BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
Ron and Angie Vanherwyn have a vision. They are starting a zoo just a few miles outside of McKenzie at 2637 Booker Road.
Ron said he retired from the military in 2005 as a disable vet and someone handed him two disabled raccoons. He went further to get a license to have them through USDA and the state.
That’s where it all started for Ron. He started taking in other disable animals from across the United States and giving them a permanent home.
He used to live in Montgomery and would take his animals to schools, colleges, the Alabama Sheriffs’ Ranch and giving education programs. The Department of Natural Resources at some point told Ron he couldn’t take indigenous animals from his compound.
That’s when Ron and Angie decided they wanted to pursue a dream of having a mini-zoo, as it might be termed, and bought a house and land near McKenzie. Angie said, “We moved into an awesome area.”
“We have set things up to have children out here and give classes, along the lines of what I was doing before,” Ron said.
Ron’s interest in rescuing handicapped animals came from when he used to work with disabled veterans and special needs children. He explained that the animals are very resilient and it teaches people that they can do anything they want too.
Ron and Angie have both exotic and indigenous animals at their zoo. Ron laughed when he explained they have no Class 1 or Class 2 animals at their property. Class 1 and 2 animals are lions, tigers, bears, wolves and such.
Ron decided to stay with Class 3 or smaller animals. He said, they still have teeth and can leave nasty bites but they are not going to eat you.
Among the species Ron and Angie will be displaying to the public are coatimundis, raccoons, red and silver foxes, possums, kinkajous, ring tail cats, a Tayra weasel from South America and a striped skunk. They also have several bird species which include ducks, chickens, guinea fowl, and parrots.
Ron explained the zoo will not be a petting zoo. There is a fence around the animal containment area to keep both the animals and people safe. “I can handle all the animals but it not the best idea to have a petting zoo for our Class 3 animals,” said Ron.
Ron and Angie plan to add to their population of animals over time, but they felt they needed to get started with the zoo so they could eventually expand.
To start, Ron and Angie will open on Sunday, June 2, at 12 p.m. and will stay open till 4 p.m. The cost for admission is $8. Children under 5 will be admitted free. Ron and Angie also offer military family discounts and group rates for parties.
You can reach them by phone at 334-301-5131 or [email protected]