Crestview zoo has potential buyer

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The prospective owner, a former zoo director, has made an offer to buy the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park pending the sale of his home.

WENDY VICTORA @WendyVnwfdn

CRESTVIEW — An offer is on the table to buy the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoological Park, which was placed on the market this spring.

The prospective owner, a former zoo director, has made an offer pending the sale of his home.

ECWR Director Susan Leveille said Tuesday the new owner would use the money from the sale of his home to buy the zoo. She did not identify the interested buyer.

“We’re working with him on permits so we can have a nice, easy transition,” she said.

The 10-acre zoo has 90 exotic animals, including lions, tigers, monkeys, bobcats and a bear. It was listed at $350,000 in March.

In late May, Leveille reported the refuge had two solid offers it was considering. She also said the zoo was being sold with the stipulation that existing animals would stay there.

Crestview has had a zoo of sorts since 1987, when the former owners added some farm animals, monkeys and a parrot to their canoeing operation on the Shoal River. Within two years, they had almost 200 animals.

After the Shoal River overflowed in 1989, they moved to higher ground on seven acres behind their home just off U.S. Highway 90 east of Crestview.

One of the original owners, Debbie Mattox, still lives in her home adjacent to the zoo. She hand-raised many of the animals, including the big cats who still call the zoo home.

The ECWR took over the zoo from Mattox in 2013 and made many changes, including upgrading exhibits.

The refuge decided in March to put the property on the market. Officials cited the need to focus time and resources on their primary mission of rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife.

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