Gladys Porter Zoo

A gorilla sits and enjoys eating his afternoon snack.

A gorilla sits and enjoys eating his afternoon snack.

Gladys Porter Zoo has been a Brownsville staple for more than 40 years.  Facilities Director, Jerry Stones, has been a part of the city’s favorite family spot since its beginning.  Originally from Nebraska, he started working at the zoo in October of 1970.  A newbie then to wildlife, he found himself in a cage with gorillas for the very first time.  That was all it took for him to fall in love.

“I’ve bottle raised many of the gorillas.  I have literally taken them home with me and allowed them to sleep with me in bed,” said Stones.  The oldest gorilla presently in captivity is 59 years old.  “It would not have survived that long had it stayed in the wild,” he added.

A father and son explore a section of the petting zoo.

A father and son explore a section of the petting zoo.

An educational hub for families, the Small World Petting Zoo provides hands-on learning for children and parents alike.  Illuminating the senses, visitors can pet goats, camels, chickens, sheep and cows.  Stones hopes it inspires children to make connections and take care of animals the world over.  “It has a way of teaching them respect.  They then teach their parents about it,” he confided.

Future plans for the Gladys Porter Zoo include rebuilding the Children’s Zoo, adding a new Jaguar exhibit and creating a nocturnal walk-thru area.  Zoo members also have an eventual new entrance and exit just for them to look forward to.  The zoo appreciates all the support they receive from the community.  Annual Zoofari party funds go directly towards funding the zoo and keeping it running.  During these parties, the zoo also tries to get sponsorships from different companies.

Children enjoy exploring the playground when not observing the animals.

Children enjoy exploring the playground when not observing the animals.

Zoo members are at the core of the local support.  Mother of three, Debra Bustinza, had the following to say about why she and her children visit bimonthly:  “I love that it’s a safe environment for them to run and play.  They love the playground, especially in the summer.  It’s really good to have a membership here.  We come every other weekend.”

Mr. Stones has a challenge for anyone that might consider remembering the zoo in their will.  “If someone remembers us in their will, we could name the Children’s Zoo after their family,” he smiled.

Visitors are encouraged to feed the giraffes a couple of days during the week at lunch time for a small fee.

Visitors are encouraged to feed the giraffes a couple of days during the week at lunch time for a small fee.

For information on how to become a volunteer at the zoo, please call (956) 546-WILD.  For all other inquiries please visit their website or their Facebook page.

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