PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Two weeks ago a petition calling for bigger enclosures for the animals of Zoo World in Panama City Beach started circulating online. The organizer started with hundreds of signatures and now has more than 1,600.
According to the director of Zoo World, the zoo sits on more than five acres of land.
"We would absolutely love to be able to have room to expand. Right now the zoo is pretty locked in. We have Front Beach on one side an RV Park on the other side," said Kayte Hogan, the director of Zoo World.
The online petition calls for "the freedom of animals or relocation to Highway 79 or 231 to ensure adequate space and care."
"I really would enjoy a zoo here just bigger, bigger enclosures, I love Zoo World but it's just too small," said Nichole Wenger who is behind the online petition.
Zoo World officials say they aren't bothered by the online petition but want people to know conservation is one of their biggest goals at the zoo.
"So we're not upset about the petition, we agree! We would love to be able to obtain some land to do more conservation work to have bigger, better exhibits for the animals. Just because we have five acres, doesn't mean we aren't meeting their needs," said Hogan.
The petition is now up to more than 1,600 signatures and when it reaches 2,500 it will be brought to the Bay County commissioners at their next meeting.
"A nice piece of land from the commissioners because they would have good pieces of property and hopefully work from there," said Wenger.
"So the thought of having somebody donate land to us so we could expand in to a really big phenomenal facility is absolutely fantastic," said Hogan.
Hogan also stressed how they help repopulate endangered species at the zoo, like the black and white rugged lemur.
"I want better care for the animals, better enclosures, more enrichment, more natural habitat for them," said Wenger.
"We take care of their nutritional needs. We take care of their reproductive needs. We take care of their emotional needs. When you are an animal that lives in a zoo you are very, very well cared for," said Hogan.
After our interview with Wenger she took a tour of Zoo World. Zoo World employees told us she was receptive to the changes the zoo has made and they appreciate her feedback.
Hogan says the zoo is making a new lion exhibit and it will be big enough to house up to six lions, but only three will live there. They anticipate it being ready by spring 2018.