MEET THE ZOOKEEPERS OF
THE LITTLE ZOO THAT COULD TV SERIES

From the moment The Little Zoo That Could made its television debut on Animal Planet, viewers knew there was something quite extraordinary about Zoo Director Patti Hall and her zookeeping staff at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

During Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, one of the worst storms to hit the Alabama coast in 25 years, Patti did something completely unheard of when the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo became the first American zoo to perform a full-scale, off-site total evacuation in a natural disaster. Patti took her entire zoo staff, their families and personal pets, and over 270 exotic zoo animals to her home and backyard to escape the deadly storm. After the zoo was completely destroyed, they all lived at her house for seven weeks while they performed a miracle patching up as many of the zoo's exhibits as they could to safely return some of the animals. In spite of two more hurricanes, Dennis and Katrina, forcing two more evacuations and further setbacks, the keepers never wavered in their dedication to the zoo's animals and their efforts to rebuild the zoo.

Hailed by the international press and broadcast media as heroes for their accomplishments, Patti and her team became known throughout the world for their kindness and compassion toward animals. During this 14-part series, viewers witness the deep bonds of love, trust and faith that can exist between humans and animals, even in the most unusual circumstances.


PATTI HALL, ZOO DIRECTOR

Ringleader, mentor, mother, taskmaster, mountain-mover, motivator and educator, Patti Hall is the amazing woman at the heart of The Little Zoo That Could. Always passionate about animals, Patti became a volunteer at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo after moving to the area in the mid-1990s. In a short time, she was asked to step into the role of Zoo Director with one mission — to close the financially destitute zoo and find placement for all the animals. For Patti, that was not an option and she was determined to turn the zoo's fortunes around and keep the animals in their home.

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And indeed, this stubborn redhead did just that until the fateful day when Hurricane Ivan came calling, and Patti faced her greatest challenge. She states, "We all knew what our purpose was, and that was to save those animals' lives no matter what. They completely depended on me and my staff for their well-being and it was our duty to do whatever it took. In my mind, we are here to serve them first and foremost." While she's a proper Southern woman who doesn't yell or treat people disrespectfully, any sentence that starts with "Now, darlin'..." is a warning sign, especially when it comes to the care of the zoo's animals. But everybody, from zoo visitors of all ages to the press, falls in love with Miz Patti's humor, warmth and charisma. Always on the job, she's usually hand-raising one of the zoo's babies at home, whether it's a monkey, lemur, wallaby or tiger. Patti even makes regular appearances at the local radio station with one of her best PR tools, Jo the Amazon parrot, who never stops talking.

CYNDI JOHNSON, HEAD ZOOKEEPER

While she's not academically trained in zoology, Cyndi's many years working in the trenches with Patti has turned her into a dedicated, fiercely loyal zookeeper who will do anything to protect the zoo's animals, even in the midst of a killer hurricane. After a baby Capuchin monkey fell off of his mother's back and sustained permanent brain damage, Cyndi brought Trey home to love and care for him, and he is as much a part of her family as her husband and two kids. She takes a very hands-on approach to animal care, and teaching her zookeepers and the public about the wonders of animal kingdom is her passion. But Cyndi is also determined that humans understand and respect the wild nature of animals, whether it's a scary 10-ft. snake or a cuddly capybara. She has hand-raised many of the zoo's babies, but she takes extra pride in her unique relationship with the zoo's now full-grown Siberian tiger sisters, Salt and Pepper who arrived at the zoo when they were just six weeks old. Besides little Trey, Cyndi also has her own menagerie at home, and she can't imagine working or living without animals.

RUSTY GILBERT, FACILITIES MANAGER

For 20 years, Rusty has been the main man at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. He built the original privately-owned zoo facility, and he has been an integral part of the zoo's dramatic changes over the years, from non-profit to non-existent. It was during the hurricane evacuations that Patti truly understood Rusty's relentless commitment to the zoo and his compassion toward distressed animals. His determination to rebuild a better zoo after its destruction never faltered. Rusty grew up in Gulf Shores and knows just about everybody in town, and now after the airing of THE LITTLE ZOO THAT COULD, everybody around the world knows Rusty. He has a tough exterior, but in reality he's a gentle, caring family man who admits he relates to animals better than people. Aside from the pride he takes in his contributions to saving the zoo, he is particularly thrilled to have hand-raised a little bear named Boodah who is now a healthy, happy big bear.

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"All the animals seem very, very healthy and happy. You can tell when animals are and these are, as is the staff, and that's important."
Jack Hanna
Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo
Columbus, Ohio
"Having to move the entire zoo three times because of hurricanes and keeping all of the animals safe certainly elevates everyone at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to superhero status."
Amy Maliska
Children's Librarian
Thomas Norton Library
Gulf Shores, Alabama
"Here is a group of people who gave up their own safety not once, but three times, to protect and save these animals. There's a lot to be learned from the human and animal behavior in this series."
Marla Osband, Ed.D
Professor of Education, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

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Zookeeper Gayla

Gayla is the Assistant Head Zookeeper under the tutelage of Cyndi, a position well-earned after having braved three hurricane evacuations. Sensitive and kind, she forms deep bonds with the animals under her care. Her love and respect for all of the zoo's animals is always evident, but Jasmine the kinkajou is her baby.

Zookeeper Jo

Jo is the Hoofstock Zookeeper and is also a veteran of the zoo's three hurricanes. She has a special knack for hoof stock and is absolutely fearless in face-to-face interactions with big, stubborn animals like, yaks, camels, guanacos, alpacas, deer, antelope, Nubian goats, and donkeys.

Zookeeper Rebecca

Rebecca, another hurricane veteran, spends much of her time at the Petting Zoo. Her soft-spoken and extremely gentle demeanor is a good match for the skittish deer and sheep, but she can be tough when called upon. She has a special affinity for Carmelita, the guanaco who likes to kiss Rebecca on her face. She never minds.

Zookeeper Michelle

Michelle has been a steady hand under the most dire of circumstances that the zoo has faced. Her most favorite duties are tending to the babies born at the zoo, and she is in love with the zoo's twin Nubian baby goats, considered a rarity in the zoo world.

Zookeeper Lacey

Lacey will admit that she has a fear of snakes, or rather, being bitten by one. In spite of that, her assignment at the zoo's Reptile House doesn't keep her from tackling her fears and caring for these fascinating creatures. She has also gone through the zoo's three hurricane evacuations.

Zoo Dietician Suzie

Suzie has the enormous task of preparing all the meals for the zoo's entire population. She is creative and resourceful and knows that well-fed animals are happy animals. She also runs a daycare in the kitchen area for Capuchin monkeys Crunch and Trey who are dropped off every morning while their "mommies" Patti and Cyndi go to work. She spoils them with mealworm jello cups.

THE LITTLE ZOO Staff with Jack Hanna

They are the heroes of The Little Zoo That Could, the entire staff of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. When Patti's mentor Jack Hanna comes to visit, there couldn't be a prouder moment than when they show off the very animals whose lives they saved.

Dr. David Dykes, the Zoo's Vet

To Patti, he is the vet of all vets. A local hometown veterinarian, Dr. Dykes embodies dedication, patience, wisdom, generosity and extraordinary medical skills that have served the zoo's animals, from leopards to lemurs, through every trial and tribulation.

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"All the animals seem very, very healthy and happy. You can tell when animals are and these are, as is the staff, and that's important."
Jack Hanna
Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo
Columbus, Ohio
"Having to move the entire zoo three times because of hurricanes and keeping all of the animals safe certainly elevates everyone at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to superhero status."
Amy Maliska
Children's Librarian
Thomas Norton Library
Gulf Shores, Alabama
"Here is a group of people who gave up their own safety not once, but three times, to protect and save these animals. There's a lot to be learned from the human and animal behavior in this series."
Marla Osband, Ed.D
Professor of Education, UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

Visit the purchase page
for pricing details and
screening guidelines