1985 - Volume #9, Issue #6, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Farm Family Operates Their Own Private Zoo
The Little Ponderosa Animal Farm and Zoo, of rural Winchester, is a unique farm and "one of a kind in Illinois," says Bob Brackett, owner along with his wife, Donna, of the private zoo. Bob notes that he is the only private zoo owner in Illinois who has licenses to own tigers, lions and other big cats.
The Bracketts' 40-acre farm serves as a private zoo where they are the "middle-man" in the zoo business. They breed, buy and sell all types of wild and exotic animals for the public city zoos, drive-through park zoos and traveling zoos.
"It just started out as a hobby eight years ago and ended up as a full-time business two years later," Bob explains. He was in the trucking and live-stock business before.
Raising these exotic animals is not much different than running a live-stock operation, Donna comments. "It takes a lot of patience and work.
The Little Ponderosa zoo is a family run business where the Bracketts' son, Jay, and his wife, Diane, help out. The farm also has two other non-family employees.
"It was a real learning experience at first because I didn't know much about them," says Bob about his exotic animals. "Ninety percent of this business is care. And I like handling the animals so I'm happy I got into this business;"
The busiest time for the Bracketts is spring and fall. "In the spring, zoos are opening up to visitors and need to restock some animals, which they can get from private zoo owners like ourselves. The fall is when zoos want to sell animals to get rid of excess animals for the winter months," Bob explains.
He does most of his selling and buying over the telephone. "In this business the word travels fast if you are a reputable dealer or not," he points out. For the Bracketts, their reputation must be a good one because the phone rings constantly at their farm.
Security at the Little Ponderosa has been a problem for the Bracketts. "A lot of people don't realize our farm is a private zoo and not open to the public," says Bob. People will just stop by thinking the farm is open to everyone."
When there are animals around worth $1,000 to $5,000 apiece, the Bracketts are understandably concerned about security measures.
They do, however, give special tours of their farm a couple weeks out of the year, usually in May, to area grade schools, youth organizations and some handicapped people. "My favorite is giving children the opportunity to see these animals," Donna declares. "Many children don't get the chance to visit big zoos in the cities."
The Bracketts are members of the American Association of Zoology, Parks and Aquarium. Bob notes that he has several different state and federal licenses permitting him to buy, sell, breed, exhibit and transport these exotic animals.
"We have several sets of guidelines so we have to keep everything in order," says Bob, noting that inspectors show up unannounced at their farm zoo.
For more details, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bob and Donna Brackett, Rt. 2, Winchester, Ill. (ph 217 742-5588).
Reprinted with permission from Illinois Agri-News.
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