The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will premiere a new show Saturday starring a cast comprised of rescue animals.
“Campground Critters” features cats, dogs, a variety of birds, a porcupine and a pig.
The Zoo has been brainstorming ideas for a permanent show after the success of a sea lion show a few years ago. Construction on the “Campground Critters” set began in January and the animals and trainers arrived in mid-March.
“Our facilities department has worked on building the stage, painting the stage, making all of the details that you see. We’ve also built in homes for all the animals behind the scenes,” Melissa Gilleland, membership supervisor at the Zoo, said.
The Zoo partnered with Joel Slavin Animal Shows to adopt the animals and put on the show. Joel Slavin also has shows at Sea World, Busch Gardens and other zoos across the country.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens staff say all animals were trained using only positive reinforcement.
“For some of our animals that’s treats, for some of our animals that’s attention just ‘good boys’ and pets and loves, for some of our animals that might be a toy that might be a toy that they get to play with,” Gilleland said.
Zoo staff say the show aims to send a message about pet responsibility to audience members; all the “Campground Critters” were once pets that were surrendered by their owners.
“A lot of animals might seem like they would be really great pets, but they can have some drawbacks that might not necessarily make them be that way,” Gilleland said.
“Especially when you look at animals like birds, like parrots, they can be really long lived. They can live 60-100 years. That’s a long time to commit to a pet.”
The show opens Saturday and costs $3 for Zoo members and $4 for nonmembers. “Campground Critters” is included on value tickets and member value bands.
Shows will run at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. every day, with an additional 4:30 p.m. show on weekends.
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