Heartache has turned to healing as a community continues rallying behind an Anderson County zoo. On Saturday, after months of help, the zoo gave back.
In December, flames consumed the main barn at Little Ponderosa Zoo. Employees worked to save as many animals as they could but, sadly, dozens died. Investigators deemed the deadly fire accidental.
Since then memorials have been held and many in East Tennessee held fundraisers as a way to help the zoo come back from this tragic loss. The rescue thanked the community by opening their doors admission free.
It was a day of delight and discovery for the Council family.
“The kids are having a lovely time,” said mom, Ania Council.
They visited Little Ponderosa Zoo, of course, to have fun. However, they also wanted to see how it’s building back.
“They’ve improved so much, they’ve come a long way and it looks like they’re still improving on stuff,” added Council.
The material to build the new facility was delivered to the zoo earlier this week and construction began on Friday. “Some of it was erected and they’ll be back next week. We’re hoping in a couple of weeks to have that part done and then we’re hoping by the first of June to be in our new facility,” said the zoo’s owner James Cox.
Thousands of people came to the zoo’s Customer Appreciation Day to visit the animals, have fun and show support.
“For that we’re forever grateful and thankful,” added Cox.
The Cooper family has a special connection to the zoo, years ago they gave one of their monkeys to the zoo. Sadly, it didn’t escape the fire.
“My heart was devastated when I did find out he was in there. I was heartbroken,” said Bridget Cooper.
Months later, though, many hearts are finally put back together.
“It looks like it’s going to be even better than what it was before and I’m excited to see it,” said Cooper.
It’s through support from the community, the state and across the country that’s made it impossible for Cox to quit.
“Even the day after the fire we were taking in animals and we have a tent full of animals ready to go into our new facility,” he said.
The walk forward for Cox and his staff is a happier one.
“Goodness mends the heart and the goodness of people, the community, the area has surely been able to mend my broken heart,” said Cox.
Little Ponderosa Zoo plans on building a permanent memorial for the animals that perished in the December 4th fire.
Cox says over the last four months they’ve been able to rescue primates, porcupines, foxes and a number of other exotic animals.
If you’d like to help with Little Ponderosa Zoo’s rebuilding, you can make a donation by visiting their website here.