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Council approves loan guarantee for zoo on heels of study

JACKSON — The Jackson City Council has approved a measure to guarantee a loan of $800,000 for the city’s zoo to help pay for roughly $880,000 in debt.

The loan, which will be taken out of city funding to the zoo for the next eight years, eases zoo management’s effort to maintain accreditation by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which will send inspectors to grade the zoo in early August.

Sean Perkins, chief of staff to Mayor Harvey Johnson, who was absent from yesterday’s meeting, said it will be money well-spent.

The city also is spending $300,000 to repair restrooms and plumbing lines around the 92-year-old zoo.

Zoo director Beth Poff tells The Clarion-Ledger the zoo cares for about 600 animals from 200 species with daily costs of $3,600.

The City Council’s action comes on the heels of a new economic impact study of the zoo conducted on behalf of the AZA.

AZA commissioned a state-by-state economic impact analysis conducted by nationally recognized economist, Dr. Stephen Fuller.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums generated the following impacts for the State of Mississippi: $12.2 million in economic activity (contribution to national GDP), $4 million in personal earnings (salaries and wages) and 125 jobs.

The report found that the Jackson Zoo is a valuable community resource, including visits by 30,000 school children every year, and a vital role in wildlife conservation.

Beyond these important community benefits, Jackson Zoo has the following economic impact: employs 35 people; spends $2.3 million each year on goods and services; and, serves 167,000 visitors each year.

A copy of the report can be found at www.aza.org/PressRoom/NationalEconomicImpact/.

Source: Jackson Zoo; The Clarion-Ledger

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