Hattiesburg Zoo gets grant for discovery center

The Hattiesburg Zoo welcomes corporate, private and public donations to fund their many exhibits and activities for children. (Hattiesburg Zoo photo)

From Media Reports

HATTIESBURG – The Ashbury Foundation has given $277,000 to the Hattiesburg Zoo to help complete work on the zoo’s highly anticipated education building.

The Hattiesburg Zoo welcomes corporate, private and public donations to fund their many exhibits and activities for children. (Hattiesburg Zoo photos)

The money will be used primarily to finish the interior of the 2,200 square-foot facility. It will open in April of 2014 as part of the zoo’s annual Birthday Bash celebrations and will be known as the Asbury Discovery Center.

The new state-of-the-art facility will feature viewable housing for the zoo’s education animals, as well as viewable offices and labs. It will also serve as the new home and play yard for the Zoo’s Galapagos Tortoises, and a venue for zoo classes, camps, special events and corporate meetings.

“Asbury has stepped up to the plate and made the largest sponsorship to date to the Hattiesburg Zoo and it’s going to turn into a unique structure here in Hattiesburg, a unique structure, we believe, in our state,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.

Asbury Foundation Chief Executive Officer Bill Ray said the center will bring new educational opportunities to the children of Hattiesburg.

“It’s one of those things where you take somebody that’s 8, 9, 10 years old (to the zoo) and it may change their whole life and ours, too, with the research or whatever they pursue,” Ray said.

Taylor said animals that have been cared for by the zoo for years will finally have a home within the discovery center.

“The Zoo’s Education Department and its activities are continually growing,” said Taylor. “The new Asbury Discovery Center is designed to excite the curiosity of children who come to the Zoo, as they will be able to see some behind-the-scenes Zoo operations first-hand. The space will also allow our guests to view the entire collection of education animals which have previously not been on public exhibit due to a lack of space.

“I’m excited … to put our kids’ education right there in the midst of the animals they can see and touch in the style of discovery and innovation,” Taylor continued.  “It all just comes together at this site and Asbury has made that possible for this,” Taylor said.

A red-tailed boa constrictor, white-lipped tree frogs, an Indian chinchilla, and Sugar and Spice – the zoo’s hedge hogs – are among the animals visitors will get to see when the center opens.

“The Asbury Foundation’s financial gift to open this special facility inside the Hattiesburg Zoo is a huge step forward in our efforts to make the Zoo one of Mississippi’s most enjoyed attractions,” said Taylor. “Community support is vital in our efforts to grow the Zoo. The Asbury Foundation’s gift makes it possible for our education animals to be seen at the Zoo when they are not out at area schools or camps. The Asbury Foundation’s commitment to education aligns perfectly with the mission of the Hattiesburg Zoo. As our largest donor to date, we are encouraged by the Foundation’s investment in our children, our zoo, and our community.”

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