Frank Buck Zoo Director Susan Kleven offered information and statistics to Rotary Club members about the zoo on Wednesday as part of an ongoing “Gainesville University” education series.
Gainesville University sessions are coordinated among city officials as a way of focusing on individual city departments or programs and informing others on their key facts and little-known details.
Kleven delivered a 20-minute presentation offering some statistics about Frank Buck Zoo, plus information about the facility’s “animal kingdom.”
The zoo itself
Frank Buck Zoo includes a retail gift shop, a museum exhibit and 12.5 acres of landscaped area dedicated to housing and exhibiting a collection of more than 160 animals from four continents. The zoo hosts 65,000 guests annually. Kleven said 60 percent of the facility’s annual revenue is generated March through July, and hundreds of education programs are presented during this time.
A secretarial position was added in fiscal year 2013 to help address the 6,000-plus inquiries the zoo receives annually. This number, Kleven added, does not reflect the additional 1,500 inquiries regarding Leonard Park operations.
Frank Buck Zoo, she added, also enforces a number of “green” initiatives, such as a compost program, a “fly predator” program that reduces pesticides; utilization of organic gardening; a recycling program; and water conservation methods such as the use of food-providing substrates, the use of fish in bodies of water to reduce draining and the use of drought-resistant plants; and a mulching program. The facility itself has a motif of sorts — given lush landscaping and meticulous grounds upkeep.
Kleven said the zoo’s family of animals are maintained by way of a seven-day-a-week operation. The zoo facility is home to many animals that qualify as endangered species or “vulnerable” and “near-threatened” species, as outlined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. These include the cotton-top tamarin, the red-ruffed lemur, the ring-tailed lemur, the Geoffroy’s cat, the nubian ibex, the Chilean flamingo and the red-footed tortoise. Kleven also singled out the zoo’s clouded leopard exhibit — showcasing small and relatively obscure leopards that derive from Southeast Asian forests.
Kleven added that as a career choice, zookeeping is competitive and difficult, and most zoos require that prospective keepers already have two paid years of experience. Frank Buck Zoo hiring criteria requires a degree in a related field (animal science, biology, wildlife management, zoology, etc.) along with a minimum of one internship performed in a zoological setting. Most of the zoo’s animal care staff have moved to the Gainesville area from out of state; zookeepers have come from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, plus others.
Frank Buck Zoo is sometimes available for overnight camping programs available for scout groups and youth science clubs. Zoo rentals are also available for corporate picnics and other family events. Kleven briefly discussed the “Summer Safari” day camp for children ages 6 through 13, held twice during June and twice in July.
Key events include “Zoo Boo,” which unfolds during the final Saturday evening during October as a Halloween-themed family-friendly event with treats, games, costumes and food; “Zoobilee,” held in October as a gourmet-level fundraiser dinner for the Frank Buck Zoological Society; a day-long celebration of the birthday of zoo founder Frank Buck, in March; and the “Zoo Eggstravaganza,” held as an Easter egg hunt for children during the appropriate spring months.
For more information, call (940) 668-5439 or visit www.frankbuckzoo.com.