The Zoo Northwest Florida
The Zoo Northwest Florida (also called The Gulf Breeze Zoo or simply The Zoo) hosts over 900 animals on more than 30 acres of preservation land. The Zoo is located at 5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway, 10 miles east of Gulf Breeze and 19 miles west of Fort Walton. In addition to the animals themselves, the Zoo features amenities such as the Safari Line Train, Jungle Café, Whistlestop Snack Bar, and a gift shop in the main building.
|The Zoo Northwest Florida|
|Operated by||Gulf Coast Zoological Society|
Doug Kemper, director
|Location||5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway|
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563
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30.40114, -86.984425, The ZOO Northwest Florida </googlemap>
The Zoo was founded in 1984 by four businessmen, including Pat Quinn, who became its director. On September 1, 2004, weeks after being damaged by Hurricane Ivan, control was transferred to the non-profit Gulf Coast Zoological Society, the current executive director of which is Doug Kemper. In addition to the Ivan damages, the Zoo has faced a number of problems in recent years, including dying animals and dwindling attendance.
Exhibits & animals
- List incomplete. Cost per year to feed each animal is listed in parentheses.
- Asia, a female Bengal tiger ($3,000)
- Mwelu, a Western lowland gorilla ($2,500)
- Gabby, a female giraffe ($2,000)
- Larry, a male African lion ($3,000)
- Jafar, a male greater one-horned rhino ($2,000)
The Zoo has operated in the red since its opening in 1984. It sustained massive damages in Hurricane Ivan, including a number of completely destroyed exhibits. Despite a $2.7 million policy, the Zoo's insurance company only paid $59,000 of more than $600,000 in damages. The Pensacola News Journal reported in July 2007 that the Zoo is in danger of closing unless $1 million is raised by the end of 2007.
Loss of accreditation
Though it remains a licensed zoo, its American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation, granted in 1988, was revoked on March 29, 2006 after AZA inspectors deemed 38 Zoo practices "questionable" and 24 more "unacceptable."
In the first seven months of 2007, a total of 44 animals had died in the Zoo from various causes. In January, four kangroos died of bacteria-related illness within a three-day period. Two popular animals were found dead by zookeepers in July. Baby hippopotamus Niles died on July 7 from a punctured lung caused by her father, Kiboko. On July 17, 10-year-old giraffe Sammy died from "acute stress and increased body temperature" resulting from a neck injury, possibly incurred by one of the posts or cables that surround the giraffes' enclosure.
Injuries and escaped animals
On November 13, 2006, a caged leopard bit a 19-year-old zookeeper (whose last name, coincidentally, was Leopard) who was "too close" to the cat, according to Kemper. Two cougars temporarily escaped from their pens on November 14, 2006 (one day after the leopard bite), requiring all 30 visitors to be moved to secure areas.
- Failure to treat flea and mite infestations.
- Taking blood from the Zoo's goats to feed vampire bats.
- Housing reptiles for months on end in a concrete building without sunlight.
- "The Zoo could be closing." Pensacola News Journal, July 7, 2007.
- Trouble in the animal kingdom - Northwest Florida Daily News, August 13, 2006
- "Zoo woes take center stage." Pensacola News Journal, July 29, 2007.
- String of kangaroo deaths plagues zoo - Northwest Florida Daily News, January 17, 2007
- "Father's bite killed baby hippo." Pensacola News Journal, July 13, 2007.
- "Zoo loses Sammy the giraffe." Pensacola News Journal, July 19, 2007.
- Cougars escape pen at The Zoo - Northwest Florida Daily News, November 15, 2006