Jackson Zoo struggles to keep gates open; asks for $1.5 mil from city council

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – After asking for a $1.5 million budget, the head of the Jackson Zoo told the City Council last week, the zoo won’t be around much longer if attendance doesn’t increase.

In response, West Jackson residents held a meeting Monday night to get answers on whether or not moving the Jackson Zoo is in the Board of Director’s plan.

Zoo Director Beff Poff says since before 2013, they’ve been struggling to keep the gates open and keep accreditation. She says they’ve failed to raise money from donors to implement a new zoo master plan. “Half of the people responded and said they would not give unless the zoo is in a different area of Jackson. The other half said the would not give to the zoo until the city does something around the zoo and there’s visible increase of support,” Poff said.

Now she says their budget from the city has been cut by $400,000. And they rely heavily on state bonds. She says almost $11.5 million worth of bonds has kept them afloat, “the zoo would be in even worse deteriorating condition than it is in right now. We depend on that state money to do repairs, to bring in new exhibits.”

With declining attendance and a not enough money, board members assured to the public their agenda isn’t to move the zoo.

“There’s not one person who’s ever been on the zoo board since I’ve been on the board who is jumping up and down to move the zoo,” board member, JoAnne Morris said.

The zoo is working to raise $40,000 to hire a consultant who will figure out what’s the best option is for the zoo and it’s budget, either build bigger, close down, or relocate.

“I won’t be back in four years. If we don’t do a new plan, a new direction, the zoo is not going to be here,” Poff said to the crowd.

Mayor Chowke Lumumba says the city council most likely will not be able to grant the requested $1.5 million budget. But he says they will increase the budget.

He also stands firmly against moving the zoo.

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