Animal Encounters Abound at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park provides a home for all types of animals in need and is a great place to spend a day with people you care about. The Zoo is just a short drive from the 30A corridor as it’s located in Crestview, Florida. They have a diverse collection of animals at the Emerald Coast Zoo. You’ll see lions, tigers, foxes, wolves, sloths, otters and much more.
Parents looking for a fun place to host a birthday party should know that the Emerald Coast Zoo is a great venue. Birthday girls and boys get to choose the animal encounter they most want to experience and a guided tour of the zoo is also included. In addition, the zoo is a great place for school field trips as there are learning opportunities abound.
Susan Leveille is the Director of the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and Zoological Park. She graciously took time to speak with us on a hot day this past summer. After talking with Susan we realized why there is such a warm, welcoming feeling at the Emerald Coast Zoo… Susan is extremely kind, knowledgeable and that leadership has obviously had a positive effect on her entire staff.
Interview with Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park Director Susan Leveille
30A Prime: Thanks for taking time to talk with us today Susan. Please tell us about the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park.
Susan: This facility is actually part of the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge which is a non-profit organization that has been in operation since 1994. The refuge is focused on the rehabilitation and release of orphaned and injured wildlife that is indigenous to Northwest Florida.
We have a fantastic collection of animals here on the zoo side. You’ll find everything from Lions and Tigers to Lemurs, Ravens, Wolves, Otters you name it… So for a small zoo, we have a really great collection of animals that needed a home and that’s what we’ve provided for them.
30A Prime: What do you like best about the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park?
Susan: My favorite part of our zoo is just the personal feeling that you get when you come here. Our staff is fantastic and I can’t say enough about them. They love interacting with the public, they love the animals and so they share lots of information with zoo-goers. Our staff loves sharing knowledge about the wildlife here and you’re able to get nice and close to a lot of the exhibits.
We have a fantastic program of different types of animal encounters. For example, you can interact with a Sloth and with our Lion Levy and with the Lemurs. In regards to the Otters exhibit, you can actually get close to them, feed them, learn all about them. People can really spend one-on-one time with some of our engaging species.
30A Prime: Please tell us about the petting zoo and some of the ground birds we see roaming around.
Susan: With all the exotic animals we have, you’d be surprised at how many people love coming here just to feed the lamas and miniature donkeys. Probably the favorite animal in our petting zoo is Fang and he is a Muntjac deer which is an Asian species. He’s a little guy but he’s fully grown. Many people think he’s a baby when they see him but he’s super friendly, loves to be petted, loves to be fed and people actually come here just to see Fang.
We have a new Fennec Fox exhibit and we do have lots of ground birds, peacocks, chickens, turkeys and they are all free roaming. These are birds that can fly. A lot of people say, gee I didn’t know peacocks can fly but they do flush up to the trees in the evening. When the male peacocks tail feathers are fully formed they just put on beautiful displays. We have people here taking pictures all day long.
30A Prime: What makes the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park different from other zoos around the Country?
Susan: What sets us apart from larger zoos is the personal feel that people will get when they come here. Folks are not only able to get close to the animals, get fantastic pictures, but they can also engage with our staff and with our volunteers to learn specifically about the animals that we have at the Emerald Coast Zoo.
30A Prime: Please tell us about some of the different types of educational programs you offer here at the zoo.
Susan: We offer many different programs as far as educational opportunities here at the Emerald Coast Zoo. One of the most popular programs we have runs during the springtime and is our field trip program. In addition, we have a summer camp that we call “Zoo Camp” and the kids come out to spend a week. The kids work with the keepers, prepare food, feed lots of animals, they make enrichment items and they really get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a zookeeper.
We also have guided tours in which a group can book a staff member to take them through the zoo and talk one-on-one about the animals. So with every visit, we really try to incorporate educational opportunities.
30A Prime: Is this a good venue for birthday parties?
Susan: Yes for sure… Our birthday parties here at the zoo are actually very educational. All of our B-day parties include a guided tour and an encounter with an animal of the birthday boy or girls’ choice.
We welcome you to come visit the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park. We love to see all of our guest both full-time residents and people from afar. You might even get a chance to check out some of these cool peacocks when the males are showing their beautiful pluimage. It is most definitely a sight to see…