Austin Zoo is both a ‘not for profit’ rescue zoo and an animal sanctuary located in Travis County, just west of Austin, Texas.
The zoo is quite unique in that it has a dual purpose. Firstly, it allows visitors to come and view the animals thus increasing guests’ knowledge and education about animals in plight and then it also serves as a rescue and rehabilitation centre.
The zoo initially started out as a goat ranch but in 1990, it became the Good Day Ranch which catered for animals in need. During that period, the animals consisted mainly of pigs, goats, donkeys, ponies and fallow deer. However, with the steady increase in the number of roadside zoos, the release of older animals from big city zoos to smaller locations and the rise in the number of people keeping exotic species, the ranch expanded in 1994 and became known as Austin Zoo.
Unfortunately, the number of people buying and keeping exotic species but being unable to look after them properly as well as the domestic animals which are either rescued from, or not wanted by, their owners has meant that the zoo has become a safe refuge for such animals. In 2009 alone, the zoo took over 60 new residents into its care that included lions, prairie dogs, llamas and pygmy goats. Nevertheless, the zoo has to turn down requests for supporting additional animals at a rate of around 50 a month.
From its humble beginnings, the zoo is now home to a variety of species. They are divided up into categories – big cats, monkeys, birds, amphibians, reptiles and other mammals such as foxes, bears, mongoose and lemurs. In total, there are more than 350 animals at the zoo from over 100 species.
On average, over 200, 000 people visit the zoo each year and close to a quarter of these are teachers and pupils who come to the zoo on field trips. In fact, one of the zoo’s main aims is to introduce children to animals and to aid this, the zoo has a number of attractions in its domestic animals section which children can get up close to and even help to feed – the goats being a prime example.
The zoo will continue its mission of rescuing and rehabilitating animals thanks to the kind donations, sponsorships, grants and, of course, gate admissions and support from the general public.