Chittenango has some new and exotic residents. The Wild Animal Park had its grand re-opening Saturday. Families got to see a number of animals up close, including alligators, a camel and a tiger. This has been about five years in the making. Our Iris St. Meran spoke with the owner about what it took to make this dream job come true.
CHITTENANGO, N.Y. -- It's not all that unusual to see or hear sheep or goats around town. But it's not every day you would run into a camel named Aladdin, this zebra or alligators, until Saturday at the new and improved Wild Animal Park.
Owner Jeff Taylor said, "This has basically been a life dream of mine to open up a zoo. Luckily, with a lot of help from family and friends and hard work, I've been able to build it. It's taken me about five years total to build what I have now."
Now kids and kids at heart can even take part in feeding creatures they may have only seen on TV.
"I love them all. I love the tiger now, she's so beautiful. Of course I love Aladdin, the camel. He is the friendliest," Chittenango resident Suzanne Reaume.
Getting to this point wasn't easy for the 31-year-old. Jeff Taylor has traveled across the country to obtain these creatures. He spent most of his life working with all kinds of animals.
You may remember a few years ago, his wallaroo, named "Bandit," escaped, but was eventually found dead after being hit by a vehicle. Taylor believes someone purposely let it out, something he won't let happen again.
Visitors get an up close view of these animals like these bears behind me. At the same time, Taylor has to follow strict rules on how they're housed to ensure the safety of both the animals and patrons.
"We follow all the same guidelines as the city zoos. I have to have a perimeter fence around the whole property,” Taylor added. “That's a separate fence from any of the animal enclosures. So, basically, we're sealed in. There's one entrance in, one entrance out. Everything is under lock and key."
Neighbors we spoke with are comfortable with these new residents.
Melissa Derfee said, "We don't have a lot here and it's just wonderful that they've done a great job here. I'm very excited. The animals are all well kept. It's just beautiful."
There's more to do: Kids can jump around in the bounce house, grab a bite to eat and even get their faces painted. He hopes to turn a family outing into an experience.
The Wild is open on weekends through the end of October and some special days. Visit thewildpark.com for information about those special days and hours.