About The Little Zoo That Could

series synopsis

The Little Zoo That Could is the real-life story of a small non-profit community zoo that makes history as the first U.S. zoo to ever evacuate its animals during a natural disaster.

This powerful documentary series begins with Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo Director Patti Hall making the decision to pack up as many of the zoo's 300 animals as she and her staff can and relocate them to her house 20 miles inland. The zoo, located only a mile from the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, is about to become the bullseye of Hurricane Ivan, a deadly category 4 storm. The zookeepers have less than 36 hours to create an emergency evacuation plan; find transport vehicles, secure cages, food, and supplies for hundreds of exotic animals — from big Siberian tigers to little African bush babies, — and get on the road along with thousands of residents also fleeing the area. This seemingly impossible feat is captured in real-time, with the zookeepers explaining their actions, as they catch, sedate, and load close to 270 animals before time runs out. Unfortunately, they leave behind the zoo's mascot, Chuckie, an 11-ft. 1,000 lb. American Alligator, hoping he will survive in the surrounding swamps.

In the hurricane's devastating aftermath, the zoo is completely destroyed, flooded under 10 feet of sea water. But back at Patti's they have all weathered the storm. Word quickly spreads that Chuckie is missing, and Patti turns to her local press to warn the public about the danger he poses. She also seeks help from any alligator experts who can locate him, and the zoo instantly becomes a national news story. Patti and her team are hailed for their historic rescue mission having saved the lives of hundreds of animals who otherwise would have died. But as The Little Zoo That Could story continues, zookeepers and animals must now survive in a hurricane disaster zone, cut-off from outside help, with no power or running water and dwindling supplies.

Like a modern-day Noah's Ark, Patti's home and backyard become a temporary zoo. A Black bear cub and Bengal tiger cubs go swimming in her pool. Guanacos and miniature donkeys graze in her backyard, and wolves are walked on leashes. Her kitchen is turned into a nursery for the zoo's babies, including kinkajous and Capuchin monkeys. Yet Patti takes it all in stride, saying "These animals are a part of my family. Every day I spent time in their homes at the zoo, so for me to welcome them into my home is an honor and a privilege."

As the massive clean-up and rebuilding of the zoo begins, the series follows Patti and her staff as they are put to the test yet again. Nine months after Ivan, Hurricane Dennis brings on another evacuation to Patti's house, but no damage to the zoo. Then six weeks later, Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf. Watching how these devoted zookeepers get through one more evacuation and cope with horrendous setbacks to their rebuilding efforts, is the ultimate lesson in hope, faith and love.

Throughout the The Little Zoo That Could series, follow along as the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo continues in its determined fight to make a comeback. Every episode is filled with fascinating, humorous, and touching moments between the zookeepers and their animals. From the birth of adorable zoo babies to the death of a beloved wolf — all in the midst of reconstruction and another hurricane season — the action never stops. And in the emotional series finale, this valiant little zoo's future is changed forever by the overwhelming generosity of its television viewers.

What The Little Zoo That Could series has to offer…

EDUCATORS & LIBRARIANS: Series subject-matter that can be used to implement CORE and STEM curriculum standards in math, science and social studies:
  • Zoology and animal behavior
  • Geography and natural habitat
  • Weather, climate, and the environment
  • Public health and safety
Many opportunities for values-based discussions about:
  • Commitment and responsibility
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Resourcefulness and strategic thinking
  • Sacrifice, generosity and volunteerism
  • Honor and respect for all living things
  • Love, kindness and compassion toward others
CHILDREN'S & SENIORS' INDUSTRY SERVICE PROVIDERS: The addition of the DVD set to the media libraries of children's hospitals and medical facilities, senior living communities and health facilities can offer:
  • Companionship, camaraderie and a sense of community with the zookeepers
  • An engrossing animal-centric storyline with multi-generational appeal
  • A wide range of feel-good moments, from humorous and silly to uplifting and empowering
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"Actions speak louder than words, and the staff at this zoo has demonstrated again and again just how strong the bond between people and animals can be. Their trials, and their triumphs are wonderful to see."
Maureen Smith
Former General Manager
Animal Planet
"It is evident to me that every school and school district that has a value-based curriculum needs to show their students this series... There's a lot to be learned from the human and animal behavior in this series."
Marla Osband, Ed.D
CA Dept. of Education
Professor of Education, UCLA

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