Attendees enjoy seeing a giraffe on a recent weekend at the Jackson Zoo. Image: Jackson Zoo

The Jackson Zoo, which reopened in August 2020 on a limited basis, has received its permanent exhibitor license from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The measure clears the way for the City of Jackson, the zoo’s current operator, to sign a management contract with ZoOceanarium, a management firm they have been in talks with for many months. ZoOcenarium has said they would bring further improvements and new exhibits to the West Jackson property once they’re officially on board.

Citing COVID-19 and last spring’s flooding as part of the hold-up, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the license approval clears a major hurdle in combatting years of crumbling infrastructure and diminished marketing.

“We are immediately seeing the benefit of (improvements made in recent months),” Lumumba said of sell-out crowds on some dates. “It has been a collaborative effort from zoo employees, the support of our City Council, and a cross-section of city departments pulling together.” He specifically thanks Parks and Recreation Director Ison Harris for his work.

Lumumba also thanked zoo employees, of whom he said, “We would not be at this point had it not been for their dedication and commitment in taking care of those animals. It goes beyond a job for them; it is a passion.”

While improvements were necessary to reach a minimum standard to receive the license, Lumumba said, “without giving too much away,” there’s more to come.

“We want to restore the roar of our zoo. The work we have completed is evidence. People are talking. This is only our start and we are not satisfied yet.”

More recently, the city had been operating under a temporary license. The approval will allow the zoo to move forward with a more permanent schedule.