a prime location for the Zoo.

Joseph A. Duda

Joseph A. Duda

The next major show of support came from the county commissioners, who committed a revenue source from the Tourist Development Council, allowing the Zoo to obtain a much-needed loan. The $2.5 million dollar loan would be paid back by 15 percent of the one-third penny collected as a hotel tax.

Another Zoo fundraising effort included the establishment of a Founder’s Society, in which 303 founding members helped the Zoo match a $500,000 grant from the State of Florida. More money was raised through sales of t-shirts and thousands of Zoo memberships – all before the Zoo had even been built.

HIGH LEVEL OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT

More than anything, these early fundraising successes illustrate the incredibly high level of community support Brevard Zoo has enjoyed from the very beginning.

Visitors wandered the newly built boardwalk, exploring the thick native Florida forest as our animals were settling into their new homes. (Image for SpaceCoastDaily.com)

Visitors wandered the newly built boardwalk, exploring the thick native Florida forest as our animals were settling into their new homes. (Image for SpaceCoastDaily.com)

This small band of dedicated people had now raised $3.5 million dollars and recruited more than 16,000 volunteers, making this the largest community Zoo build ever undertaken, anywhere. Leathers, Inc., specialists in community builds, as well as animal habitat designers Basset and Wells rounded out the team, adding technical expertise to the effort.

With hammer and nails at the ready, the local community began construction, making their dream a reality. In March of 1994, Brevard Zoo opened its gates to the public.

“Visitors delighted in the many surprises they encountered in our innovative ‘Paws On’ interactive area,” says an account of the history of the zoo. “Becoming a bee and waggling their way through a hive, exploring a cube of soil like an earth worm, or watching a film from the belly of a spouting whale were just a few of the wild possibilities.”

“Visitors delighted in the many surprises they encountered in our innovative ‘Paws On’ interactive area,” says an account of the history of the zoo. “Becoming a bee and waggling their way through a hive, exploring a cube of soil like an earth worm, or watching a film from the belly of a spouting whale were just a few of the wild possibilities.”

brevardzoo_jag-180Visitors wandered the newly built boardwalk, exploring the thick native Florida forest as our animals were settling into their new homes. During their journey they would meet many denizens of the tropical rainforest, including an awe-inspiring black jaguar named Onyx, a pair of lumbering Baird’s tapirs named Pee Wee and Josephine, the giant anteater Hoover, as well as a myriad of primates and birds.

GENEROUS DONATIONS OF TIME AND TREASUE

This was just the beginning as the people of Brevard County continue to rally in support of the Zoo.

The Zoo features many extraordinary animal experiences including giraffe and lorikeet feedings, African kayak tours, paddle boats in the wetlands and a train ride. Brevard Zoo is a not-for-profit organization accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. (Brevard Zoo image)

The Zoo features many extraordinary animal experiences including giraffe and lorikeet feedings, African kayak tours, paddle boats in the wetlands and a train ride. Brevard Zoo is a not-for-profit organization accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. (Brevard Zoo image)

With each new habitat built, community volunteers have generously donated their time and money. The continued success of our Zoo depends on financial contributions from many sources. Funding from private donors, grass roots education and conservation organizations, local, state and federal government – as well as continued support from the Tourist Development Council – are vital to the zoo’s future.

Building on their unprecedented community support, Brevard Zoo will continue to make history.


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