City’s Plan for Zoo: Bring in St. Louis Operator, Keep in West Jackson

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The Jackson Zoo likely will get a new operator, and one with no intentions to move the facility from its long-time home in west Jackson to eastern edge of Jackson.

ZoOceanarium, based in St. Louis, Mo., would take over the day-to-day operations from the Jackson Zoological Society, which has operated the facility in its location on West Capitol Street for more than 35 years. The Jackson City Council voted to allow the city administration to enter into contract negotiations with the group on Jan 28.

"We want to stabilize the situation at the zoo so that we can make a long-term plan," Jackson City Council President Melvin Priester Jr. said this week.

ZoOceanarium representatives and the Lumumba administration must reach an agreement in their negotiations before the council can approve a contract. It is a change Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba started hinting about last year after the zoo's director, Beth Poff, resigned.

"We want to see a Jackson that is thriving on all ends. We don't want to see an island of wealth surrounded by a sea of poverty," the mayor said in August 2018. "So as we see a downtown that is developing day by day, as we see some areas that have traditionally had a greater amount of development take place in recent years, we have to make certain that we do not leave in the wake of all that development areas that have been forgotten and left by the wayside."

ZoOceanarium's website says it "specializes in developing and operating a new generation of aquarium and zoological facilities that emphasize excellent animal care and wellbeing and that create unique opportunities for people to appreciate and learn about animals through once-in-a-lifetime-experiences."

The group is 20 years old and has company offices in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore in Southeast Asia, and in

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