ST. GEORGE – Imagine spending the day at the zoo. Imagine your kids becoming junior zookeepers, petting animals and learning about conservation. Imagine a zoo built by and for the community and imagine that zoo being only minutes away from your house. That is the dream of local entrepreneur Jade Moellendorf and his family as they set their sights on creating the Javlan Animal Park right here in St. George.
It is a big goal to be sure and one that Moellendorf hopes to accomplish with the help of the local community by crowdfunding or community funding the costs and in return creating a zoo that aims to be a leading player in animal conservation that is debt-free, self-reliant, eco-friendly and communitycentric, he said.
Recent trends in crowdfunding – the practice of funding a personal venture, project or charity, generally through social media – show an upsurge in sites such as Kickstarter, gofundme and Indiegogo facilitating the success (or failure) of peoples’ greatest inventions, next big adventures and hairbrained schemes. Moellendorf hopes to ride that wave of success by creating his own community funding platform designed solely to establish an animal park in Southern Utah, he said.
The way it works is, patrons wishing to participate can choose to purchase a “perk” on the animal park website ranging anywhere from $5-$10,000. Perks can include a “thank you” on the website, park passes, shirts, naming or choosing an animal at the park, or having your name or business name on an animal enclosure. The website accepts payments by Paypal or credit card and all the funds go directly into a business account to help with park costs, Moellendorf said.
Moellendorf wants the whole community to be involved even if that means only spending $1 and he encourages anyone who wishes to help that can’t find a perk on the website within their budget to call him and see what they can work out, he said.
“We also do custom packages for people who want to customize it a bit more or businesses who want to do a little bit more marketing,” Moellendorf said, “we are totally willing to do that because it is all about raising the funds.”
Moellendorf has been working with animals for the last 25 years, he said, and bringing a zoo to the area has been a longtime goal for himself and his family and he is excited about the idea of bringing this to the community and asking them to help create and fund it.
“The thing that is really cool about the community zoo,” Moellendorf said, “is that the community is really involved, they decide how big we go and what kind of animals we bring to the park.”
Moellendorf plans to begin with a small community zoo and a desert theme focusing on desert animals from around the world and then expand as the project is supported, he said.
Being a community funded zoo, Moellendorf recognizes the need and has the desire to keep the animal park as self-reliant as possible and never wants to expand beyond what the community can support financially (in the beginning stages) and as patrons.
Moellendorf plans to incorporate an innovative food growing system called a Fodder Solutions system or something similar that uses hydroponic seed-to-feed growing techniques which will enable the zoo to produce much of its animal feed on site and year round, he said.
He also plans to plant a zoo garden/orchard so that they can consistently grow their own food that the animals digestive systems are used to in order to keep them healthy, fed, hydrated and going strong, he said.
“We are going to try to be as self-reliant as we can so that we don’t have to keep relying on more and more funds to support it,” Moellendorf said, “as long as the community keeps coming to the zoo we should be able to support the animals.”
The mission of the zoo
According to the animal park’s website their mission is to “strengthen family bonds and to promote conservation of the natural world,” and they have a bulleted plan for accomplishing this goal by:
- Being industry leaders in the health and welfare of animals and educating the public and keeping the American agricultural experience alive
- Sharing love and respect for animals and inspiring appreciation and kindness while teaching the proper care of all of God’s creatures
- Providing hands-on and close up experiences with animals and promoting harmony between nature and development through example
- Providing the highest quality, professional and beautiful animal attractions to the industry with emphasis on safety and dignity for both guests and animals
- Promoting public awareness of conservation issues and educating the public on how easy it can be to help with the knowledge and understanding of animals
- Creating new and innovative exhibits with plenty of recreational opportunities
- Creating an environment in which employees can use and expand their knowledge of the animal kingdom and share this knowledge with the public in a fun, family friendly atmosphere
One of the biggest goals for Moellendorf is to create a zoo that provides a really hands-on experience for families, he said, by incorporating educational classes, a junior zookeeper program and a petting zoo area, he said.
“We want to instill that love for animals in a lot of kids,” Moellendorf said, “because who knows how many future generations of veterinarians or zoologists we have who are coming through and will get that animal bug that sticks with them for the rest of their lives.”
Moellendorf hopes by educating children and adults alike about different animal species they in turn will want to conserve and protect these beings, he said.
“If we don’t protect them, then who will,” Moellendorf said.
A zoo for the family, the community and the future
Moellendorf has big dreams for the future of the animal park including camel treks, a live carousel, conservation and breeding programs and maybe even a splash pad for the kids, but his ultimate goal is to create a place where the community can come and spend the day learning about and falling in love with the animals, he said.
Moellendorf also plans to be USDA registered as well as have all licensing and registrations in place before opening doors, he said.
Javlan Animal Park is currently in the funding phase but hopes to open its doors in 2015.
- To learn more about Javlan Animal Park or to purchase a perk visit their website
- Praises for much improved St. George Animal Shelter, grand reopening announced
- Donations, buyers needed for rummage sale to benefit animals
- First Utah condor chick born at Zion National Park, specialists believe
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.