It began as a small group of people …
Over 16,000 people helped
A small group of people with a big dream...building a zoo. A world-class zoo that would serve as a conservation hub where people could gather to learn about animals. A place to escape from the urban world and get closer to nature, to be reminded of the diversity of the life with which we share this planet.
They had the vision, but now they needed the resources. Frank Vega, past publisher of Florida Today, recruited several community leaders and the dream started to take shape. Executives from the major aerospace companies formed teams to work on architectural designs as well as to provide the labor for the new Zoo. A. Duda and Sons generously donated the land - a prime location for the Zoo.
The next major show of support came from the county commissioners, who committed a revenue source from the Tourist Development Council, allowing the Zoo to obtain a much-needed loan. The $2.5 million dollar loan would be paid back by 15% of the one-third penny collected as a hotel tax.
Another Zoo fundraising effort included the establishment of a Founder's Society, in which 303 founding members helped the Zoo match a $500,000 grant from the State of Florida. More money was raised through sales of t-shirts and thousands of Zoo memberships - all before the Zoo had even been built!
More than anything, these early fundraising successes illustrate the incredibly high level of community support Brevard Zoo has enjoyed from the very beginning. This small band of dedicated people had now raised $3.5 million dollars and recruited more than 16,000 volunteers, making this the largest community Zoo build ever undertaken, anywhere. Leathers, Inc., specialists in community builds, as well as animal habitat designers Basset and Wells rounded out the team, adding technical expertise to the effort.
With hammer and nails at the ready, the local community began construction, making their dream a reality. In March of 1994, Brevard Zoo opened its gates to the public. Visitors delighted in the many surprises they encountered in our innovative "Paws On" interactive area. Becoming a bee and waggling their way through a hive, exploring a cube of soil like an earth worm, or watching a film from the belly of a spouting whale were just a few of the wild possibilities.
Visitors wandered the newly built boardwalk, exploring the thick native Florida forest as our animals were settling into their new homes. During their journey they would meet many denizens of the tropical rainforest, including an awe-inspiring black jaguar named Onyx, a pair of lumbering Baird's tapirs named Pee Wee and Josephine, the giant anteater Hoover, as well as a myriad of primates and birds.
This was just the beginning. The people of Brevard County continue to rally in support of the Zoo. With each new habitat built, community volunteers have generously donated their time and money. The continued success of our Zoo depends on financial contributions from many sources. Funding from private donors, grass roots education and conservation organizations, local, state and federal government - as well as continued support from the Tourist Development Council - are vital to our future. Building on our unprecedented community support, Brevard Zoo will continue to make history.
The East Coast Zoological Society of Florida, Inc. (ECZS) was formed in 1986 with the goal of building a new zoo for Brevard County. Brevard Zoo celebrated its grand opening on March 26, 1994.
Brevard Zoo boasts "The World's Largest Volunteer Community Build." Over 16,000 people of all ages joined forces to help build the Zoo in the spring of 1992.