Since the new zoo operations contract is in its final stages with the City of Jackson, members of zoOceanarium Group (our incoming zoo management team) and the Jackson Zoo staff recently found an opportunity for an informal pre-planning session.

Although no official decisions or timeline can be set without a contract in place with the city, everyone agreed that a revitalization project of this size and scope needs all the prep time available. zoOceanarium Group’s Managing Partner Chris Davis and Director of Animal Projects Erin Clark met with Jackson Zoo Interim Director Dave Wetzel and Marketing and Promotions Director EJ Rivers to continue discussing short and long term projects for the one hundred year old park. 

This particular “think tank” further defined how to combine the zoo’s current strengths and needs with zoOceanarium Group’s global attraction and guest experience expertise. They discussed that the initial phase of the Jackson Zoo modernization needs be “Foundational,” or focusing on the fundamentals of a successful modern zoo: 

  • enhancing wildlife care and habitats with additional training from zoOceanarium Group’s animal care team;

  • prioritizing and setting timelines for park changes and additions after park re-opening with USDA approval (NOTE: The Jackson Zoological Society’s USDA exhibitor’s license ended on September 30th, 2019, and the zoo temporarily closed to the public. Since then, Jackson Zoo staff, City of Jackson officials, and the zoOceanarium Group have applied for the new USDA license, but are waiting to set an inspection date until the city has completed the repairs to areas of concern);

  • re-establishing stable funding for improvements, animal acquisitions, educational programs, community events, and guest experiences;

  • strengthening and forging new relationships with community leadership, residents, and visitors to help develop a new five year plan;  

  • and creating a better balance between the park and community’s history and the needs of our wildlife, families, and educators.

A major point was how the Jackson Zoo can re-open and best meet community needs and expectations during what will be an “invisible” phase: projects that are absolutely crucial for a zoo, yet could be considered “uneventful” to the public eye. Because both zoOceanarium Group and the Jackson Zoo staff share animal care and guest experience as their top priorities, everyone should still be on the lookout for some fun announcements in the coming year.

Finally, Davis expressed great admiration for the Jackson Zoo staff and community partners for their hard work and dedication, especially during such an unusual and difficult period. Wetzel assured him that not only do the staff still have more than enough energy for the next phase, they’re ready at the word “Go.” 

zoOceanarium hopes to join Mayor Lumumba and members of the Jackson City Council for the official signing of the contract within the coming weeks. Mr. Davis especially looks forward to officially introducing the zoOceanarium team to their newest adopted community and getting projects underway.

There was also mention of it being about time for another Stamps burger.