The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo welcomed three new residents from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium this month. During a news conference Friday, June 17, Joel Hamilton, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo …
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo welcomed three new residents from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium this month. During a news conference Friday, June 17, Joel Hamilton, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo executive director, introduced Daniel, Chadwick and Regina, 2-year-old African lion siblings, to the public.
The Zoological Association of America (ZAA) approached the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo about becoming a partner in establishing new genetic lines within the North American population of African lions.
"These animals represent an awesome opportunity for Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and lions of North America," Hamilton said. "These three lions will be here for a couple of years until they get mature. During that time, an animal management plan is being developed."
The animal management plan looks at the genetic composition of all the lions that are within accredited facilities that could be part of the breeding program. Hamilton said they will then look at where each lion falls into that plan and who should be paired with whom. The whole plan looks at many generations forward to ensure that a genetic bottleneck is not created.
"This is going to solidify our professional future with lions. Ultimately, we will end up with our own breeding pride here. You know lion cubs are always an awesome thing and the public enjoys seeing them," Hamilton said. "Just like in the wild, there are challenges. Zoos only have a finite amount of space so we may have to regulate breeding and not just produce cubs for the sake of producing cubs. This is all done with scientific process."
During the two-year wait for the trio of lions to arrive, the zoo identified changes that needed to be made within the lion house and exhibit area. The zoo had already been housing one female lion who has been there for years. Phase one was completed thanks to the generosity of the city of Orange Beach and Perdido Beach Service.
Phase one included the addition of a shift shoot that allows the staff and veterinarian easier access to the animals. A scale will soon be added so the weight of the animals can be tracked on a regular basis. Phase two of the project includes changes to the interior of the large cat house in preparation for breeding. Stalls will be added and a denning stall for a female when she is ready to cub.
Ken Grimes, Orange Beach city administrator, said the Orange Beach City Council agreed to match funds the zoo had already raised for the improvements, which amounted to $48,000.
"What we committed back was that we will budget $50,000 a year moving forward. It will be discussed annually but we will budget $50,000 in next year's budget for whatever operational costs, specifically tied to this program," Grimes said.
Grimes went on to say that the Orange Beach City Council sees the zoo as an educational tool that will be incorporated into Orange Beach City School system.
"There are going to be a lot of educational opportunities for our students, a lot of STEAM related projects, classes and field trips," Grimes said.
Orange Beach City councilperson Jerry Johnson was also present and said, "The zoo is good for the Alabama Gulf Coast. It is a destination. We look at Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach it is a huge asset because it brings people here and all three cities benefit from that. To be on the ground floor of this is right where the city wants to be. We want to grow with the zoo."
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo Lion Exhibit is sponsored by the city of Orange Beach.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is located at 20499 Oak Road East in Gulf Shores. The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission prices vary from $14.95 to $19.95. Visit alabamagulfcoastzoo.com for more information.