Monday, April 18, 2005

It's a Zoo

After Hurricane Ivan hit our coast in September our local zoo received worldwide attention because of the escape of "Chuckie" the 12-foot alligator that has been a favorite attraction at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo for years. While the news media was camped out after Hurricane Ivan waiting for the water to recede, reporters began to cover the story that Chuckie had escaped during the flooding caused by the storm. The AP picked up the story and soon it was worldwide news.

The Zoo was devastated by the hurricane but the majority of the animals were evacuated to safer areas in Baldwin County. However, Chuckie was given extra food and left in his pond due to the difficulty of moving an alligator weighing 1000 pounds. A week after the hurricane, Chuckie was located in a ditch not far from the Zoo property. Experts from Florida’s Gatorland were summoned to assist with Chuckie’s relocation to a safe holding area at the Zoo until the repairs are complete in his habitat.

Besides national press coverage surrounding the events, both The Weather Channel and National Geographic have sent film crews to gather footage for future specials. The Weather Channel coverage will be a “Storm Stories” airing the first week of June, to coincide with the beginning of the 2005 Hurricane season.

There are other stars at the Zoo such as a male white tiger born last summer and his sister who carries the white tiger gene. These two are favorites of visitors both young and old. When we sponsored an event at the Zoo for our Winter Guests they received a real treat by a close encounter with both tigers.

The latest edition to the big cats at our Zoo is a three-week old female Barbary Black Mane lion cub and a slightly older male lion cub that will eventually be breed. The lions are too young to go on exhibit yet but they should be ready when the Zoo reopens around Memorial Day. Both lion cubs were sponsored by the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Lions Clubs as a gift to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

The devastation of the Zoo was much more pronounced than expected with both wind and flood damage. A variety of fundraising efforts are underway to supplement the FEMA recovery funds and insurance which do not cover all the damage.

One of the fundraisers occurred over the weekend when the Gulf Shores Elementary, Middle and High School held a Festival. A booth selling Zoo merchandise was manned by members of the Board of Directors. As a member of the Board I was privileged to spend the day treating kids to a look at a few animals. There were ferrets and twin 8-week old goats to pet along with leopard geckos and bearded dragons (lizards) to observe. The kids loved the chance to see these animals up close and I enjoyed watching their faces. I also got a kick from giving the noon bottle to the female goat named "Radar."

Meyer Real Estate sponsors the web cam at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which has recently been reactivated. To watch the renewal progress visit and click on “Web Cam”.

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