The North Alabama Zoological Society (NALZS) is on a mission to bring a full-size, modern, AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited Zoo and Aquarium to the greater Huntsville area. We have kicked off a campaign to raise money and to bring awareness of the efforts NALZS is undertaking to bring “A Zoo for You, North Alabama.” We are inviting everyone to be a “pal of NALZS” or what we like to call a NALZS Palz.
This 6 week campaign is a kickoff to NALZS raising our goal of $6M over the next 12 months. This initial round of funding will be used to look for the zoo’s location, facility design and planning, to recruit world class zoo talent to the team, and kick off a research campus. NALZS Executive Director Ethan Woodruff explains, “To construct and open the first phase of the zoo and aquarium, we estimate we will need to raise a total of $30M. This is based on figures from some recent zoo modernization and construction projects around the country. But given the current economic happenings, it is unrealistic to try to raise the total amount this year. Instead we feel $6M of that total amount is a good goal to go for. This will get us the funds to purchase the all important site that everyone is asking about. We are here to create a zoo and aquarium and are going to be aggressively chipping away at that $30M price tag until we get there.” A 2020 Annual NALZS Palz Campaign website has been set up so the community can have the opportunity to learn more about the effort, share it with their friends, and provide a donation to help bring about “A Zoo for You North, Alabama”, www.aZooForYouNAL.org.
This is more than an idea or a wish. Ethan Woodruff further explains, “Creating a combination zoo and aquarium is not a quick process, although we are going to go as quickly as we can. We are not only responsible for creating a great environment for our guests, but also for the precious animals in our care that we will be working to conserve.” He adds that, “This will be the first zoo built from scratch in at least a couple of decades. The zoo community is pretty excited about this. Our plan is to be an AZA accredited facility and start construction for our first phase in approximately 2-3 years. But we are not waiting for the zoo to get out there and start making a difference.” NALZS has been around for more than a year with 16 non-paid people on the Board of Directors and 17 non-paid, volunteer staff members currently working on conservation and education projects in North Alabama communities.
The plan for the completed zoo and aquarium calls for between 250-300 acres with 150 of those acres being for the public exhibit areas. Plans also call for the rest of acreage to house a veterinarian hospital, wildlife rehab center, off-viewing barns and paddocks, greenhouses for sustainable food growing, and support buildings. Through this awareness & funding campaign, the primary goal is to receive a land donation or long-term lease for the acreage and in turn give the option of property naming to the generous patron. NALZS has been shown some potential locations with good public access that could be purchased as a secondary option. The cost of these current purchase options is approximately $3.5M, which the $6M funds will be used for if a land donation does not happen.
The estimated $30M Phase 1 of the project is set to include a domestic animal exhibit, Alabama wildlife exhibit, animals that have been in space exhibit, splash pad, antique carousel and carousel house, front entrance plaza with restaurants and stores, and event space. Plans also include a park and picnic area outside the zoological park for gatherings. Phase 1 is a very important phase as it will be implementing the infrastructure needed to support the build up of the rest of the zoo. As funding becomes available, other exhibits will be added and connected to the parts of the park that are already open to the public. Amongst the support facilities located away from the public will be greenhouses and gardens to grow fresh food ensuring high quality fruits and vegetables for the animals while lowering care costs. NALZS is researching other long term cost savings to build into the park such as onsite renewable energy sources, self service technology and robotics.
As an addition to the 2020 Annual NALZS Palz Campaign, NALZS recognizes the financial difficulty the COVID shutdowns have caused the museums in our community and around the state. To help, the NALZS Board of Directors have pledged to use 20% of the funds raised during the 6 week Annual NALZS Palz Campaign to donate to Huntsville’s museums. “While these are precious funds for NALZS, currently being in the position as a volunteer staffed organization and not having any door yet to try to keep open, we felt the need to help alleviate the struggle of these local museums trying to keep employees employed and community treasures open,” stated Ethan. NALZS culture is one of collaboration where a unified community is required for the success of the growing Huntsville Metro area.
About the North Alabama Zoological Society
North Alabama Zoological Society’s (NALZS) mission is 1) connect the communities and visitors of North Alabama with the world’s wild places and wildlife; 2) Be a standard of conservation research, action, and education; 3) and inspire a better tomorrow; while establishing a world-class zoo and aquarium. Founded in 2019, NALZS is a 501(c)(3) State of Alabama Nonprofit Corporation, with headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, USA. “A Zoo For You, North Alabama” is the NALZS program umbrella for all activities and events related to establishing a combination zoo and aquarium in North Alabama. For additional information, visit www.NALZS.org.