Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Zooceanarium Withdraws from Zoo Negotiations

Post updated with statement from Mayor Lumumba. 

 The city of Jackson will continue to manage the Jackson Zoo.  WLBT reported: 

Two years after Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba tapped ZoOceanarium Group to take over management of the Jackson Zoological Park, the firm has pulled out of negotiations.

ZoOceanarium Managing Partner Chris Davis confirmed the news with WLBT Wednesday morning.

“It was a very tough decision for us to make, but indeed, after participating in two and a half years of good faith negotiations, we did let the city know that we will not be further pursuing the operations of the zoo,” he said in an email.

The news comes more than four months after ZoOceanarium officials were grilled at a city council meeting, where members raised concerns about the firm’s proposed contract.

Among concerns, Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay asked why the contract did not include provisions requiring the new managers to obtain accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Accreditation shows that the zoo is meeting certain standards in animal care and best practices. AZA accreditation is often considered the gold standard for accreditation and would allow the zoo to participate in programs like the AZA’s Species Survival Program, which could bring new animals to the park.

The contract had not been presented to the council for approval. Rest of article.

The company does not possess any USDA licenses to manage anything in the United States.  It manages the St. Louis Aquarium but a USDA license is not required.  

It is still not known who owns the company.  

Update (1:55 PM): Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba issued the following statement. 

 In the past year, we’ve gone from our zoo being closed to regaining our USDA license to having a successful limited reopening. Momentum has not stopped on improvements and investment in the park. It is unfortunate that the contract with ZoOceanarium Group did not work out. But, we are confident in our team. We are looking forward to expanding our hours for the zoo this May and to bringing a full schedule back by the end of the summer. We encourage everyone to come out to visit and support the Jackson Zoo. Detailed information about hours, tickets and events can be found at


Kingfish note: Sooo..... how many times did the city say a contract was forthcoming?    

The Mayor can spin it all he wants but the Jackson zoo matter has been a complete fiasco for him.  He got mad because the Board voted to study moving the zoo.  He refused to talk to the Executive Director after it took place.  He flew half-cocked into bragging he would replace the Society with a management company - not knowing no such companies exist.  Perhaps he should privatize the water treatment plants, heaven knows they need it. 

The Society called his bluff because no one on his team thought to check on licensing - and there is no doubt in my mind he would have operated the zoo without the USDA license if he could have gotten away with it.  He made up a bogus water bill and went to court.  Fine.  His bluff was called again.  He got his animals.  The result was the zoo had to shut down because there was no license.  He never dreamed the zoo would close on his watch, much less close because of his arrogance.  Meanwhile he kept promising a Zooceanarium contract.  When questioned about accreditation, he said the zoo didn't need no accreditation just as JPD doesn't need more officers or he doesn't need to tell anyone about the EPA. 

He is stuck paying for a zoo that he can't afford.  He doesn't have the money to rebuild it and promote it but he can't ever admit to himself that he might have made a mistake. 

Too bad the Board didn't do what I wanted to do: file bankruptcy.  That would have been fun to watch.



Anonymous said...

Is there anything the city actually does right? Just one thing?

Anonymous said...

What a joke. Now can we please move the zoo to Lakeland Drive so it can actually make money?

Anonymous said...

Again, moneyed outside interests roll into Mississippi, and the rubes stand jaws agape, and the wheeler dealers offer some "innovative financing."

We saw it with foreign investors in the Toll Road laws being passed, and an attempt to persuade taxpayers to shell out for a 1.5 mile "shortcut" (how?) to the airport, when we already had a free interstate path. Did anyone wonder what the ultimate goal of that was? Ask Texas or Alabama, especially Orange Beach. We STILL have those laws on the books, and it will return, with some new label to soothe the Legislature.

Then we had OGND (original Green New Deal) money being spread for Green Tech, which gave Chinese Communist Party members visas to emigrate, and failed.

Then, this, by Gulf emirs.

Yes, Mississippi does international business. That's private money that we've had shielded from taxes for Fauntleroy to get snookered.

But there always need to be questions asked when outside investors are seeking taxpayer lands or funds. They DO NOT have our best interest at heart. They have THEIRs, and theirs only, at heart.

So, does anyone want to look up "local" car dealers, with long established names, and look for "Blank" Group ownership and then see that George Soros Investments owns it?

It's there for the looking. Soros, through his billions in funds, owns one of our biggest area car dealers. I don't shop there. Do you?

Don't fall for the Global Corporate BS.

Anonymous said...

Chokwe "Empty Suit" Lumumba

Anonymous said...

This company is SHADY... why were we doing business with them in the 1st place? There were hurdles at every turn with this bs.

Kingfish said...


Its a great location but bad side.

Only 26 acres. Zoo is 33 acres. It would leave no room for expansion or future projects.

The area friggin floods. It has flooded twice in the last six years.

The site is very hilly.

A MUCH better site is off of I-55 and County Line Road where that old auction place is. Great visibility too. Shopping center and hotel next door.

Of course, while the city screws around with the zoo and lets it wither away, McClain's is growing every year. They have 1000 acres for expansion.

IF the Mayor wants to rebuild JPD, he has to find money for that task. Money is going to be needed to fix the water treatment plants. Don't forget roads.

The zoo can barely subsist on $1 million a year. That leaves an ad budget of about zero. It needs more like $1.5 million and in its better days it got $2 million per year.

Anonymous said...

Close the Zoo. Sell the animals. Invest the saved $$$ in fixing the damn water system.

Leading and doing the right thing isn't hard unless you are a gum flapping ideologue.

Anonymous said...

Another big win by Lumumba. Is there anything in Jackson govt working?

Anonymous said...

Follow the money....

How much was this company paid, if anything?

Anonymous said...

The current location of the Zoo is fine, it's a classic. I've had my early birthday parties there. I actually feel safer driving in there than I do down Ridgewood or County Line.

They need to focus on the actual property and care for the animals.

Anonymous said...

I believe the Zoo will make a rebound. One thing about the area is, the roads are the worst part. Not that many people actually live in the surrounding area, but the blight doesn't help. I think people hear West Jackson and automatically think crime but that area is a little bit of a ghost town. Once events start coming back, I'm sure attendance will go up.

Anonymous said...

Who would want to manage a zoo for a city that can't even provide water reliably for the animals? No doubt this outfit saw how the mayor always blames somebody else for problems & knew it was being set up to be the fall guy when something inevitably goes wrong. I doubt a couple of council members who asked reasonable questions sunk negotiations.

Anonymous said...

10:32 I’d think your situational awareness level is at “oblivious”.

Anonymous said...

Jackson's shrunken tax base lacks sufficiency to support maintenance of mission critical infrastructure but is big enough to support an unnecessary antiquated facility zoo?

Anonymous said...

10:32 and 10:43. I just picked my medium sized ass up off the floor after 25 minutes of laughter.

Anonymous said...

I'm not much of a poster here, I think this may actually be my first comment, but this Jackson Zoo debacle is something I quite enjoy watching. Like a rollercoaster careening off the tracks that you can't quite look away from.

For anyone who isn't quite up to speed on how shady all this bullshit is feel free to read, it's quite the interesting story.

Let me take you back several years ago. Jackson's Zoo is failing, and the current managers, Jackson Zoological Society, are looking to shake things up to try to reinvigorate interest in our slowly dying Zoo. After discussing with investors the idea is floated to move the Jackson Zoo to Lefleurs Bluff. This was an amazing idea, would have completely revamped our Zoo, and put it in a location where people would visit it, even from out of town. While it's currently location is smack between a garbage dump, and several dozen crack houses.

Lumumba see's this and decides "no way, I won't stand by & watch something good be done on my watch!". In all reality he stepped in because of a lot of political reasons not worth getting in to. Suffice to say he was none to happy about the proposed idea to move the Zoo.

Queue up some shady ass mafia shit. (Important to know, due to their oringinal contract Jackson Zoological Society owned the lions share of the zoo animals which Jackson needed back in order to take over.) 1st off it's found that the Zoo had been using city allocated money to pay for things at the Zoo they shouldn't have, like worker salaries, animal care, etc. that they couldn't cover due to declining admissions. I know! absolutely dastardly! How dare a Zoo take care of their animals.

The second, and far more sketchy, is Jackson came up with unpaid water bills to put the pressure on JZS to give up their animals. For anyone reading this not from Jackson, our water department is notoriously corrupt/inept, and people constantly got bills during this time that made absolutely no sense, and were completely disconnected from reality. With this as your frame work you can really see how this is some super shady ass bullshit. Basically Lumumba came up with magical water bills, threatened to sue, and got what he wanted, ownership of all the animals.

I could go on & on from here but I'll leave with just a few more points
1. Jackson tried to turn over contract to some dubiously credentialed Dubai based shadow company to take over Zoo who has now backed out.
2. Lumumba said it would hurt local business in area if Zoo left. Lets be honest no one who has ever gone to the Zoo from outside that local area has patroned any business there. They go to the Zoo, and hightail it out of that area. There is nothing but mounds of trash & dilapidated buildings there so I'm not quite sure what purpose the Zoo serves to "prop up, or help" that area.

Shazam said...

I hate it, but I must agree with 10:26. When the fire dept. is watching buildings burn for lack of basic infrastructure, building parks and walking trails makes no sense at all. Jackson is at rock-bottom and there should be emergency actions put into place for the good of the citizens and the few remaining businesses. There are no plans to fix crime, water problems, police problems, street problems, etc. There is just a lot of BS about whose fault it is. If you want to lead Jackson back to the glory days-then shut up and do it. Otherwise, leave and let someone who actually cares give it a try.

Anonymous said...

10:26 had it spot on. No further discussion needed.

Anonymous said...

The only reason the zoo is still open where it at is because the animals are too hard to steal.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is "our" zoo.

Anonymous said...

Funny, no, f'ing hilarious that when it comes to the zoo Lindsay wants a properly credentialed outfit to run the show but, but, but when it comes to OBC and Fewell Virgi, by all appearances, is just fine with Lumumba's Keystone Cops approach to critical water system management.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, KF had a plan to change the entrance of the Zoo, which bypassed the blight and crack houses. It would have been easier to secure with fencing and patrol the perimeter, and maintain the current zoo as a safe location. (Philadelphia PA zoo has a similar situation. Easy road/public transit access to a secure lot/station...easy in, easy out and dont have to deal with the blight.)

It's a very hard concept for blinded radicals to catch: most people don't want to go to a zoo that's in the middle of a bad neighborhood. The condition of the surrounding area leads most people to think they could get shot in their cars as they go to and from the zoo. It's a safety issue, not a racial one.

When a shady company thats going to fleece the public wants out of a deal, there's a massive, massive problem.

Anonymous said...

A bronze star zoo wants a gold standard. Ha!

Anonymous said...

This city cannot afford to rehabilitate a zoo.

The animals should be sold.

The land should be leveled and converted to commercial industrial use with zero taxes for interested parties.

The land has a value just not as a zoo.

Reality will strike soon enough.

Anonymous said...

10:32 & 10:43 you have proved your low mental capacity......

Please go back to JFP!

Anonymous said...

City council is more concerned about the licenses of a shady foreign owned company meanwhile people in their districts are drinking poo water. Hysterical

Anonymous said...

The city could use it for a new jail. It is already build to house and contain animals just like the ones running around on Jackson's streets.

Anonymous said...

So the mayor hid the EPA order about repairing the city's broken water treatment plants. Now, no doubt, he has known for months that negotiations with Zooceanarium were going downhill but publicly said a contract was immenient. Anybody see a pattern here?

Baksheesh! said...

I have done consulting work in the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), and Saudi Arabia.

You can take this to the bank: Nothing gets done in any of those Arab countries without palms getting greased big time. It is an artform!

I wonder how greasy Baby Chowke's palms were?

Anonymous said...

10:32 said:
"The current location of the Zoo is fine, it's a classic. I've had my early birthday parties there. I actually feel safer driving in there than I do down Ridgewood or County Line."

Yep, and WorldCom stock is now over $100 a share.

Anonymous said...

2:23 PM
Apparently not greasy enough.

Anonymous said...

"What a joke. Now can we please move the zoo to Lakeland Drive so it can actually make money?" Problem is it's still in Jackson which is the main problem. Move it out in the country areas and I'm sure that it will be run and visited to a higher level. Love the one about the animals being too hard to steal by the way.

Anonymous said...

Just set the animals free. The whole town is a zoo anyway. Might make a good "safari" park....

Anonymous said...

Me and my family member living in Jackson and we are not animals. The next time you feel the need to call people animals look at yourself and your family members first.

Anonymous said...

the city can't afford the zoo as it is. it damn sure can't afford to spend the tens of millions of dollars required to build a brand new one. and the state is not going to give jackson that much money to build a zoo, when it's glaringly obvious jackson wouldn't be able to competently run it.

Anonymous said...

Antar, even if you don't care about the people of Jackson, please show some compassion for the poor animals at the zoo. Close it down & give those deserving creatures of God a chance for a much better life elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Someone please tell that over educated excuse for a mayor that you never start a sentence with "But", but he probably wouldn't understand.

Anonymous said...

I agree the zoo needs to be moved. It will be an access to the city.

Anonymous said...

Serious question . . . how many animals are still alive at the Jackson Zoo ?

Historic record low temps a few months ago, and no water for one month ... the poor animals no doubt suffered.
And many animals are able to survive on "boo boo water" ... for awhile anyway.

Move those poor animals somewhere that has the means to properly care for them.

Anonymous said...

If you want a nice Zoo in Jackson it will take participation from the following;

Hinds County
Rankin County
Madison County
State of Mississippi
Several Law Firms
A few car dealers
A one cent zoo tax
and others
but most important a well qualified zoo manager

A zoo, botanical gardens and some type of aquarium would be a hit in Mississippi. I think it would draw regularly from Alabama and Louisiana. Not to mention schools trips for Mississippi students.
Yes with start up help and some on going promotion $'s It could turn a profit.

Anonymous said...

Commies always reserve the zoo animals for their personal dinner plates when the system breaks down. That’s all the little wannabe dictator is doing. He wants to taste the zoo delights like Kim Jong il and Hugo Chavez did before they died. Can you imagine that dinner party?

Anonymous said...

The citizens in Jackson are obviously not that worried about the zoo, or their water, or their safety, or anything for that matter because they just re-elected this dumbass white hater to another term.

I don't give a shit what happens to the zoo, or the City of Jackson. It's a mess created by those living there and those running it.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, when will the outright lies stop. His ego and racism will remove the last leg this city is standing on. Oh forgot, he always has a plan. What one plan has he completed.

Anonymous said...

If you are surprised that this deal fell through, you should live in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

@2:23 pm - Thanks Mark. Now back to your arrogant chambers.

Anonymous said...

KF, is there any way the City Council could remove Lumumba from office? Is there a sort of local level impeachment? It's quite obvious to everyone that he is grossly incompetent.

In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle, The Lion Sleeps Tonight.. said...

"A MUCH better site is off of I-55 and County Line Road where that old auction place is. Great visibility too. Shopping center and hotel next door."

And Tougaloo is just 400 yards to the wes....Wait. I can't say that.

Kingfish: Are we due a disclaimer from you? Aren't you on some sort of 'Zoo Board'? Seems you were a year ago.

Anonymous said...

“ A zoo, botanical gardens and some type of aquarium would be a hit in Mississippi. I think it would draw regularly from Alabama and Louisiana. Not to mention schools trips for Mississippi students.
Yes with start up help and some on going promotion $'s It could turn a profit.
April 21, 2021 at 6:14 PM”

Keep dreaming

Anonymous said...

Want a real zoo and not a run down "old-school" zoo? Here's one for you. It has taken decades of time, money, input and buy in from many different constituencies to get to this point in NC:

Don't waste any more time and money on the Jackson Zoo.

Anonymous said...

Bankruptcy would have indeed solved this.

Too bad that path wasn’t chosen.

Think.....animals would have to be moved and cared for pending any hearings....then sold off to pay bogus water bill!

Afterwards the land would have been auctioned off for pennies which would allow someone to make a go of some type of business and then eventually housing and people and progress....

Now it’s a liability with no upside.

The prior board screwed this up from start to finish.

Anonymous said...

Guessing LuDumba has never heard of a backup plan? Or, is it because this company is the only company that would even consider taking on such a mess?

Anonymous said...

To the child running the City of Jackson.

“Sweetheart, we can’t afford a zoo right now. We just don’t have the money. In this family, we don’t buy things we can’t afford. And you haven’t been taking care of the things we’ve already bought you. (Remember the puppy dog you wanted so badly? Now mommy and daddy have to walk it every day because you don’t take care of your things.)

We’re going to stop giving you an allowance until you learn how to take care of your money. Maybe after you start to act like an adult, we’ll start again.

Anonymous said...

7:02 Keep dreaming

Cities across the country did just that. Today they have zoo's of varying sizes. Most cities can't do it by themselves it takes lots of help to support a zoo. The Jackson Zoo as is will never be much better than it is now without wall to wall changes in leadership and its tax base.

You statement tells a lot about you. Negative and don't give a damn. The metro Jackson area has a strong population and money base outside the city of Jackson. It can work. Does it need to be a monster, no, but start small and build over the years.

I have said this before on the Zoo topic. A city as large as Charlotte, NC will not build a zoo because of cost and.....its only around 85 miles to Columbia, SC that has a world class zoo. Conceived in 1960 work started in 1969 and opened in 1974 and had been growing yearly and now a top 10 zoo. You can't do that here but you can but can do something besides "saying it can't be done".

Build it they will come, just build it to you population & tourism base and grow it.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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