The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is located in Gulf Shores, near the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

It is the home to a broad range of animals, is very popular, and has more than 100,000 visitors each and every year.

The inhabitants that live there are very diverse, and each and every animal has a name and a back story.

Some of these precious animals were rescued after being abandoned, abused, or orphaned.

Some of the others were no longer wanted for being too big, too old, or too sick, and their owners no longer wanted them.

Some were lucky enough to be born at the zoo, but whatever their circumstances were, they are now in a very lovely and safe home.

The zoo is located at a new location, 20499 Oak Road East, Gulf Shores, Alabama.

If you are trying to locate it coming from the East beach, you turn right onto Hwy 59, Gulf Shores Parkway, and if you are coming from the West Beach, you turn left.

You then travel about 5 miles crossing the Intercoastal bridge, and then at the intersection of Hwy 59 and Oak Road East (CR6) you turn right.

The zoo is now located on the left about ¼ mile down the road.

At the is new location, the Zoo collection includes lions, bears, white Siberian tigers, as well as monkeys.

There is also a reptile house, an aviary, a petty zoo for the children, and a very exciting live-animal theater during the summer months.

The History of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo Entrance SignAlabama Gulf Coast Zoo Entrance Sign

The history of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo all started with a Gulf Shores resident named Joey Ward, who founded it under the name Zoo Land, in the year 1989.

The early attractions were quite limited, and included a small aviary, a reptile house, as well as a petting zoo.

It also included a few large cats and primates, but as time went by, the collation began to grow.

Animals were donated to this small but growing zoo, and some were loaned out from other zoos.

In the year 1991, the Ward family donated 17 beautiful areas to the young zoo, and began a non-profit corporation called the Zoo Foundation.

However, that was not the end of the growth, as three years later the Ward Family as well as the Ernie Meyer Foundation, donated an additional 13 acres for more expansion.

The director of this small zoo, Patti Hall, began her zoo career as a volunteer in 1996, took control of the zoo from Troy Peterson.

Mr. Peterson then moved onto manage the Saraland Zoo located in Mobile, Alabama.

Tragedy Strikes the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Exhibit at the ZooExhibit at the Zoo

Just as things were starting to settle in, the Gulf Shores area was hit directly by Hurricane Danny in 1997, which produced extreme rainfall as well as numerous tornadoes.

The storm dropped a record amount of rainfall in the State of Alabama, and over 36 inches fell on Gulf Shores.

Then, just one year later, the area was hit by Hurricane Georges, which produced a 7–12-foot storm surge in Mobile and Gulf Shores, again damaging the area.

This new small zoo had to evacuate more the 200 animals two times now.

They had to load them in sports-utility vehicles and refrigerated trucks and take them 15 miles inland to safety.

This was very expensive, and the zoo closed down in 1999, and the same year it was renamed the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

Numerus fund raising were then started by Ms. Hall, that included the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce as well as the Visitor Bureau.

It also included private donors, and businesses, and then tragedy struck again in the form of Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004.

These powerful hurricanes caused over one-half million dollars damage to the zoo, and it was closed for more than 14 months for repairs.

In the year 2005 two more storms brushed the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Dennis and Katrina, but the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo officially re-opened in 2005.

The Resurgence of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Exhibit at the Alabama Gulf Coast ZooExhibit at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was not finished, as numerous news outlets had covered all of this tragedy, and Ms. Hall had an idea.

She contacted the Animal Planet network to make a documentary of all these events, and to tell the story of this small but growing zoo.

The series was called “The Little Zoo That Could”, and it aired nationally in 2006 and 2007.

This national attention dramatically increased the attendance to this small and growing zoo, as the attendance numbers now reached over 100,000.

Then, in 2006, a local business owner, Mr. Clyde Weit, donated 26 acres for the new site that was at a much higher elevation, and a lot further inland.

Today the zoo is spread out over 25 acres with wide pathways that provide close-up views of the exhibits and has been voted the Number One Zoo in Alabama for a couple of years.

There are currently over 600 animals for you and your family to enjoy.

There is also a picnic area, rest stops and benches, as well as a very nice gift shop with animal themed merchandise.

Some of the Animals at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Animals at the Alabama Gulf Coast ZooAnimals at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo currently has 118 different species, and 22 that are endangered.

Here are some of the exhibits and animals at the zoo.

  • The Reptile House
  • Animal Encounter
  • A Black Leopard
  • Bengal Tigers
  • An American Black Bear
  • Camels
  • Over 50 Primates
  • Petting Zoo
  • Educational Stage

The reptile house is filled with several very large snakes, lizards, iguanas, as well as tortoises.

Animal Encounter are exhibits where you and your family can get up-close, touch and hold very friendly animal’s, including two-toed sloths.

The Bengal Tigers are one of the 22 endangers species at the zoo, and the Petting Zoo is for all ages.

It holds very gentle goats, sheep, a donkey, as well as deer, and the Educational Stage features a Eurasian Eagle Owl Lynx, a Kookaburra, and a cockatoo.

If you and your family are in or going to the Gulf Shores area, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is a must see and is one the best kept secrets in the State.


Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo | Encyclopedia of Alabama

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

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