Starting as a small, community zoo in 1989 called “Zooland Animal Park” in the heart of Gulf Shores, The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo has gone through challenges and triumphs to become the amazing new zoo that stands today. After a devastating hurricane, Ivan hit the Gulf Coast, the zoo gained national attention on an Animal Planet series titled; “The Little Zoo that Could” inspiring viewers to visit the Gulf Coast and offer support to the lovely little zoo and its 300 charming animals.
After the zoo is gifted 25 acres of land in 2007, the dreams and vision of the new zoo was becoming a reality! Designing and building a new multi-million dollar facility is a complicated endeavor, and over the ensuing years, the enormous resources and commitments required by a non-profit zoo made it very difficult. Through Great Recessions, hurricanes, and oil spills- the zoo was able to be a beacon of hope and a source of joy to lift spirits for locals and visitors of the Gulf Coast. By the end of 2019, the new Zoo has opened its doors to new activities, adventures, and experiences that are sure to inspire and excite the new visitors of the zoo that grew! “We have been working on this move for many years but the last couple of years has focused on the development of the new piece of property, securing funding to build the new zoo, and getting the vision into the ground.” Said Executive Director, Joel M Hamilton.
The new zoo scene will have an adventure at every turn! The new property includes breathtaking views starting from the main “Jurassic Park” entrance, to the gorgeous lakes and monkey islands, giraffe feeding stations, Butterfly observation post, luxurious event spaces, and a unique culinary experience at the Safari Club restaurant.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is sure to spark new experiences and educational opportunities throughout the uniquely designed landscape starting with a diverse collection of animals and a friendly staff committed to great animal welfare and guest experience. The new zoo will also include experiences such as hands-on animal encounters, a safari ride through the outback, an old-fashioned carousel, and a thrilling zip-line attraction allowing guests to soar 1200 feet in the air over the zoo. There will be a number of opportunities for guests to learn about the environment and conservation as well as the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo stays at the forefront of conservation and sustainability as a fully operational green zoo.
The new space includes a number of venues to host groups or events. The newest event center is a large covered area that can host larger group settings. They will also use the event center for animal presentations to further the educational entertainment. Another beautiful group venue includes the Savannah Manor building that is designed in a European manner that one may have found on the African plains. This beautiful venue is next to one of the large ponds and can host small parties and even weddings. Other areas throughout the zoo can host groups for a variety of purposes in unique outdoor settings.
The Safari Club Restaurant is also a unique experience where diners can enjoy gourmet food and listen to the peaceful sounds of the zoo. This full-service restaurant was the first green-certified kitchen in Alabama. Executive chef Greg Buschmohle and his team have created an intriguing and satisfactory internationally inspired menu to bring an exciting new dining experience. Serving “Herbivores-Omnivores & Carnivores” the menu brings delightful steak and seafood, “over the top” Vegan and Vegetarian options, and even specialty cocktails at BAR TUSK- overlooking the expanse of the new zoo. Guests are welcome to visit the Safari Club which is open after hours even when the Zoo is not open to the public.
Plan a day to visit the new and improved, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Your friends and family are sure to be amazed by the breathtaking views throughout the entire facility, comfortable interaction with the zoo team, and even some new animal friends! Visit the little zoo that grew once and become part of the Alabama Gulf Coast zoo family or life.
Michelle Little, Head Keeper
How long have you been with the little zoo?
I started at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in 2004.
What animals do you typically work with?
I’ve worked in all the keeping departments, but I’ve spent most of my time working with the reptiles.
How has the process been transitioning the animals to the larger zoo?
We haven’t started relocating yet, but our staff and volunteers are working around the clock getting everything ready for the big move.
What kind of things do the keepers and team, work together to do to ensure a less stressful experience for the animals?
Our keepers have been hard at work training our animals in preparation for the move. Many of our animals, for example, have learned to shift into a crate on cue, and that training will make the move less stressful for everyone involved.
Are you going to be taking care of more/new animals?
I’ve already been involved with our new giraffe, which has been a great experience! I never thought I’d have that opportunity, and I’m sure there will be many more surprises to come.
What are you most excited about for the new zoo?
I’m looking forward to having room to grow! We spent so many years in a very confined space that didn’t really allow room for expansion. Our new location will allow us to offer fun new experiences for animals and humans alike.